MES EnglishFlashcardsPhonicsGamesWorksheetsOnline ESL GamesCertificatesPrintable Calendars




Reply to topic  [ 36 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next
Teaching the alphabet as sounds 
Author Message
MES-Member

Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:20 pm
Posts: 6
Location: Sado Island, Japan
Post Teaching the alphabet as sounds
Hello everyone. :)

I read a post a month or so ago on the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) listserve about teaching the alphabet as sounds only, rather than using the name of the letter (e.g. teach "a" as the "ah" sound in apple; don't teach it as "ay"). The theory is that the kids will passively learn the letter names in the course of their studies through songs and TV and stuff. And if they learn the letters as sounds first then that association is more beneficial in regards to teaching kids how to read.

My snap judgment upon first reading this was that wouldn't work. But after giving it a days thought or so and remembering the problems I've had with students not really getting the difference between the letter's name and its sound, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try.

And so, for the last month or so I've been teaching the letters as sounds only (sticking with the short vowel sounds and the most common consonant sounds). It seems that the students are starting to catch onto the idea of reading English. Before trying this new method, I would have a hard time trying reading tests with the kids. For example, they would try reading the name of the letter in words they had never seen yet--ehm-oh-pee for "mop". Now they're doing noticeably better. Of course, there's still some katakanization, but that's to be expected.

With the new year coming up, I've decided to go ahead and start teaching the letters as sounds. I'm interested in hearing from anyone else here who does this; or what your thoughts on this method are.

Thanks


Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:12 pm
Profile
MES-Fanatic!

Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:27 pm
Posts: 70
Location: Austria
Post 
HI MWDowns,

When I first came to Austria and saw the way kids AND grown-ups spelled, namely, exactly the way you described by phonetically saying the letters, sputtering all over the place, I thought they must be crazy! It took a long time for me to realize it is much simpler the way they are doing it. They have an easier time learning to read. It still just sounds strange to my ears when adults make these "baby" sounds when spelling. The only drawback, snicker snicker, is that some people tend to spit - literally - their Ps out.


Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:25 pm
Profile
MES-Zealot!

Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 3:35 pm
Posts: 119
Location: Yamaguchi, Japan
Post 
Try searching for things related to the `silent way` developed by Caleb Gattegno. It starts with the basic sounds of a language presented as colours.


Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:46 am
Profile
MES-Zealot!

Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 289
Location: Niigata
Post 
I'm based in Japan. It seems like most other teachers like me are here for the onsens and green tea, but I've been flirting with teaching Phonics in school for the past 2 years. Everything I know about Phonics, is self-taught.

I've received the okay from all my JHS and elementary schools to focus on teaching the alphabet and Phonics. This is especially surprising because I work in the public sector. My elementary schools don't really care as long as I keep English "fun."

Anyways, with much skeptisism around me from other teachers like me and from other JTEs in JHS, I started this year soley teaching Phonics in JHS and the alphabet from 3rd grade in elementary school.

In ES, teachers start teaching romaji in the 4th grade. While this might seem like a minute point, I want to teach the kids the REAL names of the alphabet, instead of its butchered katakana equivolent. While teaching the names of the 26 different letters of the alphabet doesn't sound like Phonics, I've really studied how Japanese say the alphabet using katakana-English. Then, when I teach how to say the letters properly, I show the students the differences. They seem to be absolutely amazed. For example, I the teach the 'F and V' as 'biting' letters. Meaning, when the student says those letters, they must either bite their bottom lip, instead of a mere blow like the katakana-English produces, at the beginning or ending of saying the letter. Another example, is the 'M and N.' In katakana, when you say the M, the mouth starts from an open position, closes and then re-opens, but when saying M using proper English, the mouth starts from the open position and only closes. Once they are able to read letters, I will move to the sounds, but for the time being, I'm only teaching the alphabet. My theory is that the students are learning English words in their everyday life, so if they come across an English they know, I'm trying to give them the tools to read them and pronounce them correctly.

