Use creative memory tricks–and have your child help you think them up. He will remember a lot better if the trick is his own! Here are a few tricks some of my students have come up with, or we have come up with together:
- For the “soft c” (instead of “s”) in “face,” draw a pair of eyes and a mouth in the “c” (which is shaped more like a face than “s” is).
- To remember the “a” in the middle of “whale,” draw a fat whale, and put a small “wh” by the whale’s mouth, and a small “le” in the tail–and a great big “a” in the whale’s big faaaat tummy!
- For the “double s” at the end of “grass,” draw a picture of a snake slithering through grass and saying “ss.” Once “grass” is learned, it is easy to extend this to other “ss” words (glass, mass, bass, class, dress, etc.).
- For a child who often writes her “s” backwards, draw a picture of a snake standing up on its tail (in an “s” curve) with its head facing to the right as if it is slithering across the page from left to right.
- For a child having trouble with “h” at the beginning of words (quite a common problem!), start with the word “hand.” Break it into an equation: h+and=hand (the child will likely already know “and”). Have the child read the equation aloud, then read h-and, and then blend it together. You can also do this with other “h” words like “h+is=his” and “h+at=hat” and “h+all=hall.” After going through this process with several words, most children will “get” the initial “h” sound and be able to easily transfer the sound to more complex “h” words.
- Some consonants have an alternative sound, such as the “soft g” which sounds like “j” and is thus often confused in spelling. Collect a list of “soft g” words and make up funny sentences that emphasize the use. For example: “Gentleman Gerry smeared gel on the page.” (Yes, there are some fairly complex words in the sentence, but when the child creates the sentence herself, she is likely to recognize the words she has used–and will not only learn the alternate sound for the target letter, but also be pleased to find herself reading “hard” words at the same time).
- When teaching the “wh” question words (who, what, when, where, why), connect the “wh” with a big question mark (?). You can put a big “?” in a circle in the middle of the page, write the question words around the question mark, circle the “wh” in each word, and draw lines to connect the “?” with the “wh.” Also, until the child “gets” the “wh” on a regular basis, it may help to remind him of the “wh” if he spells it with just “w” by putting a circled “?” above the “w”–then it will be easy for him to remember the correct spelling and fix it.
- Some children confuse “how” and “now” which look very similar. A simple trick which often works wonders is to write “How now, brown cow?” Children get a giggle from this common phrase, and enjoy copying it–and soon distinguish the two words, as well as “picking up” the “ow” sound in all four words. They may also like to illustrate it with a brown cow, and even “mooooo” after they say, write, and draw the phrase. The more ways of approaching the problem, the more likely the child is to “get it.”
- Having trouble sorting out “b” and “d”? Draw a sketch of a bed, with a headboard and footboard. Write the word “bed” on the sketch!
- What about sorting out “p” and “g”? Draw a sketch of a pig, and print the word pig in it. Use the “p” and “g” as legs and feet for the pig!
- For “d” and “p,” write the word “dip,” and under it draw a sketch of land “dipping” down under the “p.”
- For each letter of the alphabet, sketch an animal or other item around the letter, whose name starts with that letter.
What other creative memory tricks can you and your child come up with to help learn letters and sounds?