What we are asking children to do is counterintuitive because for the child learning language, meaning has been paramount, while the forms in which the meaning is represented have been unimportant - they are merely the medium, which is to be ignored in favor of the message. With phonemic awareness, we are asking the child to focus attention in the opposite fashion, ignoring meaning and attending only to form.
…when teaching is focused on initial sounds, many pupils appearing to learn successfully are in fact making visual and not phonological links. … they search their minds for a picture bank … without appreciating the ‘t’ is the sound at the beginning of ‘top’. (Drysdale)
There is converging research support for the proposition that getting started
in reading depends critically on mapping the letter and the spelling of words
on the sound and speech units that they represent.
* (Snow, Burn & Griffin)
ALPHabiTunes uses animation as well as articulatory features, to capitalize on visual and phonological links to teach the pure sounds of letters –phones. “Phones” are the pure sounds of letters that form phonemes (the sound units) that make up words. Traditional literacy research maintains that it is impossible to teach phones or pure sounds explicitly, because when presented
in words, the tongue and jaw are set to pronounce both the beginning and subsequent letter sound. So when we tell children
the initial sound of ball is “buh” what we are actually saying is a syllable with two phonemes, not the pure sound of the letter ‘b’.
Utilizing real life experiences to teach the abstract sounds of letters
ALPHabiTunes achieves the highly impossible and teaches pure sounds of letters, by focusing on familiar sound effects rather
than the letter-sounds found in words. For example, the sound associated with the letter ‘’b’, conveyed through its behaviour
(bouncing like a ball on a hard surface), takes on a whole new meaning that melds its sound with shape and orientation.
Children learn to associate:
- the sound produced by a bouncing ball as it hits the ground – bbbbb, with the letter “b”
- the path that a ball travels as it produces a bouncing sound with the shape of the letter “b”
- the direction the ball follows as it bounces down, up and around and right off the scene with the orientation of the letter “b”.
The importance of orientation becomes apparent if we look at how the sounds, names and functions of many letters’ change when rotated:
sounds i.e. b - d, p - q. a cup
… is … a cup
… is…a cup
function from vowel to consonant (u – n, - D)
◦ vowels can say both their names and sounds
◦ consonants can only make their sounds
By teaching pure letter sounds – phones – as reflections of life experiences, children naturally internalize letters’ sounds, shapes and orientation. Letters now make sense as they are transformed into sound-symbols that are easily read and remembered by children. As a result they develop letter sense - the basis for understanding phonemes and phonemic awareness.