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 What is phonics?

Phonics is the relationship between sounds and the written letter symbols. It involves the correspondence of sound/spelling with written words/syllables. When referring to reading programs, phonics refers to reading by decoding (sounding out words) rather than reading using the “whole word” or “whole language” approach. While Wordy Worm Reading is a phonics-based program, it is more precisely a phonogram-specific program. 

 What is phonemic awareness?

We can answer that by turning the phrase around. In other words, it’s being aware of phonemes, or speech sounds; being aware and understanding that spoken language is made up of individual sounds. Further, it is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. It does not have to do with print. It is the very foundation of reading. Difficulty with phonemic awareness is the strongest indicator for future difficulty in reading.

Wordy Worm™ Reading encourages phonemic awareness through its songs, rhymes, gestures, and play. These various activities give your children exposure and practice in the association of individual sounds to our spoken language. By isolating the phonograms early on, your children are getting an early awareness of individual sounds. 

 What is a phonogram?

Phonograms show the smallest sounds that make up words. It is the “code” by which we sound out words. A phonogram may have one letter (h); two letters (ai); three letters (igh) or four letters (eigh). In each of these examples the phonogram makes one sound regardless of how many letters make up the phonogram. So…h says /h/; ai says /ā/; igh says /ī/ and eigh says /ā/.

Some phonograms have more than one sound. For instance, a has three sounds: /ă/ as in Abby. /ā/ as in ate. /ah/ as in almonds.

Knowing this code takes the mystery out of reading and the frustration out of learning.

 How many phonograms are there?

Wordy Worm™ presents 72 phonograms that represent the 44 sounds in the English language. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? It certainly takes the mystery out of sounding out words. By familiarizing yourself with these 72 letter patterns, you can easily and confidently help your children sound out any word they encounter.

How do phonograms relate to reading?

They are an essential piece in the foundation of reading. When we read, we should sound out (decode) words by phonograms not by letters!

The word “weigh,” for instance, has five letters; but has only two sounds: /w/ /ā/.

Some phonograms may make more that one sound.

For example, ea makes three sounds: the long e in eat; the short e in bread; and the long a in steak.

When you know that ei makes two sounds (long e and long a), then it is easy to read the sentence “Either reindeer will pull the sleigh. “When two vowels go a-walking, the first one does the talking” may work for “either” but not for the other two. And trying to individually sound out all 6 letters of “sleigh” would get you nowhere–except frustrated!

 Aren’t schools the best place to teach reading?

Of course we expect schools to teach reading. But you are not guaranteed that your children’s teachers or schools will teach phonograms in a systematic, explicit way in their reading programs.

In addition, parents make excellent first teachers. Do you wait until kindergarten for the teacher to teach your children to look both ways before crossing a street? Do you hold off on teaching your children manners because the school is the best place to do that? Do you neglect the ABCs because professionals know so much more than you do about the alphabet and how it relates to reading? Of course not! YOU teach your children these important life lessons and building blocks. Likewise, once you know the phonograms and their importance in laying the foundation for reading, YOU will have that same confidence and can give your children the early start they deserve.

The reality is that you can teach and reinforce pre-reading and reading skills — in natural settings in a fun-focused, child-friendly manner. Thus learning takes place in an on-going manner. Learning to read becomes a natural activity, not just a lesson in a classroom. It’s easy because it’s part of everyday life. Instead of learning and practicing on worksheets and at a desk or “center,” your children will be learning and practicing in the world around them.

How comforting for you to know that when your children enter school, they have the skills and positive memories to best benefit from that instruction.

 But I don’t know how to teach reading. Wouldn’t I confuse things?

If YOU know how to read, you already have the ability to teach your children. You simply need the information, strategies, and resources to help you realize and use that ability.

For example, since you are now reading these FAQs, you can also read the words chicken, school, and chef without hesitation. But you may well feel very inadequate in explaining to your children why these words “sound” the way they do.

Now just imagine you are able to tell your children that ch has three sounds: /ch/ /k/ and /sh/. And imagine, through song, play, and visual activities, they learn that ch has three sounds. Now, when they encounter these “differences” in sounding out words, they don’t have to be further confused with unhelpful explanations such as “English is hard” or “I don’t know why. It just does.” And imagine, too, that when they do come across a new word that gives them pause, YOU can coach them with a simple gesture or start a simple ditty, and they will remember their options. They will apply the choices, and they will read with confidence and joy.

 How do I learn and memorize those phonograms? I never had them in school.

Wordy Worm™ Reading provides you with a CD that has a ditty for each phonogram as well as a recording of each phonogram and its pronunciation/s; a DVD that illustrates accompanying gestures, and a guide to fun-tivities for learning and instructing. While these materials will be used with the children, it is the place for YOU to start first. The songs and gestures have been carefully developed to enhance the learning–and retention–for each phonogram. Just as your children will be able to recall them using these “bridges” for learning, you will be able to recall them so that you can take advantage of teachable moments anytime, anywhere to easily guide your children.

 How much time do I need to spend each day?

