Saturday, April 29, 2017

Learning to Read: Tech Help for Phonics

Most adults have trouble remembering both when they learned to read and for some reason, how their children learned to read. I've spoken to many parents and surprisingly few have noticed the process that their children went through learning to read.

Nevertheless, when I ask which phrases or concepts they remember from this process such as dipthongs, blending, blends, long vowels, short vowels, segmenting, double letters, rhymes, word families etc, there is one phrase that beats all the others in terms of how often it is selected as:

"Yes, I remember that one!"  The term:" Sound it Out."  Apparently many remember receiving and giving his advice when a student stumbled on a word.  "Just Sound it Out, a sound at a time."

So when I saw the Sound It Out Game from VocabularySepllingCity, I was very curious to see how they handled this familiar instruction.

I was at first disappointed, then surprised, and finally thrilled by the game. I've never seen anything like it. I'm going to quote from an article called Phonics: Sound It Out about it. There's also broader info on tech help with decoding, phonics, and recognizing sounds here: Phonics Games Build Literacy Skills


The Sound It Out game is a rich skill-building exercise which puts interactive learning tools into students’ and teachers’ hands in an unprecedented way. Students can now, on any list of words that the teacher or student chooses, have rich phonological and phonics practice. Sound It Out breaks any word down into its sounds (phonemes) and then shows the letter-sound correspondence.
Sound It Out: Sound Letter Correspondence
Sound It Out: Letter-Sound Correspondence

Students who are struggling to understand letter-sound correspondence can mouse over the sounds in their words to HEAR each sound and SEE which letter combinations make which sounds.
In terms of game play, Sound It Out starts is a sound-based unscramble game where students can choose from two scenes –  a version that features a fun cat and mouse and classic version geared toward older students.  But let’s focus first on the educational concept. Words on the selected list are automatically broken into sounds with corresponding letter combinations.  So if your list includes toothshipsheepchill, and this; each of these words would be used in the activity broken down by sounds:  t oo th,  sh i p, sh ee p, ch i ll, and th i s.  In the unscramble part for each word, the student must reassemble the word based on its sounds. This encourages the student to focus not only on the spelling of the word, but on the sounds each letter (or letter combination) makes.
Here’s an example with the word “black”. The word is broken down into its four sounds: b l a ck and then the order is scrambled. The student hears: “Click on the sound blocks in the right order to spell the word: black.” Students also have the option to hear the word read again or and in a sentence.

If the student mouses over the b, the student hears the /b/ sound. Mouse-overs on the other tiles also play their sounds;  the student hears a short /a/, a /ck/ sound, and an /l/. If the student clicks on the right sound, it slides into place and the game asks for the next sound, If the student clicks on the wrong sound, the game gently corrects, explains again what sound  to look for, and the student again searches for the right sound.

Here’s the part of the game that I feel is most magical. After the student has successful assembled the sounds of the word, the letter tiles transform into the the word fully assembled but still broken down into phonics tiles. The word is read aloud again and sounded out, with each Interactive Sound Box being highlighted for the sound being read. The student can also mouse over each sound to highlight the Interactive Sound Box while listening to the pronunciation. These interactive phonics boxes are a powerful tool for students trying to learn to recognize the sounds and then match them with the letter combinations.


Lets look for a second at these VocabularySpellingCity interactive sound boxes.  Click to play Sound It Out and get a feel for how it puts the ability to explore sound letters combinations in the students’ hands. You can do it on your computer, tablet, or phone.