The importance of skills practice when learning to read


20140424_141823 CVCC Dictation CVCC word readingLearning to read, initially,  has two components:

1. knowledge – learning the graphemes and the sounds they represent

2. skills – learning to blend sounds into words and segment sounds for spelling

Many teachers offer lots of fun ways to learn the graphemes.  They do this in step-by-step progression starting from the simple graphemes progressing to the more complex ones.  But some children still fall behind.  All to often they have not mastered the skills of blending and segmenting.

Why is this?  Have they been taught explicitly how to blend and segment?  If so, could it be that the teachers do not allow enough time for skills practice?  Do children have enough opportunity to practice blending at word and text level at each stage, before moving on to the next grapheme?

Often, the point where things begin to fall apart is when children learn to read words with adjacent consonants.  The leap from reading words with 3 sounds (e.g. ‘n a p’ ) to 4 and 5 sounds (e.g. ‘c l a p’ or ‘p r i n t ‘) in a word is difficult for many children.  It is very important to pause at this stage to allow lots of skills practice.

This week, my 8 year old pupil started to learn words with CVCC structure.  We started with word building, then did word spelling, followed with reading a decodable book with CVCC phonic focus and ended with sentence dictation, using sentences from the decodable book.  We used the Moon Dog series (see image above).

Because all the activities reinforced the same principle – blending the sounds when reading and segmenting when spelling – he became quite confident.  He has started reading the Magic Belt series independently.  I feel he is getting a solid grounding that will serve him well.   Later, when he learns graphemes from the extended code, he will use blending and segmenting automatically.  Also, having solid skills when blending adjacent consonants will enable him to read many, many more words.

Here are some examples of the work we did.  I am looking forward to working on CCVC with him next week.




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