Helping your child at home
Helping your child at home
Supporting Reading and Writing in the Infant Years
Skills for reading and writing
- Speaking and listening are the foundations for reading and writing.
- Even everyday activities such as preparing meals, tidying up, putting shopping away and getting ready to go out offer you the chance to talk to your child, explaining what you are doing. Through these activities, children hear the way language is put together into sentences for a purpose.
- Books are a rich source of new words for your child; words you would not use in everyday conversations appear in books. Children need to have a wide vocabulary to understand the meaning of books, so read aloud and share books as often as you can. They will enjoy it and it will be useful to them when they come across these words in their own reading later on.
Ways you can support your children at home: talking and listening
- Make time to listen to your child talking – as you meet them from school, as you walk, or travel home by car, in the supermarket as you shop, at meal times, bath times, and bedtimes – any time!
- Switch off the TV, radio and mobile phones – and really listen!
- Show that you are interested in what they are talking about – look at your child, smile, nod your head, ask a question or make a response to show that you really have been listening.
- Listen at home – switch off the TV and listen to the sounds, both inside and outside the home. Can your child tell you what sounds they heard, in the order in which they heard them?
- Clap-a-rhythm – and follow me! Clap a simple tune and ask your child to copy. Have fun!
- Use puppets and toys to make up stories or retell known ones. Record your child telling the story and play it back to them.
As we begin to teach the children the skills that they will need in order to be successful readers and writers, we focus on speaking and listening activities.
We explore body sounds, sounds in the environment, the difference in the sounds of percussion instruments, rhythm and rhyme, voice sounds and alliteration - words that all begin with the same initial sound – ‘sad, Sammy snake’, ‘big, bad bug’.
All the way through we also teach the skills of ‘blending’ and segmenting’.
We teach the children how to blend or merge sounds together to read each word, in the right order, to read a word. E.g. c-a-t = cat.
We teach the children how to segment each word to spell. E.g. cat = c-a-t
The aim is for the children to read the whole word automatically.
These activities are all done orally. The emphasis is on helping children to hear the separate sounds in words and to create spoken sounds.
Ways you can support your children at home
Sound-talking or Robot-talking
Find real objects around your home that have three phonemes (sounds) and practise ‘sound talk’. First, just let them listen, then see if they will join in, for example, saying:
‘I spy a p-e-g – peg.’
‘I spy a c-u-p – cup.’
‘Where’s your other s-o-ck – sock?’
‘Simon says – put your hands on your h-ea-d.’
‘Simon says – touch your ch-i-n.’
We teach the children the smallest unit of sound – called a ‘phoneme’.
This is the order in which the ‘phonemes’ are taught and practised. Correct pronunciation is vital!
c not cuh or cee b not buh or bee a not ay
Set 1 letters = s, a, t, p
Set 2 letters = i, n, m, d
Set 3 letters = g, o, c, k
Set 4 letters = ck, e, u, r
Set 5 letters = h, b, f,ff, l,ll, ss
Set 6 letters = j, v, w, x
Set 7 letters = y, z,zz, qu
A phoneme can be represented by more than one letter. E.g. ll as in bell ss as in hiss ck as in sock.
Ways you can support your children at home
Magnetic letters or your child’s ‘home made’ letter cards
Buy magnetic letters for your fridge, or for use with a tin tray. Find out which letters have been taught – have fun finding these with your child and place them on the magnetic surface.
Making little words together
Make little words together, for example, it, up, am, and, top, dig, run, met, pick. As you select the letters, say them aloud: ‘a-m – am’, ‘m-e-t – met’.
Breaking words up
Now do it the other way around: read the word, break the word up and move the letters away, saying: ‘met – m-e-t’.
Both these activities help children to see that reading and spelling are reversible processes.
Don’t forget the writing box!
Spelling is harder than reading words – praise, don’t criticise. Little whiteboards and pens, chalk boards etc, are a good way for children to try out spellings and practise their handwriting.
Progressing writing in year 1
Staff and parent helpers at school will model how to form letters (graphemes) correctly, so that children can acquire a fluent and legible handwriting style. These skills develop over a long period of time and it is important not to pick up bad habits in letter formation as this can be hard to correct and also makes it difficult to learn to join their letters at the end of year 1 and into year 2 and beyond.
Ways you can support your children with writing at home
Using their whole body
For handwriting children need to be well co-ordinated through their whole body, not just their hands and fingers. Games that help co-ordination include throwing balls at a target, under-arm and over-arm, and bouncing balls – also skipping on the spot, throwing a Frisbee, picking up pebbles from the beach and throwing them into the sea. Have fun!
Pouring water into jugs and cups of different sizes, sweeping up with a dustpan and brush, cutting, sticking, tracing, threading beads, completing puzzles, peeling off stickers and sticking them in the right place – these all help hand–eye co-ordination.
The ‘pincer’ movement needs to be practised. This is important as it enables children to hold a pencil properly as they write. Provide them with kitchen tongs and see if they can pick up small objects. Move on to challenging them to pick up smaller things, for example, little cubes, sugar lumps, dried peas, lentils, first with chopsticks, then with tweezers.
Ask children to peg objects to a washing line.
Provide plenty or different types of pen and pencil; hold their hand to practise the correct grip.
As the children progress they will be introduced to other phonemes.
They will also be taught the ‘tricky’ words – those that cannot be read or spelt using the sounds of the letters. E.g. to, no, the, go. This will be achieved through the use of flash cards and games.
Ways you can support your child at home
- Set a timer. Call out one word at a time and get your child to spell it on a magic board or a small whiteboard, against the timer – remember, they can use magnetic letters.
- Play a game – Play ‘Pairs’, turning over two words at a time trying to find a matching pair.
- Don’t worry if they get some wrong! These are hard to remember – they need plenty of practice.
As the children make even more progress, they will be introduced to the remaining phonemes, and given time to practise and consolidate their new learning.
Obviously, the more children are exposed to activities involving letters and sounds, the quicker they will consolidate their newly acquired skills.
Your involvement in your child’s learning is vital, and we ask that whenever possible you take time to encourage them to use their new knowledge through the activities outlined above.
Thank you for showing your interest and if anything that has been discussed needs more clarification, then please do not hesitate to speak to me.
Year 1 class teacher at Woodville Primary School