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Making Friends with Phonemes

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Understanding phonemic is an important reap to reading and writing. Phonemic awareness encompasses ability to recognize that, when letters are put together they create specific sounds and that these sounds are words (Heffernan & Lewison, 2003). Phonemic is  the vocal gesture out of which words are built when they are found in their ordinary environment as spoken words. Since letters embody phonemes in words, children require phoneme awarwness to be in a position to read.

Environmental print invariably is the print of the daily life, for example numbers, symbols, colors and signs present in Exxon, Mc Donalds and on any website (Heffernan & Lewison, 2003). These provide a crucial background for children to start to learn how to read and write. It is therefore important to recognize the fact that the first step in learning how to read and write is familiarizing oneself with phonemes. It is making a deliberate effort to understand phonemes. In an informal setting young children increase their knowledge in discourse about reading materials read aloud, specifically books of nursery alphabet. Stewarding and promoting children’s efforts to concort spelling also plays a big role in familiarizing them with phonemes (Renck, 2003).

Teaching children in explicit lessons is another way of promoting and increasing their awareness of phonemes. In such a formal setting, phoneme identities are taught in very systematic way. The tutor focuses on specific phoneme each day or lesson, devise tactics to increase the children’s ability to remember phonemes taught and live out identifying phoneme in spoken words. This becomes a fundamental facilitator in helping children step forward in learning to decode.

The effectiveness of using environmental text to enhance phonemic awareness in emergent readers

As aforesaid phonemic awareness forms a crucial basis for children to learn how to read and write. Exposure to environmental text helps children learn how to read faster and increases their ability to recall words. In a formal setting like a school, different methods are used to make young minds internalize and understand phonemes and how to read and write.  For instance, teachers are usually encouraged to try and make classroom as text rich as possible. This is meant to familiarize the young minds with the words. The more the exposed a child is to the words that are learnt the more the ability to retain,remember and learn. Hanging written materials with the words that the teacher wishes the children to learn in a classroom, labeling furnitures in the room, like tables and chairs, door and windows and boards plays a significant role in promoting the retention capacity of child and developing their reading readiness skills (Renck, 2003). Everyday a child will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the spelling of different words .

Nonetheless there are salient differences between such kind of print environment created by the tutor  through labeling materials in a classroom to aid children in understanding phonemes faster and the environmental text.While  teachers label things that they feel children see in their daily environment, environmental text encompasses what they see anywhere (Wilma, 2000). Children are exposed to all soughts of environmental texts whenever they are or they go, be it a supermarket, bus station, museum, bookstores and even in sports ground.

Environmental text offers a less formal setting where children can learn phonemes. As children come across different texts in their environment their ability to remember the words is increased. It is also more exciting than the classroom scenario since this appears more of a game. Research show that young children are able to read environmenta print and are actuall more keen than adults (Wilma, 2000). To them, it is an opportunities to learn which forms a significant experience to the young minds.

Parents are encouraged to create a print-rich environment to their children before they even join preschool as this plays a big role in developing their reading skills and that to a large extent, facilitates smooth transition to formal reading. Emerging readers need to familiarize themselves with phonology and phonemic as these are the two key apects that will determine their speed in reading. Even before a child is able to read, the child should be exposed to the print salient in the immediate environment. This will reduce the difficulties that would otherwise be encountered if the child is taken to a classroom without any prior knowledge of what is expected. Labels that are found in the print environment and which children see from comic books, toys, biscuits, packages and other home appliances all provide a crucial  opportunity in preparation for reading (Renck, 2003).

Environmental text to a large extent improves the phonemic awareness and because the same things are taught in classroom, a child’s literacy skills are sharpened. Research indicate that literacy awareness before school teaching commences is shaped greatly by the phonemic awareness and that this is determined by the exposure of the child to the environmental text (Faulstich & Hernandez, 1999). In cases where a child is exposed to a print-rich environment before starting reading instructions in school, the literacy awareness were higher than to those in an environment that limited their exposure to environment text (Wilma, 2000). This is because exposure to familiar print prepares a child to instruction reading.When a child is able to recognize a word in in the immediate environment, it augurs well in her bid to prepare for formal reading and this is acknowledged as an achievement.This boosts the child’s confidence as well as increasing letter and sound detection. Children were found to be active learners  of the salient language in the environment.

Environmental print is a valuable teaching medium as it bridges the gap between environmental and functional text. Phonemic awareness is facilitated through environmental print.Use of environmental text in the course of the daily interaction between emergeging readers and those in their immediate environment offers a means to exposers learners to the different letter sounds and letter shapes, the hullmark of understanding phonemes (Faulstich & Hernandez, 1999). The fact that environmental text is everywhere offers adequate ordinary learning experience.

Environmental print scavenger hunts for preschoolers and for first graders

Since first graders are  enganged in formal reading course, their scavenger hunt can be composed of simple questions that the learners can easily identify. The class can be divided into three groups and each group will be accorded similar  questions. The groups can then be asked to go through the neighbourhood and get note of the different environmental labels and postings and try to gather solutions to the given questions. The scavenger hunt can have the following questions.

  • Can you identify a dumpster bearing a caution sign? Why do you think you should be cautious? What is the telephone  number scribed on it?
  • Can you locate a green sign with  the number 33? what are the other words written on the sign? what does the word stand for?
  • Can you locate a sign bearing red letters on the door or window of a house? what is the meaning of the sign?

A scavenger hunt for preschoolers can also be made through the school’s neighborhood, possibly a grocery store. The preschooler’s can be divided into two groups. The first group  can be asked to find things that bear a label with a certain letter, say ‘F’.The other group can be asked to identify labels with letter ‘M’  in them.

An invitation for the children’s parents to accompany them on the hunts

Dear parent,

You are kindly requested to avail yourself to accompany your child for the planned scavenger hunt. This will take place through the school’s neighbourhood. Acconpanying your child is  quite paramount as this will accord you an opportunity to work with your child. This is meant to be a fun and an interactive activity that is intended to engange your child’s imagination and aid in phonemic awareness in the build up for instruction reading and literacy. Your compliance and cooperation  will be highly appreciated.

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