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Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

Teaching phonics: Great idea, poor examples

Almost every week Anna (my four year old) brings home a “sound wheel” from preschool. Her class studies a letter a week (which I will blog about later … I’m not big on letter-a-week) and they use these letter wheels as part of their work. Sort of like this, (opens in a new window) but not exactly.

The kids paint a cover and attach a circular piece of tag board to the back. The circular piece has four picture/word examples for the letter they’re studying. After the “wheel” is attached, Anna spins the wheel to view (read?) one of the four picture/word examples showing through two small windows. Sounds good, right? Here’s the problem: the sound examples are TERRIBLE! (Note: Her teacher didn’t create these herself, they’re from a publisher).

For example: When studying the letter T, the four exemplars are: truck, tiger, turtle, tree. See what I mean? Two /r/ blend words, and two that contain at least one prominent sound that is NOT the one being studied! It’s nuts! What about using clean ‘t’ sounding words like top, tub, towel, and ten? Here’s a second example, for the letter G — exemplars are glove, grapes, giraffe, and guitar. Two blends (/gl/ and /gr/) and a mix of hard and soft /g/. Argh!

You should know that I’m okay with Anna learning about sounds and letters in preschool, although not everyone (opens in a new window) is (she’s desperate to read and write like her big sister). I just want to know that the examples she’s getting present good, clean examples of the sounds. Am I right?

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
January 11, 2007