The teaching of phonics should include a broad range of multisensory activities. There is no magic trick – activities that employ several senses and techniques will support memory. Changing up the activities will keep interest high and make the learning enjoyable.
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Below a wide rang of activities to help your child learn to read and spell. Join one of our parent webinars on phonics for more.
Building words by holding, touching and moving physical letters is another way to employ multiple senses.
1. Moving and Exchanging Letters
Words can be built and then altered by one letter to create another word. This way, memory links for particular words and how words relate to each other words is formed.
2. Using the Sense of Touch
Ask your child to build a word out of magnetic letters. Then ask them to close their eyes and (starting at the beginning of the word) feel each magnetic letter in turn, saying the letter name out loud. Repeat this step a couple of times. Now ask your child to spell the whole word out loud. Repeat again once or twice. Finally, ask them to write down the word.
3. Missing Letters
After learning to spell a word, to consolidate or check this spelling, try removing one letter from the word and ask your child to find out which one is missing.
Magnetic letters are NOT horizontally reversible, which makes them a great tool for teaching dyslexic learners, who may confuse letters for their reversed counterparts (e.g. d, b, p, q).
4. Highlighting silent letters.
5. Highlighting patterns in words and pointing our exceptions to the rule.
There are hundreds of flashcard games to play.
Monster Phonics sell flashcards for every aspect of phonics and spelling. You can buy our bumper set or our smaller sets that focus on 100 high-frequency words, 200 high-frequency words and common exception (tricky) words. They have the colour-coded word on one side and plain black text on the other. Don’t forget to use these to display words that your child has managed to secure. This is a great way of revising their learning and instilling confidence and pride. Have some wall space free in your home or classroom to show off success.
Use areas of interests in these display too. For example, if your child love trains, this would be an engaging way of displaying words learnt.
The Art of Learning to Spell
Learning using the Monster Phonics colour-coding is easier and more fun. Read further information on how colour-coding accelerates learning.
1. Using a variety of media to learn spellings in colour-code.
a) iPad apps – painting/drawing /scribbling/cursive apps
The beauty of these is the ease with which children can write and the amazing visual impact possible on screen. There is no need to worry about pencil grip. Your child can focus on the way the word in formed in the joined script, writing over and over again in different colour.
Try finger painting or the hand-held markers to paints as these also allow children to focus entirely on the hand movements and kinaesthetic flow of writing rather and prevent energy being wasted on the effort to maintain a correct pencil grip. Different sized paint brushes and painting tools like rollers to vary things up a little. Fluorescent, 3D and glitter paints can add some fun.
Oil-based pastels can create strong visual lines to create dramatic effects. They feel so wonderful to write with as pastels glide effortlessly along the page. I really recommend using these.
d) Whiteboard pens and whiteboard or Chunky Chalks and Blackboard
Again, these may be more comfortable to hold and provide a better grip than a pencil and also flow easily. New whiteboard and chalk colours are available to make this more interesting. Drawing on whiteboards can be combined easily with magnetic letters and plasticine.
2. Repeated writing of words in the joined script can help children to recall the muscle movements involved in the writing of the word. This not only supports writing but also word recognition.
Monster Phonics books are loved by children. This is actually quite unusual, as decodable readers can lose the pleasure of reading. You may choose to buy just a stage of the books. If your school has an Monster Phonics eBooks subscription, then they can read all of the eBooks at home for free. We have 10 sample eBooks for you to enjoy.
It is important to read engaging stories that include all the phonics keywords for a particular grapheme (spelling). This helps children to remember all the words that are spelt this way. Ask your child if they can retell you the story. Can they tell you all of the phonics keywords too? Maybe they can write some on large pieces of paper in colour-code. You can make this fun by using pastels, markers or paints.
Some children have greater success in learning whole words in 3D by ‘building’ playdough 3D words. Choose a variety of colours to make this more fun. The sense of smell can be added to the multisensory diet by including a flavouring such as vanilla or peppermint (but obviously not to eat – smell only) to homemade play dough. The 3D shapes can lie together, flat on the page or if built strong enough, they can stand upwards. To have even more fun with this, letters can be made into characters.
Colour-coding helps to identify the key aspects of each word – blue ‘oo’ sound, pink long O sound and red long A sound. Notice the silent ‘h’ and ‘k’.
2. Salt Dough
Salt dough can be used for as long as required. If you would like to make the letters permanent, cook them in the oven, for 3 hours on a low heat so that they don’t burn. Better still, try a microwave recipe that cooks in only 3 minutes. To finish the process, your child can paint the letters in the most interesting ways and finally practice building the word. This is a fantastic way of memorising the letters used – so many actions and senses employed.
Make phonics fun and real by using toys that represent sound. You can then ask your child to say the sound and use this when reading flashcards in the flashcards games or when building words out of magnetic letters. Monster Phonics sell whole sets of toys or in sets of 3 to help you to select your child’s favourites.
Sing along to songs that contain a particular grapheme (spelling). This is especially helpful when there is no rule to associate a particular grapheme with the words that use it. For example, why should name use a-e and rain use ai? We also use this strategy in Monster Phonics with great success.
Spelling Log Books
Monster Phonics Spelling Log Books are an ideal way to help your child learn to read and spell. Each book uses colour-coding for sound to accelerate learning and make it enjoyable. They cover all graphemes, high-frequency words and common exception words.
Saying the word as it is spelt
This can be a useful technique for many students. Here are some examples spec-i-al, wed-nes-day, choc-o-late, occas –ion-ally (an Italian accent works well here), lib-rar-y.
These can be incorporated into a funny sentence. For example – pressure – press the press-ure button; there is an end in the cal-end-ar (make a sad sound for ar).
Highlight where a letter makes a different sound to the one that has been taught (such as ‘o’ making an ‘u’ in Monday, ‘son’, ‘watch’, ‘swan’ etc). Talk about this and show the link between letter and sound. In Monster Phonics, Tricky Witch colours these letters gold. She casts a spell on the sounds that children know so well to try to trick our learners. They are gold – as they are the most tricky, they also need to be the most interesting. In Monster Phonics, the silent letters are ghosts as they make no sound (eg the ‘i’ in ‘friend’, the ‘w’ in ‘answer’). Try outlining these letters to show that although they exist, they make no sound – bubble writing is a great way of showing this.
Apps and Online Games
The best games and activities are multisensory, involving action and rewarding auditory and visual stimulus. However, it is important to remember that it is another type of multisensory activity, which ideally should be part of a wider multisensory learning diet.
We probably all remember mnemonics that we used in our childhood (eg because = big elephant can always understand small elephants). Google can offer many suggestions.
Pictures as memory cues
Research shows that memory for shape and pictures is a strength for many dyslexic learners. So use pictures as often as you can. One I like is ‘laughing at ants under green hats’ and write this around 2 ants covered by the outline of an enormous green hat.
Words within Words
Finding words within words can be a useful memory technique. For example several, piece, measure, repair.
A more traditional approach which I am less keen on. Although it works, the task can be monotonous. Try make it more interesting by having lots of fun pens (such as glitter, neon gel) of different colours.
Children often respond to a bit of history to our language. For example, knowing that silent letters used to be pronounced but lost their sounds due to the awkwardness of saying them makes learning more fun. Try saying words with silent letters, such as know, knot, knit with audible silent letters to support memory.
Learn more about the monsters, their sounds and spellings in this video.