I've also started a homework system, which really concerned the teachers because of the "homework" stigma having negative connotations. I told them not only is the homework fun, but they are just perpetuating the ongoing stigma that homework is something that shouldn't be fun. The great thing about this homework is that I make it optional, so if the kid doesn't want to do it, they don't have to. But, if they do, they can receive points for their point cards. ;) I've been teaching this new method for about 3 months now and see a class on average once every 2 weeks. To date, about 95% of the students are doing the homework, 2nd graders are writing their names in romaji (granted, they are butchering the names but their trying), 3rd graders are forming a firm grasp of the non-sequential alphabet (I rarely put the alphabet in order from A-Z), the students are having fun, and I've caught a couple of the teachers taking notes. ;) Also, I've discovered the children are starving for knowledge. I handed out worksheets to 4th-6th grade students. The worksheets were mere tracings of their names in romaji. Evidentially, one student was so motivated to study English, unbeknownst to me, she asked her teacher to make her some photocopies so she could practice some more. Over spring break, she practiced writing her name. At the beginning of the next class, she gave me 22 pages of her just writing her name. She wrote it 507 times. I was so impressed that I told her if she wrote her name 1,000 times, I would give her a present. Within two weeks, she had written her name 1,034 times. Now, two other students in the class are going for the 1,000 time benchmark. The dangerous thing is this catching like wildfire cuz' it might get a little expensive and time consuming. So, if anyone has any good ideas about cheap and fast presents that students absolutely love, I'm all ears.

In JHS, in the ALT classes, the students aren't even reading yet. For the last 3 months I have been teaching them sounds, with the JTE occassionally asking to substitute the Phonics class with a textbook class.

This plan will change in the future, as my knowledge about Phonics increases, but my first 7 lessons have gone like this:

Lesson 1: beginning sounds - BCDJKPTV
Lesson 2: ending sounds - FLMNRSXY
Lesson 3: a combination of lesson 1 and 2 to test to see if the students can differentiate between the two.
Lesson 4: voiceless sounds - CFHKPSTX
Lesson 5: voiced sounds - BDGJLMNRVWYZ
Lesson 6: once again, a combination of the two lessons.
Lesson 7: a big test of all 4 lessons.

Each lesson is not a class, but rather we work through them at the speed of the class. Each lesson comes with a worksheet that tests the students' comprehension. This style of teaching seems foreign to most of the teachers around me and every lesson comes with a degree of failure on my part about not blending Japanese culture correctly into the lessons, but I use the mistakes as points of reference to fix in the future. It almost brought a tear to my eye when a student didn't know how to spell a word and he was able to correctly spell it based upon it being sounded out phonetically.

I think the great thing about getting back to basics is that it shows the JTE that making mistakes are okay and encouraged because it promotes a healthy classroom environment. I'm sure we can all relate to wanting to cringe when we hear the English teacher speak in katakana, but teachers are starting to come around and realize that they don't need to be perfect. The only difference between them and their students is that they know the material better.

I think the greatest thing about teaching Phonics in Japan is that it keeps the creative part of your mind alive and resilient to the Japanese outside-the-box-thinking-borglike-assimilation. ;)

Anyways, that's what I'm doing when it comes to teaching sounds in the classroom.

_________________
'Sharing a little, gaining a lot'


Mon Jun 18, 2007 2:54 pm
Profile
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post 
patrick wrote:
The dangerous thing is this catching like wildfire cuz' it might get a little expensive and time consuming. So, if anyone has any good ideas about cheap and fast presents that students absolutely love, I'm all ears.

Try giving out certificates! www.123certificates.com

The kids really like them but you might want to lower the bar a bit. Maybe for say 200 times. :wink:

You can print out 20 or so certificates with just an underbar instead of the child's name and then write the name in later. Same goes for your signature. The kids would love to have a certificate signed by you! no joke.

I think it's great that you're teaching phonics. It's very rewarding and the students (as well as the parents) are so happy to read words without being 'taught' first. Since Japanese is a memorization system, they just can't believe they can read a word without first having memorized it.

If you get past hard consonants and short vowels, a good trick is to tell them English is like a 'code.' You have to decipher the code! They love that. They become detectives or spy hunters and try to crack the code.

keep us updated on the progress.

_________________
Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!


Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:14 pm
Profile WWW
MES-Member

Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:40 am
Posts: 1
Post 
patrick:

I am a bit confused if your goal is to get the students reading phonically why are you teaching the alphabet first? As far as I can see, the names of the letters are not particularly useful to young Japanese students (though the order of the alphabet is when using dictionaries). I don't have a teaching degree though so I don't know the theory behind it.


Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:54 am
Profile
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post 
There some posters here that said they just teach the phonetic sounds instead of the names for the letters. They said it works just as well. The students learn the names of the letters over time and do fine.

I still teach the names of the letters and then teach the reading. I explain the the name and the sound they make are different. I use animals as an example.

T: Does a cat say 'cat'? Does a cow say 'cow'?
Ss: No!
T: Letters are the same. They don't (necessarily) say their name. ...

