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There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to phonics. After all, phonics is the foundation for a lifetime of successful reading, so educators have been developing phonics resources for years and making them available to the public. Homeschooling families can easily take advantage of these resources, and there are plenty of good phonics opportunities that are free and require little or no preparation by you. Here are just some of the opportunities awaiting your early reader.
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As a homeschooler, are you a fan of your local library? I know I could not live without mine. In addition to the countless books that interlibrary loan makes accessible, your library probably offers electronic resources for phonics learning. You can borrow computer disks from the library and then let your child use them at your leisure. My library offers many such programs including Clifford the Big Red Dog Phonics and several Reader Rabbit programs. To use these, you will need a home computer which runs Windows 95 or a later version and has a Pentium processor. You will need a sound card and speakers, and a microphone is recommended for some of the programs. If your child is comfortable with the computer, and how many children aren’t these days, you can allow him to work at his own pace and he will receive immediate feedback from the program. Beloved friends like Clifford and Dr. Seuss (Dr. Seuss Preschool and Dr. Seuss Kindergarten) make learning fun and familiar, and as a parent you can trust the quality of these well-known brands.
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There's an App for That
Not all families can afford technologies like the i-Pad, but for those who already have this resource, there are many free applications that you can download to practice phonics. One such application is Rhyming Lite by Abitalk. In this whimsical game, four pieces of fruit, each labeled with a word, bounce around on the screen. Your child must choose the rhyming words; each set of four fruit has two pairs. Once they correctly pair the words, they earn jewels. Earn enough jewels and they can play one of several mini-games. With this app your kids get immediate feedback and will not realize they are practicing their phonics skills.
ABC Pocket Phonics Lite is another great i-Pad resource but is targeted for kids who are not ready to read words on their own. In this app, your child will hear the phonics sounds associated with certain letters and then practice writing them. The program also allows your child to identify letters to make a word and then hear it pronounced with a picture. Your child will learn how to sound out simple words and see pictures of their meanings. For just a few dollars, you can get the full version of ABC Pocketphonics and have a greater selection of letters to practice.
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Take Phonics Outside
Does your child find that blue sky and sunshine impossible to resist? Does the beautiful weather make school time nearly impossible? Believe it or not, there are phonics opportunities to take outside. With a clean driveway and some sidewalk chalk, you can create two easy and fun phonics games for your homeschool student.
To prepare the games, you should write the consonant sounds or blends that you want to review in random order on your driveway. As you do, create a path that winds throughout the area. For the first game, you will need one die. Have your child start at the beginning of the path and roll the die. She should move that many spaces to stand on a letter. Ask her to say the name of the letter and the sound that it makes.
For the second game, have your child stand with his back to the path of letters. He should throw a beanbag gently over his shoulder (you can use a pair of rolled up socks if you do not have a beanbag handy) to choose a letter. Whichever letter the bag lands closest to, he should give the sound of that letter and a word that begins with that sound. If you want to play these games on a rainy day, you are not out of luck. Simply write the letters on an old shower curtain or sheet and play inside. To review vowel sounds in the great outdoors, grab a beach ball that is sitting in the garage or buy one at a dollar store. Write the vowel sounds or letter combinations around the ball in random places. Toss the ball to your child and have her catch it. The vowel sound closest to her right thumb is the one she will have to use in a word. Have her toss the ball back and take a turn yourself. Continue until you have practiced with all the vowels.
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Phonics and Art Blend
With a little preparation and some common household items, you and your child can make some homemade phonics games. For the most basic, you will need an egg carton, some circular stickers and a penny. Write the sounds that you want to review with your child on the stickers. You will want to prepare twelve stickers. Then have him place the stickers in the egg carton, one in each space. Place the penny in the carton and close it. Your child should then shake the carton for a few seconds and then open it. The sound that the penny lands on is the sound he will have to make. Then ask him to give a word that uses that sound. Play until you have reviewed all the sounds.
A more challenging game is just as simple to create. You will need a stack of paper cups and a marker. Write five vowel sounds that your child knows and fifteen consonant sounds each on the bottom of one cup. Using three cups, make a word that starts and ends with one of the consonants you have written. Challenge your child to make a new word by stacking one or two cups on top of the existing cups. For example, if you use the letters h, a and t to make the word hat, your child may stack a p on the h and an i on the a to make the word pin. Keep going until all the cups are used or until your child cannot make any new words.
A final fun phonics game is only a few pages of construction paper away. Cut out two sets of circles about four inches around from both tan and brown construction paper. You may want to trace the bottom of a can and then allow your child to cut out some of the circles. On each tan circle, write a simple word your child has seen. On the brown circles, write the vowel sounds that are in those simple words. Then glue the tan word circle to the brown sound circle. You should have pairs like cat/short a, bed/short e, pig/short i, sun/short u. These are your phonics pancakes. Give your child a frying pan and a spatula and put two or three pancakes in the pan, brown side down. Ask your child to read a word and then name the vowel sound that it contains. After she names the vowel sound, have her flip the pancake and check her answer. After a few turns under your supervision, she can play by herself. Your child will have fun playing this game on her own and checking her answers independently. You can make additional pancakes as your child learns new words. If you have more than one child learning phonics, have them take turns.
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Phonics is an important piece of reading proficiency, but phonics activities do not have to be dull to be effective. Your child will be entertained and engaged with these phonics activities that suit any day’s mood. Have fun with them, and learn at the same time.
- Phonics Games Kids Can't Resist! by Michelle K. Ramsey. Scholastic Professional Books, 1999.