Tip 1: Help your kids learn to break up words and write the sounds they hear in the order they hear them.
Learning to hear a word and segment it into parts is crucial to becoming a writer. For your kids to begin writing their thoughts down on paper, they must first understand how to hear a word, break it into its individual sound parts, and represent each sound heard with the appropriate letters. For instance, when they hear the word "cat," they need to be able to immediately break it into /c/ /a/ /t/, hearing each sound that makes up the word. Naturally, they'll need to know the letters that represent each sound as well...and be able to write them properly as well.
But my kids don’t even know letters and sounds yet! When should I get them segmenting...and how?
If you want your kids to become great writers by the end of the school year, you should definitely start working on segmenting with your kids as soon as possible, preferably by the third full week of school -- even if you have kids who come in with very little letter/sound knowledge. If you are following the Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! letter order, this is easy to do. You will start blending and segmenting words that use the letters you have reviewed and/or focused on so far (t, o, and p). That means that even the kids who only know the letters you have officially gone over will be able to start blending and segmenting right away, reading and writing the words top, pot, tot, and pop! This will help them begin to understand how letters and sounds work together to make words. Each week will further this understanding as you continue to blend and segment new words utilizing all of the letters and sounds you have officially covered. As more and more letters/sounds have been covered, even your least exposed kids should be able to read more and more words with ease. If you also include a daily alphabet review and a number of other activities that go over important letter/sound information throughout the day (read Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! for more information on how to do this), you should really see your kids take off!
Regardless of the program and/or letter order you are using, make sure you get your kids blending and segmenting with whatever letters and sounds they have learned, and do your best to cover all of the letters and sounds as quickly as possible so that a lack of letter/sound knowledge doesn't hold them back.
All of my kids already know letters and sounds. What should I do?
If your kids come to you already knowing letters and sounds, you can bypass going over letters and sounds each week, and jump right into teaching your students how to put their letter/sound knowledge to use! Right away, you’ll want to introduce them to blending and segmenting all sorts of consonant-vowel-consonant words. Ideally, you’ll want to choose words that utilize all of the letters of the alphabet. This will help your kids get a good review of letters and sounds as they learn to blend and segment them. (For free word cards, go to www.KidsCanReadandWrite.com!)
What if my kids are having trouble blending and/or segmenting?
As you go over how to put sounds together and break them apart, make sure you help your kids gain a good blending/segmenting technique. This is key to the reading/writing process. Your goal should be to help your kids actually hear what they are saying as they blend sounds together. I like to have my kids "punch" the first sound (say it loudly and clearly by itself), drag out the middle sound (say it for longer), and quickly but a little more quietly add on the ending. In other words, if my kids were reading the word hop, they would say, "/h/ /oooo/p/, hop!" When first teaching them how to sound out words, I would help them sound out the word three times as a group before putting it together. This helps everyone learn to blend more effectively, and gives your confused kids more time to understand what everyone is doing to get the correct word. As your kids get the hang of how to sound out words quickly and efficiently, however, take your voice out completely and begin to have them sound out each word only once.