Archive for July, 2011

Ella has learned all the alphabet phonograms!

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Ella now knows all the alphabet letter phonograms.  Unfortunately, I can’t get a video of her proving it because she either loses focus or decides to mess with me and give the wrong sounds for some of the phonograms.  She thinks she is funny when she does the latter.  I guess I will have to try videoing her doing small groups of phonograms and then combine the videos.

When working on the phonogram y with Ella I was reminded of something I saw often when teaching first grade.  For some children it was necessary to force them to make the first sound in a word before they would then continue sounding out the rest of the word, which they could then do successfully.  I don’t know why that was necessary.  It was like they had to kick start their brain.  I saw the same thing with the y sounds with Ella.  Ella knows all four sounds, but for a while, I had to give her the first one, after which she would confidently give me the rest of them.

I want to recommend the blog Beginning Reading Help by Michelle Breum.  There is a load of great content on her site.  Visit the site and spend some time exploring.

Recently Michelle wrote about the sight word/phonogram debate which I found very interesting.  I also discovered a link on her site to, which is an excellent resource for practice reading.  I’ve been looking for beginning reader books recently, but Starfall has this type of book online and one of the features that I love is the modeling of how words in the story are sounded out.  Since Ella is still not blending well to sound out, I can click on the word and it is modeled for her. I’ve no doubt she will pick that up soon.

Our neighbor’s daughter continues to do well, although she has run into a problem with three of the alphabet phonograms.  She just can’t seem to get them, but she will soon.  She confuses i with l and stuggles with u and y.  But she loves the phonograms.  Last night she and Ella were running in the sprinklers when she decided she would rather do the phonograms.  So she ran over to me and asked to do the phonograms on my phone.  We worked on them for about 15 minutes before she had to go home and go to bed.  Today she was doing very well with the books at that I mentioned earlier.

Again I’m reminded of first grade.  We used to get caught up in the phonograms so much we sometimes would forget to go to recess.  Well, they would forget to ask about recess.  I knew we were missing it but felt it was worth missing to continue focusing on learning to read.  I’ll never forget one little boy presenting me with a drawing of some of the phonograms flying through the air.  Most children love the phonograms because I think they understand how successful they are with them.

Here’s hoping for some video for the next post…

Phonograms update

July 10, 2011 1 comment

It has been over a month since I posted, but we have been busy!  Ella has now learned almost all the single-letter phonograms.  We have continued to use the screenboard and practice in short bursts on the ones with which she struggled.  I just attempted to get a video of her doing the phonograms and the only thing that proved is that we have to keep practicing constantly in order for Ella to retain what she has learned.  Another issue with starting so early…

Since I last blogged I talked to our neighbors about working on the phonograms with their 4-year-old daughter and gave them a reading CD.   Ella plays with her all the time so since she is around I wanted to work on the phonograms with her as well.  The combination of being smart and a year older than Ella enabled this young lady to pick up the phonograms very quickly and start blending them to read words.  I’ve been very impressed.  This is one more reason to believe I should have fought my urge to start working on the phonograms so early with Ella and waited until she is four.

Ella is doing great learning the phonograms, but blending is not going as well.  One of the first things I discovered her struggling with is the age-old conflict with d and b.  I started choosing words from the word list based on the lessons she’s already been through and it was quickly evident how many of those words contain either b or d.  When blending phonograms to read words, it is extremely important that the child know the phonograms well because the blending must be smooth in order for word recognition.  Even an instant of doubt of the sound breaks the blending.  When showing her the phonogram cards, a moment of doubt wasn’t a concern for me at all but it only took a few words and a look at the list to see how big a problem b and d can be when blending.

I have been involved in a few discussions lately about the importance of working with children before they reach a certain age when the brain becomes “set” and the child goes on through life with that brain.  I remember first hearing years ago that the cutoff age is three, but have since heard it is five.  Ella was a surprise child and our first two children have done very well, so I’ve been working even harder with Ella to make sure she has the best brain possible.

A Facebook friend posted a link to a study that says it is five.  I like this because it gives me a few more years.  A recently-retired early childhood teacher mentioned the importance of rhyming. I knew rhyming is important because it is so prevalent in nursery rhymes, but hearing if from an expert made me start talking to Ella about the rhyming words in nursery rhymes so she will start thinking about it more.  And then at our 4th of July party I spent some time talking with a friend who works in parent education at a local hospital about the value of reading to newborns.

So, if people only get from my blog or my CD that reading to their children is important and they start doing it with passion they way I have with Ella, I think that is great.