Friday, 6 May 2016

CVC WORDS (Consonant/Vowel/Consonant) AND PATTERNS

CVC words are made up of a Consonant, a Vowel and a Consonant. Some examples are:

 hat, men, din, fog and pup.

 It is important for children to learn to read and write CVC words early on. They usually begin sounding them out when they read and write them, but the aim is for them to be able to look at these words and recognise them immediately without thinking about them.

'at' words are a good place to start as most children who can read at all can read and write the word 'cat'.

Ask them to write cat. Then ask them to write rat underneath. If they can't, spell it out for them. Point out the at endings in both words. Most children aged 6 or more with a reading problem are then able to write quite a few at words when asked.

Continue this in following lessons with different rhyming CVC words, always practicing what has been learned previously. 

You can find some free printable CVC word lists here. There are some longer words listed as well. Introduce the 3 letter words first.

A great package entitled Short Vowels can be bought and downloaded at Teachers Pay Teachers. You can find it here.


If you Google  'CVC words' under  Images you will find a wealth of information and relevant activities,ideas and word lists.

Friday, 11 December 2015



If your child is having trouble reading - even in teen age years - chances are they are having trouble with auditory discrimination. That is, they probably have trouble discriminating  vowel sounds - that is they confuse the sounds that the letters represent. This can happen to children (and adults) even though they have no diagnosable hearing problem.

There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Five of these are vowels. The vowels are the letters : a,e,i,o,u. 
The rest are called consonants. Every word in the English language has a vowel in it, except for words such as 'fly' and 'by' where the 'y' takes the place of a vowel.

We have to remember that writing is a code for spoken language. So it is important to be able to hear the different sounds, or 'phonemes' that the various letters represent.

It is best to look at the short vowel sounds first. That is:
  • 'a' as in 'cat'
  • 'e' as in 'egg'
  • 'i' as in  'fit'
  • 'o' as in 'orange' 
  • 'u' as in hut.
Many students confuse:
  • the short 'a' with 'e' and 'u' 
  • the short 'e' with 'a' and 'i'
  • the short 'i' with 'e'
  • the short 'u' with 'a' 
What do I do if I think my child might have trouble with discrimination of vowel sounds?

Make up some flash cards. You can print out cards and laminate them or just make simple cardboard, handwritten ones like the ones below.

 Keep these in a snack size, ziplock bag. (I find these invaluable for keeping reading resources.)

 Present these to your child randomly,one at a time, once or twice a day until they know the short sounds of the vowels. Then try it a bit faster - see how fast they can go.

In reading it is not just a matter of knowing sounds but of cementing them into the brain so it becomes automatic. 

Once your child can deal with this without many mistakes, introduce 3 more sets of cards with vowel sounds.

 Keep them in the ziplock bag and present them randomly once a day. (With my own child I always found it is best to avoid weekends unless she wanted to do her letters. It is really important not to make reading a punishment.)

Even when your child seems good at this, it is  good to repeat it every week or so for a while. With every practice we are slowly changing the brain.

Avoid criticising your child and praise them when they are correct. As far as possible this has to be a positive experience. If your child links reading with anxiety or negative experiences, it is going to make it very difficult to keep them working.

If this just seems too simple, don't worry. We are building a really firm foundation for their reading which will serve them for the rest of their lives. It is all right to take your time.  Next week we will begin working with simple words.

PS If your child wants to work on words after they have done this don't hold them back.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Learning the Alphabet

Most of the children I see, who are nine years of age and under, and have a reading disability, do not know the alphabet without making mistakes. None of them can write it in order correctly. Some of them do not even know all the names of the letters, and for some reason, which is quite interesting, a lot of them get confused with the "l,m,n,o,p" section. 

I print out an alphabet in black and white in the font of Verdana size 88.

 I add a few extra letters at the end since there is room on the paper.

I cut the letters up and laminate them.

I keep these letters in zip-lock snack bags. I usually have a few on hand in my kit with some extra letters so students can make their names.

At the beginning of each weekly lesson I ask the students to put the letters in alphabetical order. Most of them sing the alphabet song to the tune of 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. Most of them have to start the song right from the beginning a number of times.