The benefit of Wordy Worm™ Reading is that it has been designed to be woven into a busy parent’s (or other caring adult’s) schedule. While you can certainly create, and enjoy, some “table” and “direct instruction” activities, your teaching time occurs while driving to school; while having lunch at your favorite restaurant; while shopping at the mall or grocery store; while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room; while…well, you get it, while you are doing whatever your hectic schedule demands…and wherever that schedule takes you. Therefore, you do not need to carve out 10, 15, or 30 minutes a day to sit down and “work on” reading. Instead you use those teachable moments (planned and unplanned) that you encounter within your schedule. And another benefit: by the time you add up all those fun teaching times, you have, throughout the day, far exceeded a “formal” teaching period. Yet another benefit? Reading is more relevant since it takes place where children encounter, and will eventually use, those words. 

 At what age do I begin Wordy Worm™ Reading with my children?

At whatever age YOU are today…because Wordy Worm™ Reading is designed to show YOU how to prepare your children to read.  Everything is designed to make it easy for parents and grandparents to begin that reading process.  Our goal is to give you the information, strategies, resources, and confidence to take advantage of your children’s curiosity and abilities at even the youngest age.  The first step in Wordy Worm™ Reading is for YOU to become familiar with the program and to learn the phonograms.  But don’t get overwhelmed.  Just as you didn’t memorize all the multiplication tables in one day when you were young, you are not going to memorize all the phonograms in one day.  Become familiar with all of them; but you need concentrate on only a few at a time; on those that you will be using with your children.  Click on the next question to see more about when to start with your children.  

 I do have children at various ages and stages. How do I reach all of them?

The first step in reaching all of them is to develop a “Wordy mentality.” That means you go about your day the Wordy Worm™ way. Begin to perceive your environment and your various experiences and interactions as “teachable moments” that introduce/reinforce the phonograms, expand vocabulary, enrich your relationship. Look at what you are already doing and see how you can put a new twist to it. Incorporate the ditties and gestures from your FUN-O-GUIDE into your everyday life.

Sing to and play with BABIES

The Wordy Way Example 1: In addition to doing “this little piggie went to market,” you can do “o-e makes an o. o-e makes an o. My friend, Joe, stubbed his toe. o-e makes an o” while wiggling your baby’s toes. Playing “piggy” and stimulating your baby is important; but think of the even greater benefit of having your baby’s receptive language being exposed, at such an early age, to such an important component of reading.

The Wordy Way Example 2: In addition to stretching up your angel’s arms while asking, “How big is baby? Soooooo big,” you can put your cherub on your lap, hold his/her hands, and sing, “i-g-h says i. i-g-h says i. The waves are high (up go the arms). They slap my thigh (down come the hands on the thighs). i-g-h says i. An added benefit: in addition to the typical body parts (nose, eyes, ear) your child can show, your vocabulary genius will be pointing to his/her thigh.

Add more gestures and extended interaction with TODDLERS:

The Wordy Way Example 3: At bath time, when you are playing “putt, putt” with various boats, sing, “o-a makes an o. o-a makes an o. I love to float upon my boat. o-a makes an o.” Think teachable moment and vocabulary by changing the lyrics to “love to float on my (little, big, yellow, red, etc) boat.

The Wordy Way Example 4: When playing ball with your little one, first bounce the ball yourself to the ditty, “The name of the letter is b. The sound of the letter is /b/. Bounce the big ball. B says /b/.” Then bounce (or roll) the ball to your little one.

Sing and do gestures with the b ditty when playing ball; the z ditty when getting dressed; the ph ditty when making a phone call, etc.

Note: Up to this point, the introduction of phonograms and their ditties have been primarily an exercise in phonemic awareness. (See question 3)

Go on Phonogram Hunts and Sound Searches with your PRESCHOOLERS

(Use the dozens and dozens of examples in your fun-o-guide)

The Wordy Way Example 5: On the way to school, go on a phonogram hunt by looking for multi-letter phonograms on street signs (Bay Street), restaurants (Starbucks Coffee), shops (nail salon).

The Wordy Way Example 6: Go on sound searches in the produce section of the grocery store: I need a fruit that starts with /b/ (banana, blueberries). I need a vegetable that starts with /b/ (beans, broccoli).

Guide emerging and established READERS:

The Wordy Way Example 7: Begin reading (and writing) words by blending phonograms: sail; knee; float. Incorporate matching games (word card with physical object; word cards with picture cards). Write your own “controlled vocabulary” readers for your children to read and illustrate.

The Wordy Way Example 8: Even if your children are already reading, knowing the phonograms, especially those with multiple sounds, will expand their decoding skills.

Using The The Six Silly Syllables and How to Cut the Cake will show your children where to correctly divide words, which, in turn, lets them know if the vowel sound is short or long.

There is no need to “memorize” a list of spelling words. Bring their attention to the phonograms that make up those spelling words, discuss the sounds, and write out the words by sound. That way, they will actually remember how to spell the word the Monday following the Friday test—and forever after.

 Reading Difficulties at Any Age

Phonograms provide a base that is structured, consistent, and predictable. Even though a phonogram may have three, four, or even six sounds, once children or adults with reading difficulties know the sounds associated with that phonogram, they know they can apply the sounds (in the order learned) and decode words. Wordy Worm™ Reading teaches the phonograms and their various sounds, as well as vocabulary and and writing, in an interactive, engaging manner at relevant times in relevant places. Therefore, acquisition, retention and application is strengthened. Generalization and transference of the individual skills are facilitated because they are learned in pragmatic places (restaurants, stores, street signs). But, perhaps most important, those individuals with reading difficulties are not under stress; but rather are enjoying positive literacy experiences.


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