Do you have students in your class who are doing okay with their reading, but they have so much trouble with spelling?
And you’re not really sure what else you can do to help them improve their spelling?
Don’t worry you’re not alone.
I see lots of kids in the literacy clinic who are the same. They are doing okay with their reading, but it’s the spelling where they’re having the most difficulty.
Last week we looked at teaching children to blend and why that is important. I shared 6 helpful activities you can implement to help children develop their blending skills.
Today I’m going to share with you some of the activities I use to help children improve the essential skill of segmenting.
If you’re not specifically teaching children the skill of segmenting, then your students will find accurate spelling difficult.
What is segmenting?
Segmenting is the ability to be able to pull apart individual sounds in words. For example, sat: /s/ /a/ /t/.
Here are 5 ways I help children develop the skill of segmenting in order to improve their spelling.
1. Saying the sounds
Last week I mentioned an activity called ‘talking in sounds’ to help develop blending. You can also use this same idea to develop segmenting.
First you will need to have a bag with some objects in that the children are familiar with. These objects should have 3 phonemes (sounds) and generally be CVC words.
For example, you may have a cup, mat, duck and bag.
Select one child to come to the bag and pick one of the items. That child then needs to say the separate sounds in the object to the other children in the class. For example, if they picked the duck they would say the sounds: /d/ /u/ /ck/.
The other children then need to blend the sounds together to work out which item is in the bag. Then the child that picked the object can reveal if they were correct.
2. Counting the sounds
I use this activity with all levels of students, from younger students to older students that are having trouble with spelling.
If you provide your students with spelling lists or you use focus words you can complete this activity with those words.
Pick one of the words, for example bat. Get your students to say the sounds they hear in the word bat and count them one by one. Encourage younger students to use their fingers to keep track of how many sounds they counted. They should tell you they hear 3 sounds – /b/ /a/ /t/.
Again, with older students pick one of the words, such as bumblebee. Ask them to say each of the sounds and count how many sounds they hear. For this word they would tell you they hear 7 sounds – /b/ /u/ /m/ /b/ /le/ /b/ /ee/.
Remember it’s the number of sounds heard, not the number of letters.
This is also a good technique to use once students have written a word. Get them to say the sounds in the word and underline each spelling that represents that sound. This will then help them work out any possible errors made with spelling. So our bumblebee example would look like:
b u m b le b ee
3. Tap it, map it, zap it (TMZ)
My lovely friend Donna came up with this idea, which I absolutely love. It’s quite simple and involves three steps. It helps students to first segment each sound in a word and then write the spellings that we use to represent those sounds.
Tell your students one of the words, for example little.
Get your students to tap a square as they say each sound in the word.
For mapping it, your students write the spellings for each sound as they say it. One sound for each square.
Finally zap the word by writing the whole word at the end.
This activity is also a good way for students to focus in on the ‘tricky’ part of the word. Generally it’s one part of the word where they have trouble with the spelling, rather than the whole word. Focus in on that tricky part and provide lots of practice and repetition of words with that spelling.
Below is an example grid that you can easily make yourself and use with your students. The boxes can be any size to suit the needs of your students. But I like to have them a bit larger, so then they can be cut apart and used as puzzles.
4. What sound next?
This is a game you can play with your students where they are looking at each of the sounds that make up the word. Students will guess individual sounds in the word to eventually build the whole word.
For example, the word might be: plump. On the board you would have the number of dashes to match the number of sounds: _ _ _ _ _. Also have on the board 2 columns: Could Be or Couldn’t Be.
As students guess the first sound, if it is not the correct one say, “It could be /t/, but it’s not”. Then write the letter ‘t’ under the Could Be column. If students say the letter name, then remind them to say the sound.
For the word plump, when the students have the first sound and you move on to the second sound, if a student says a sound that is not plausible, such as /w/, then you say, “Do you know any words that start with the sounds /p/ /w/?” The student will not be able to think of any, so then that letter combination is added to the Couldn’t Be Column.
If a student says a combination that is plausible, such as /p/ /a/, then you say, “It could be, but it’s not” and add that letter combination to the Could Be column. The game continues until the word is revealed. Your board would look similar to the below picture.
5. Resources to improve reading and spelling
If you’re still struggling with knowing the best way to help your students become confident readers and accurate spellers and you don’t have time to hunt around the internet to find resources, then The Complete Phonics Kit is the solution you need.
The kit focuses on:
- Providing different levels of materials to meet the needs of your students and keep them engaged;
- Saving you time and energy by providing innovative ways to deliver your reading and spelling program;
- Freeing up your time on planning and preparation so that you can really focus on the needs of your students;
- Supplying activities that allow your students to succeed giving them the confidence they need to achieve more; and
- Providing activities and games that you can use for your small literacy groups, whole class instruction or individual consolidation.
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