I'm just stuck in my rut :P , but I can't really see the benefit. It may be a quick way to teach simple hard consonant/short vowel phonics but once you get into two/three letter graphemes I think it would be more confusing.

S: How do you spell cheese?
T: /k/ /h/ /e/ /e/ /s/ /e/ .
:smt102

I would assume you'll have to teach the names of the letters anyway or at least confirm everyone's understanding at some point before moving on from short vowels and hard consonants.

_________________
Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!


Wed Jun 27, 2007 12:06 pm
Profile WWW
MES-Fanatic!

Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 4:55 am
Posts: 61
Location: Poland
Post 
The names of letters are taught first in every language (as far as i know), just in some alphabets the names are closer to the actual sound than , for example, in English (or Greek: that is the extreme-alpha, beta, ..). This knowledge, I think, is useful, especially for foreigners, when it comes to spelling unfamiliar words, names, etc.
I always teach the alphabet first and didn't really noticed that learning the names makes it more difficult to read afterwards. It's just an introduction and it's rather to make students familiarize with the look of each letter. Letters on their own are meaningless. You teach the whole words, syllables and the patterns in strings of letters.


Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:00 pm
Profile
MES-Addict

Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:55 am
Posts: 32
Post 
I think that both the sound and the name are important, but I think that it is better to teach the sound first. After a short while the name can be introduced, but when the sound is introduced first, the sound pops into their head first when they are trying to read rather than the name. Later when they are moving on to long vowels and blends they can sort through the difference, but I think it makes it easier for the very young kids to get through the beginning of reading when they are thinking about it more phonetically.
I am not saying to wait too long to teach the name. I am only saying to teach the sound first, then once they have learnt the sound to teach the name.


Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:55 pm
Profile
MES-Fanatic!

Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 4:55 am
Posts: 61
Location: Poland
Post 
That reminds me of a Polish saying: What was first- the egg or the hen? :-D hehe
The name or the sound then? :wink:


Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:07 am
Profile
MES-Addict

Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:46 pm
Posts: 31
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Post 
100% the sounds! :D

(That's why English spellings are sometimes so messed up!)

Be genki,

Richard


Wed Jul 11, 2007 1:57 pm
Profile WWW
MES-Addict

Joined: Mon May 28, 2007 12:58 am
Posts: 42
Post 
Ok, the sounds first... and what's the sound of the letter "a"? Because it depends of the word. It is not the same sound in "cat" than in "name". How do you teach that sound? I teach in Spain, here each vowel has only one sound how... can anyone who says that sounds fo first and that is the best way to learn reading how do you explain it?


Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:48 am
Profile
MES-Zealot!

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
Posts: 386
Location: Tohoku Japan
Post 
yes good question!

thats the problem with teaching the alphabet as sounds (at least in English)
often they have more than 2 sounds esp if they are followed by another vowel
this means learning a lot of rules?
or just the main sounds?

and then there is the issue of somtimes some letters have different sounds in different countries/varieties of English

so I prefer to teach the alphabet and maybe teach a few more clear cut sounds (that are regular)


Thu Jul 12, 2007 8:50 am
Profile
MES-Addict

Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:46 pm
Posts: 31
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Post 
Very good questions, and this really gets to the heart of the matter.

The key is to flip the thinking around.

In the "letters first" type of teaching, you show the kids "a" and say something like "this can say a or ay". This can of course get confusing!

But with "sounds first" you start by teaching the kids all the sounds in English, either in words/phrases or just the sounds on their own, and then afterwards you show the kids which letters can be used to represent the sounds. That way it doesn't matter if several sounds can have the same letter, in fact it makes it easier!

For the first sets of exercises rather than getting the kids to read words, you concentrate on getting them to listen to sounds and figure out which letters can represent them. Then you move on to reading.


It's just like how the English written language was developed. First we spoke English. Then some dudes came along and tried to write down the spoken language with their alphabet. That's one of the reasons why the problem of having different readings for different letters came about, because the Roman alphabet wasn't designed for writing down English.


I probably haven't explained it very well, but I hope you get what I mean by "sounds first then the letters"?

Be genki,

Richard
www.GenkiPhonics.com


Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:06 am
Profile WWW
MES-Zealot!

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
Posts: 386
Location: Tohoku Japan
Post 
you have a point but you haven't convinced me (LOL)

but you are right, it is an interesting point

it would depend very much on how many lessons you actually have with the kids a month etc, as it just wouldn't work with the few lessons I get to teach

and then their level as my most of my kids can't read yet


Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:59 pm
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 36 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
All Content Copyright © 2012 MES English | End User License Agreement | MES Privacy Policy
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware for PTF.