I actually teach in a similar manner to how you described, I think.....I'd be interested to hear more on your thoughts about sound-to-letter vs. letter-to-sound teaching. While designing my marked-up print, I found I started hearing the 2 sounds of th more clearly--the more I saw and listened for the two sounds and saw them marked accordingly, the stronger their differences became for me. I'm not sure if this was because I was just listening harder for them, or if seeing a differently marked character for each sound made the difference concrete for me, or both.
Hi Elizabeth B,
While I used to think a "sound-to-letters" approach had an advantage because you could use that orientation to relate the more obscure symbolic print to the actual sounds kids were saying in words, I have gradually come around to realizing that the "sound-to-letters" orientation leads to poor curriculum choices.
If you let a linguist into the curriculum design process, he'll take the hundreds of sounds actually present in English when you consider all the co-articulation that occurs and start relating those to print. This results in a letter like "a" representing far too many sounds to be useful for instructing 5-year-olds.
If, instead, you start with the letters and ask the simple question, "How many sounds must I teach for each grapheme, at a minimum, so that kids will learn to read?" you then get what is essentially the Spalding Method, which is still, to my mind, the most effective language program presently in use in classrooms. (If someone disagrees with this, I'd like to know the name of the full language program--not just decoding--which you believe is better, as I would certainly look at it.)
For me, many -eg words, especially the word egg, that the sound of that e is closer to a long a. I also think ag words distort the sound of short a a bit.
My Southern students have a hard time distinguishing short i and e, especially in the words pen and pin.....
The above two examples illustrate exactly what I'm talking about. The linguist will attempt to deal with the admittedly strong influence of the trailing "g" on the "a" in "bag," possibly by adding yet another option to the list of sounds to be taught for the grapheme "a". Yet any child will easily adopt the explanation that "bag" sounds a bit different than /b/+/a/+/g/, but that is how he should view the code in the word. He will then go on to read words like "sag," "brag" and "lag" with little difficulty. But more important, he will not
be burdened with having to memorize yet another pronunciation option for the grapheme "a".
And while the linguist might be tempted to add an /i/ sound for the letter "e" in the South, your approach (letters-to-sounds) teaches a child the standard pronunciation for "e" while making them realize that their accent is causing them to pronounce "pen" a lot like "pin." This respects the accent while making them aware of the broader situation, a good thing.
Furthermore, going on something I read recently, once a child has both "pen" and "pin" properly represented in his head, he might well think he's saying them quite differently (because he's thinking the proper sounds) even though they are, in fact, coming out of his mouth sounding very much the same. What I read recently is that in the Boston accent, a speaker believes he is saying the /r/ sound in "ar" even though it sounds very much to me like he is saying it without (cah). To my ear "cah" and "car" do not rhyme. It's quite likely that "Ma" and "mar" also don't rhyme (in his head) to him either, because he "feels like" he's saying /ar/ instead of /o/ when he pronounces "mar." Any thoughts on this? I could be really, really wrong here, and would like to be corrected if so.