Help your learners improve their pronunciation and spelling with the songs, stories, games and spelling tests in the Speak and Spell section on LearnEnglish Kids. This section is based on the Letters and Sounds UK phonics literacy programme. Here are some ideas for using Speak and Spell in class. But first a bit about phonics.
What are phonemes and phonics?
Phonemes are the individual sounds in words. Phonics is a way of teaching which helps children understand language by introducing letters by their sound rather than name.
When we spell letters we usually use the names of individual letters. So we say the first three letters of the alphabet like this: ‘ay, bee, cee’. But it can be easier for children to start by learning the sounds letters make, for example the word ‘cat' is sounded ‘c-a-t' not ‘cee-ay-tee'.
There are 26 letters in the alphabet but phonics uses about 44 sounds that combine or ‘blend’ to make words in English. Students are also taught to recognise sounds made by combinations of letters such as `ch' and `sh'. You can find lots of examples of how to pronounce phonemes on the Internet. Here’s one good example video: You tube video.
The idea is that children can see letters or simple combinations of letters and they are able to say the sound the letters make. Then they can then put these sounds together to make words.
How can I use Speak and Spell in class?
There are four different parts in Speak and Spell. In each one Sam and Pam, the super space spies, help learners with pronunciation and spelling.
• This section is based on discovering sounds through action songs and is perfect for very young learners. Each song encourages children to make sounds using their bodies such as clapping their hands or stamping their feet. They are encouraged to play with sounds and even to make silly sounds.
• Before listening to the song, click on the icons (an eye, an ear and a book) to see the image of the word, hear the word and then read the word. All of the words are taken from the songs.
• Play the song (if you don’t want to see the words you can click ‘text off’). You could ask children to do the actions with Sam and Pam the first time they listen then play the song again and encourage them to join in.
• After singing, children who can read can click on the game under the song to play a vocabulary matching game based on vocabulary from the song.
• Click on ‘words’ to see the words for the whole song or print them from the downloadable pdf.
• The stories in the speak section follow the adventures of Sam and Pam and introduce English phonemes to children. Each story focuses on a different set of phonemes, for example the first adventure, ‘The dog’, introduces the sounds s,a,t,p,i,n,m and d.
• First practise some words from the story before you listen by clicking on the ‘eye’, ‘ear’ and ‘book’ icons.
• Play the story. Students can listen and watch or listen, watch and read (click on the ‘read’ icon to see the story words). You could play the story again and encourage learners to join in to practise pronunciation. Pause the story and ask students to listen and repeat sections after you.
• Finish with a game to practise spelling. Click on ‘game’ under the story and encourage students to burst the balloons in the correct order to spell the word.
• Click on ‘words’ to see the whole story or download the words to the story to give to your pupils.
• Each story in this section contains a spelling rule. For example, The birthday party, focuses on the spelling rules for plurals in English.
• You can practise some vocabulary from the story before you listen by clicking on the ‘eye’, ‘ear’ and ‘book’ icons.
• Play the story. You could ask your students to put up their hand each time they hear a plural. Tell the students to look at the picture before you click ‘next’ to continue the story – what plural objects can they see in the picture?
• There are spelling rules worksheets under the stories. Print these before the lesson either to do in class or as homework. You need to log in to access the worksheets. Follow this link to become a member of LearnEnglish Kids and get your login details: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/user/register/teachers
• Finish with the word search game under each story.
• Click on ‘words’ to see the whole story or download the words to the story.
• This section deals with high frequency words that are difficult to spell because they can’t be read by combining sounds like ‘c-a-t' to make ‘cat’. Imagine trying to read the word ‘said’ or ‘does’ by blending each letter! Each part of tricky words practises a different tricky spelling aspect, such as words with a soft ‘c’ in Central city cinema!
• Choose which spelling rule you want to practise and you’ll see that each tricky spelling contains up to 4 games following a natural learning progression from discovery through to practice:
Learn: First students practise matching words and pictures to familiarise themselves with the words.
Find: This is a sorting game where learners have to put words into the same category depending on the sounds or spelling. In this game you can listen and read the words.
Play: Here children can try a multiple-choice quiz to check that they can spell the words.
Spell: This variation on hangman asks children to listen to the word, look at the image and then produce the correct spelling.
• You’ll find printable spelling tests on the right of the page. Each spelling test has pronunciation help for teachers/parents and a link to a phonemic chart with audio. You could dictate the 10 words to your students then show the correct spelling to the class. Try a different test each week. How many can your learners get right? Remember to praise good results to keep students motivated. Repeat the same test later in the course to show the students how they have improved!
• Encourage children to send a comment to the Tricky words page to practise their newly learned words. Maybe they can spot spelling mistakes in other comments?
- LearnEnglish Kids: Phonics is based on the Speak and Spell section of the LearnEnglish Kids website. Parents can collect all the Sam and Pam stories and join a closed family network to share and monitor their child's progress. Great for recommending to parents for extra help at home or for during school holidays.
- The Speak and spell section is growing! Keep checking the site for more games and printable activities in this section. We’ll let everyone know when new materials are added in the LearnEnglish Kids newsletter.
The UK phonics literacy programme recommends lots of practice. Little and often is a good way to keep your learners happy. Perhaps you could fit a 10-minute Speak and Spell session into each lesson this term to help your learners improve their pronunciation and become super spellers like Sam and Pam!
When you have tried some of the activities from the Speak and spell section why not come back to this page and leave a comment below to tell us what you tried and what you find most useful. Let us know what you think!
You can send feedback on anything you’ve used on LearnEnglish Kids here: http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/contact
- Teaching resources
- Teacher development
- Teacher training