Beginning readers gain confidence through reading selections composed with controlled vocabulary. Many instructional reading programs provide theme-based reading selections filled with subjective vocabulary words that employ a variety of phonetic combinations. As a result, the reader often fails to master any unfamiliar phonemic concepts introduced and all words become sight words.
Although we have only 26 letters in the English language, we have a multitude of sounds produced by a variety of letter combinations. It is these numerous combinations of letters and sounds which complicate reading for so many. When the reader learns how to phonetically decode words, reading becomes more fluent.
Children are usually introduced to the ABC song long before they enter kindergarten or any formal schooling. Although the rhythm of this familiar tune helps children to memorize the names of the letters of the alphabet, it is imperative that they learn the formation of each letter, the name of each of those letter symbols, and the specific sound produced by each letter before they attempt to read.
The unique sounds of the consonants (with the exception of “c” and “g”) do not change. Learning the proper pronunciation of the consonant sounds is essential to beginning readers. If the student is taught incorrectly that the letter “d” is pronounced “du” and the letter “g” is pronounced “gu”, incorporating the short sound of the “u” in the pronunciation of each consonant, he will later have difficulty in connecting other sounds with the “d” and “g” to form words. Suppose the student is asked to read the word “dog” by phonetically connecting the sounds of the letters, “d”,”o” and “g”. The student who has learned the sound of “d” as “du” and the sound of “g” as “gu” pronounces the letters as “du – o – gu”. Since the pronunciation of the combined letters does not naturally flow into the sound of the word “dog”, the student must struggle to guess what the word might possibly be. Learning proper pronunciation of the consonants helps to take the guess work out of
Once the student has mastered the sounds of the consonants, he/she can begin learning the sounds produced by the vowels and the many vowel combinations. It is important that the novice reader masters each sound before proceeding to the next. Providing the reader with controlled vocabulary sentences composed of words that are formed using a common vowel sound or vowel combination facilitates learning through repetition and association. The repetition of the short “a” sound in the following sentence helps the student to master the sound as it is used with varying beginning and ending consonant sounds:
Dan and the mad lass had to nab the cat and the jam.
As the student reads through the sentence, the correct pronunciation of the short “a” sound is reinforced and reading becomes more fluid. By reading multiple words strung together in the form of a meaningful sentence, the novice reader realizes a sense of accomplishment and gains confidence.
Once the reader has mastered the short “a” sound, the sound of the short “e” can be introduced. As the reader proceeds methodically through each of the short vowel sounds, he/she builds reading vocabulary, and the controlled vocabulary selections can become longer and more meaningful. Novice readers who are often intimidated by long paragraphs of unfamiliar words are encouraged by their ability to read paragraphs in which the words have familiar phonetic patterns.
Deborah A. Montgomery
R G Seven Publishing, LLC
13346 Pawnee, Leawood, Kansas 66209
Phone (913) 317-5515
Fax (913) 345-9998
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