Why we use a multisensory phonics based approach to teaching literacy
Learning to read through a phonics based approach teaches budding readers the relationship between letter symbols and sounds. While there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 44 unique sounds (phonemes) and over 200 different ways to spell these 44 sounds!
Using symbols, visual aides, kinesthetic, engaging and highly interactive activities, we teach students to decode all the sounds of English and blend them together to decipher and create words.
We use a variety of phonics programs at The Literacy Corner, customizing each to fit your child's individual needs. For reading intervention (instruction for children who are reading below their level) we use an Orton Gillingham based approach which is a comprehensive and highly effective program developed by well known educators using the methods and principles of Orton Gillingham, Barton, Lindamood-Bell and other well known phonics programs.
How does it work? Through our engaging methods, we teach children to decode. Decoding is the ability to read words by converting written symbols into speech sounds. When we read, we make sense of letters on a page. Letters are simply symbols that represent speech sounds. For example, the letter ‘s’ is a symbol that represents two sounds: /s/ as in ‘sing’ and /z/ as in ‘nose’. These sounds are called phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of speech sound.
Research shows that to be a strong and fluent reader, one must be able to identify the individual sounds (phonemes) that make up a word. To be an adequate speller, one needs to be able to transform their understanding of the phonemic makeup of English into the written symbols that represent each sound.
For example, a very young child might think the word ‘cat’ is one sound. As they learn to read, they will discover that this simple word is made up of three sounds or phonemes: /k/ /a/ /t/. They will also discover that putting these same sounds in a different order results in a different word: /a/ /k/ /t/ is ‘act’. This is called phonemic awareness; the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds within words.
A good decoder has an unconscious awareness of the sound structure of words; they know that ‘cat’ is /k/ /a/ /t/ and that if they changed the /k/ to a /b/, it would result in ‘bat’. For a struggling reader, the decoding process is not automatic. When they see the letter ‘c’, they may not associate it with the sound /k/. This creates an instant barrier to reading and later to spelling.
Even if the child is able to struggle through learning to read, when the child tries to spell the word ‘cat’, they also need to remember the correct symbol to spell the word. In English, there are 4 ways to spell the /k/ sound: ‘c’ as in ‘cat’, ‘k’ as in ‘kitten’, ‘ck’ as in ‘quick’ and ‘ch’ as in ‘Christmas’. Some children pick these things up intuitively and store them in their memories after only seeing a word once or twice. Others struggle with the rules and patterns. Explicit phonics instruction makes spelling less about memorizing and more about understanding the phonemes and the letters that represent them as well as the rules that determine which letters to choose.