Even if children do not want to sing the song, they seem to have more success if they recite the alphabet out loud.

I also give them a packet of letters to take home and a coloured alphabet that I have laminated.

They can use this to work on their own at home, placing the black and white letters on the coloured ones, matching them up.

( The "q" on this alphabet needs a tail added to it with a black marker to make it less confusing for the students.)

One 9 year old student had considerable trouble with "l,m,n,o,p" so his homework was to write this out 5 times on 4 nights that week. When he returned for his weekly lesson he was able to make the whole alphabet.

 Ideally, students with reading disabilities would work on homework each night, but it is really important not to make students hate reading and writing even more than they do. 

So if you have a child or teenager who is struggling to read, check that they know their alphabet. If they don't know it perfectly practice it 'gently' until they do. 

Repetition is really important to the child with a reading disability. 

But remember, a child cannot learn effectively if they are anxious or bored.

Friday, 27 November 2015

What is a reading disability?

Despite some children (and adults) having average or above intelligence, they still have problems acquiring basic reading skills. If this is the case and a child's reading ability is 18 months to two years behind their chronological age, they may be said to have a specific reading disability, a reading disorder or be dyslexic. 

Specific reading disorder are not the result of a visual or hearing problem. It is not caused by an intellectual disability or an an emotional problem.

There seems to be no reason for a specific reading disability, and psychologists, neurologists, educators and scientists are still researching this. You can find the official definition of reading disorder here

Dr. Sally Shaywitz is a neuroscientist who is passionately dedicated to helping children and families overcome the pain and strain of reading difficulties. She is a professor of Pediatric Neurology at Yale university in the United States.

Dr.Sally Shaywitz (Photo Source)

Dr Sallywitz found that good readers use three major systems on the left side of the brain. It was also found that poor readers had two regions in the back of the brain which were significantly under-active.

Difficulties with reading often begin with individual sounds or phonemes. Students will have problems with rhyming, dividing words into syllables (segmenting) and putting individual sounds  together to make words (blending). Students with reading disorder often have trouble discriminating short vowel sounds such as 'a' in apple; 'e' in egg; 'i' in ink, 'o' in orange; and 'u' in umbrella.

This makes it very difficult to decode words, which leads to problems with reading accuracy, rate and comprehension. This makes it very difficult for students to achieve well at school. 

Reading disability is one type of learning disorder. The 3 types of learning disorder are
  • Reading disorder or  dyslexia
  • Written language disorder or dysgraphia
  • Math disabilities or discalcula

Dyslexia or Specific Reading Disability or Disorder

When we read we decode symbols that represent the spoken word. Students with a reading disability often have difficulty with word recognition and decoding abilities. Sometimes students may appear to be able to read out loud quite well but cannot tell you what they have read. This was the case with my daughter. It turned out that so much of her cognitive functioning (brain power) was taken up with decoding that not enough was left for comprehension of what she was reading. While she could read out loud she couldn't tell you what she had read. This problem began about year 2. Before this reading had not been a problem.

Students with reading disorders can have different problems . Some cannot sound out words even though they can tell you all the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent. Some students cannot have trouble rhyming words. These skills are fundamental to reading successfully.

There is more to reading than just recognizing words. We have to form images as we read in order to understand what we are reading.

  Some children have problems sounding out words, while others have trouble with rhyming games, such as rhyming "cat" with "bat." Yet, scientists have found these skills fundamental to learning to read. Fortunately, remedial reading specialists have developed techniques that can help many children with dyslexia acquire these skills. However, there is more to reading than recognizing words. If the brain is unable to form images or relate new ideas to those stored in memory, the reader cannot understand or remember the new concepts. Other types of reading disabilities can appear in the upper grades when the focus of reading shifts from word identification to comprehension.

What is effective instruction for students with a Reading Disorder.?

Students with learning disabilities benefit from instruction that is explicit and well sequenced, starting with the basic and building on these. But it must engage the student, especially younger children. and it cannot cause anxiety. Boredom and anxiety affect successful learning.


 Shaywitz, S.E., and Shaywirz, B.A. (2001) "The Neorobiology of Reading and Dyslexia." Focus on Basics: Connecting research and Practice,Volume 5, Issue A ::: August 2001