English is a crazy language. If you are dyslexic, or if you’re teaching someone who is…you learn to really, really hate those rule-breaking words that pop up unchanged from Ye Olde English or have been borrowed from another language (which has a whole different set of rules). First you spend years drilling phonics rules into your poor kid’s head, and then you have to explain why this particular word does not actually sound like it ought to. I remember learning in French class that the French people are so particular about their language that they have a government department whose sole purpose is to examine words and decide whether or not to allow them to become part of the accepted French language. I used to think this was overkill. After spending a few years teaching a dyslexic child, however, I’m thinking of writing my congressman and asking if we could get a little of that going over here.
We got a good tip from our reading specialist that I thought I’d share…it works with any beginning reader and is very helpful in spelling those nasty, phonics-ignoring words.
While Youngest is reading aloud, I quietly make notes on the rule-breakers that trip her up. Then, we choose a few at a time (I choose the words that are commonly used first) and make flash cards. She watches as I write the word, then we sound it out together…”This word is spelled d…o…n…e. Let’s sound it out the way it should sound: D-oh-n. But it’s a rule breaker, so instead it says d-uh-n.” Then, I have Youngest circle the part of the word that breaks the rule.
We go over the cards, a few a day, to remember what the rule-breakers look like. I hold the card up and have her look at it, then we draw the word with large letters in the air while saying the letters. We do this twice for good measure. Finally, I hide the card and she writes the word on some paper. It’s a lot of work, but I have found that with just a few sessions like this per word, the rule-breakers don’t trip her up any more.
So there you have it. Until America gets it’s own Délégation Générale à la Langue Française et aux Langues de France, we’ll use this tool to combat those nasty phonics rule-breakers!