I've decided to write a series of several posts to describe the activities I do in my classroom to help the children develop phonemic awareness. Much of a child's initial understanding of words, letters, and sounds is tied to the word that means the most to them...........their own name! Many, many phonemic and phonological skills can be introduced using names. It is amazing to me how quickly children learn to recognize and read their own names as well as the names of their classmates. Over the next few days I will describe some of our daily routines which involve names as well as some name-related "work" that I've recently developed and added to my classroom shelves.
Today I am going to write about an activity that is part of our first line time each day. We begin our class session each day with line time. As the children arrive they join me on the line. Once most children have sat down I do "roll call", saying "Good morning, (name)" to each child in turn. They respond back with, "Good morning, Miss Laura." Each day one child is assigned to be the "snack helper". In addition to providing our snack for the day, this child sits next to me at line time and has several important "helper" responsibilities. Following our roll call, the snack helper uses magnet letters to spell their name on a small magnet board. After they have arranged the letters in order (sometimes independently and sometimes with my help), I lead the class in a "chant/cheer" to spell the child's name. For example, if the child's name was "Greg", I would say, "Give me a G!" and the children would say, "G!". We continue until the child's name is completely spelled, then I say, "What does that spell?" and everyone says, "Greg!" Next, we talk about the first sound of the child's name. I say, "If your name starts with /g/ like Greg, please stand up." All the children (including Greg) whose names start with G stand up and we pronounce their name as a class, listening for the /g/ sound. I repeat this for last names. Sometimes, if I feel like we have time or if there are no other children whose names begin like the snack helper's name, I'll have the children raise their hand to tell me words that begin with that sound.
Next, we count the letters in the snack helper's name. I say, "If your name has 4 letters like Greg's name, please stand up." As each child stands up I have them spell their name out loud and help them verify that their name has 4 letters. If there are still children with 4 letter names sitting I might say something like, "I see a few more friends whose names have 4 letters that haven't stood up yet. Whose name is spelled........K-A-T-E?" I simultaneously hold up fingers to show that KATE has 4- letters in her name. Usually the child will recognize their name as it is spelled orally. If not, one of their classmates inevitably helps them!
Finally, we "clap" the snack helper's name to count how many syllables it has. Hearing syllables in words is a foundation skill for eventually being able to segment words into their individual sounds, a skill that will be critical for both reading and spelling words. After we count the syllables or "claps" in the snack helper's name, all the children who have that many syllables in their name stand up. As a group, we verify each child's syllables by saying and clapping each name.
This whole process has been part of our line time routine from the beginning of school. It takes no more than five minutes to implement, but has such a big impact in the children's understanding of letters, sounds, and syllables.