Training Letter Sounds and Phonics Skills
In the Lively Letters program oral kinesthetics, imagery, hand cues, music, and mnemonic stories are heavily utilized to make it easier for students to learn and remember their letter sounds. This is especially important for those with weaknesses in phonemic awareness, and visual processing, and short term memory or rapid naming of visual symbols. Mnemonic cues are also instrumental in the Lively Letters approach to training many of the challenging phonics concepts, such as the final “e” rule (“note” VS “not”), vowel combinations (“ou” VS “oa”), and handling words with open syllables (“robot” VS “robbing”).
Training Phonemic Awareness
The picture cards and, later, plain letters are then used in hands-on tracking activities to develop the phonemic awareness skills of blending, segmenting, and sound manipulation. Students progress through the program, using various levels of words and materials to develop the ability to automatically sound out words for reading and spelling.
EXAMPLE – Handling “b” and “d” Confusion
It’s no wonder students have such difficulties not only telling these two letters apart, but then remembering which sound each letter represents! The letters look very similar, one usually being seen as just the mirror image of the other, and there is typically no easy way for students to hook the correct sound onto each of these abstract shapes. For many students with orthographic (visual), phonemic (sound) or rapid naming weaknesses, rote drill and practice are not enough.
With Lively Letters, the two letters are not just shapes, but unique, lively characters who have very different personalities. The stories about these two engaging characters can be best told through the suggested dialogue that is included in the Lively Letters Instruction Manual and displayed below. Keep in mind that the “b” would be presented after introducing its partner, “p,” and the “d” would be presented after introducing its partner, “t.”
p –Quiet Lip Puffing Sound
“What are we doing when we make this sound? ‘p’ (Produce sound, over-exaggerating the bursting action of the lips, keeping voice off.) We’re using our lips – we put them together. Put your hand in front of your mouth. Do you feel air coming out? Does it come out slowly, or is it puffing out? Right, it’s puffing out! We could call this a lip puffing sound. Is your voice on or off? Oh, this must be a quiet sound. (Show picture.) The first thing I see in this letter is the line with the lips, telling me to put my lips together. The circle is at the top to remind us of the tall mother who’s always very quiet so her baby can sleep. We keep our voices off.”
Hand cue: Hold fingers up to closed lips and quickly move them away.
b –Noisy Lip Puffing Sound
“Did you know that the letter p has a noisy partner? We still put our lips together and puff out the air, but this time we turn our voices on while we do it. Let’s try it, and see what sound it makes! (Point to lips, turn on voice, and slowly start to form the sound ‘b’ with a loud voice, trying to elicit the same sound from the student.) See how your voice is on with that sound? (Show picture.) The line with the closed lips still comes first, so as soon as you see that, put your lips together! See how this circle is down low, though? This is the little baby, and babies are very noisy, aren’t they? That reminds us to turn our voices on!”
Hand cue: Hold fingers up to closed lips and quickly move them away, with more force.
t –Quiet Tongue Dancing Sound
“What am I doing when I make this sound? ‘t’ That’s right! I’m using my tongue! What is it doing? (Instructor makes quiet tapping sounds with tongue, ‘t-t-t-t,’ while lightly tapping fingernails on desktop as if tap-dancing.) It sounds like my tongue is tapping, dancing up there behind my teeth, doesn’t it? We can call this the tongue dancing sound. Let’s see if our voices are on or off. Oh, it’s the quiet tongue dancing sound! (Introduce picture.) This tongue is quietly dancing on the top of the mouth right behind the teeth. See how he keeps his arms out for balance while he quietly dances? He has sneakers on so he won’t make much noise. I wonder who his noisy partner is!”
Hand cue: Tap fingers or fingernails quietly on the table.
d – Noisy Tongue Dancing Sound
“Did you know that t has a noisy partner? You’re still going to tap your tongue up there, but this time, put your voice on. What sound does it make? ‘d-d-d-d’ (Tap on table noisily.) (Show picture.) This is our noisy tongue dancing sound. He’s still a tongue that’s tapping up there, but he likes to make a lot of noise! (Tap your fingers noisily on the table.) The first thing you see when you look at this guy is his very big tummy, which he likes to tap on like it’s a noisy drum –‘d-d-d-d!’ When you see that circle first, tap on it like a noisy drum. ‘d-d-d-d’”
Hand cue: Tap loudly on the table as if banging on a drum.