Have you ever been in a Who’s on First situation in your classroom? You’re there saying “Short E makes the ‘eh’ sound, Long E says it’s name, like ‘eeeee’”, and your class is struggling to understand? That's because you're just using one modality - speech. When you speak, particularly about new words, sounds, and concepts, it's incredibly abstract. It's just a stream of sounds that students may or may not understand. Their reading and writing skills aren't high enough to be able to take notes on this. But most importantly, they can't touch any of it. It's all in the ether. There's no way for them to take a new sound that you say and access it independently.
Part of what makes talking about sounds particularly confusing is that we like to name sounds, so that it's easier to talk about them. But this isn't always clear to kids - often, it's super confusing, particularly because both the name and the sound are new concepts, so there's nothing to conceptually hold onto. Going back and forth between the name for the sound ("Short E" and "Long E" are names), and the sound itself (audio files to the side), can be incredibly confusing and unproductive.
Or have you ever been in a situation where your students can’t remember which sound is Short E and which sound is Long E? That’s exactly the sort of thing that we can help with - turning an abstract concept like a sound into a concrete, touchable, moveable object. This post talks a little bit about why we should use sounds as objects. You can use these sounds-as-objects in front of your students, and ideally your students can use them to help them independently start using and playing with sounds in their early reading work.
For early phonemic awareness and phonics, audio can be incredibly helpful. That’s because phonemic awareness is all about being able to identify, use, and manipulate sounds. Phonics is all about matching sounds to their written representations, letters and chunks of letters.
In phonemic awareness, sounds need to be treated as objects in your mind. If you’re going to answer the phonemics awareness diagnostic question of “What is the third sound in the word ‘bread’”, you need to first be able to separate the word into 4 sounds: b, r, "eh", and d. Then, you need to be able to hold that ordering in your brain while you get to the third one, "eh". Then, you need to be able to produce the sound to answer the question.
This may seem easy, but it’s actually quite complicated!
In phonics, sounds need to be treated like objects in your mind, and also they need to be matched to the letter combinations that represent those sounds. So when you see A in the context of a consonant, vowel, consonant (CVC) word, you need to know that the A represents a short A sound. Like “cat”. This is super obvious to an expert reader, and not at all obvious to a new reader.
So, since both phonemic awareness and phonics have the prerequisite of treating sounds like objects, ScribbleUp believes we should do just that. Let’s make sounds into touchable objects, instead of abstract concepts in our brain! Playable objects that can be moved around - like a physical representation of phonemics awareness. And furthermore, let’s make some of these sounds-as-objects have their matching letter combinations ON them. So, if we want to teach short A, the block that says short A has “a” on it. It can get even more complicated, which is where using visuals comes in!
So that’s our reasoning for using audio in our apps. And you can use audio, too - regardless of how much technology you have in your classroom.
Coming soon: free how-to's, tips, and downloads for using audio in your classroom, with and without access to technology!
Want a lesson plan and app that does this already, with sounds-as-objects for learning phonemic awareness and phonics?
Get ScribbleUp’s 1st-Grade Reading App and be ready for class today!