Children can develop their phonemic awareness with a word chains games! Starting from simple CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) each successive item in the sequence changes by one sound or one phoneme- and eventually it may be more than just one sound changed to make a new word.
Phonics skills are essential for reading, but they don’t have to be dull! By engaging in sound-symbol mapping (known as ‘word chaining’), students can manipulate sounds and letters into new words as they write words – providing greater engagement and enjoyment.
Orthographic mapping builds the bridge between speech-to-print. Learners practice listening and connecting sounds to symbols in a word chain or word ladder.
Helping beginning readers build phonemic awareness is the critical link to becoming literate. An example of a word ladder would be turning the first-word ‘bat’ into the next word ‘bit’, then to ‘lit’, on to ‘lot’, and finally arriving at the end point of ‘lid’.
Each time students start listening for a single phoneme change in the three sounds. Practice with the first sound changes before changing an ending sound or the short vowel in the middle of the word.
When beginning, only one sound change at a time is recommended. Later you may change more than one letter if the student becomes fluent in this part of phonics instruction.
Why Use Word Chains
Word chaining is an effective method of supporting and advancing children’s phonics skills. Word chains encourage the manipulation, recognition, and blending of sounds in words.
Plus it brings together two integral aspects -phonemic awareness and phonics- helping to move students forward in their literacy development with every challenge!
Research on Word Chaining
McCandliss and co-researchers (2003) found that students were able to accurately decode graphemes in word-initial positions, but children with literacy difficulties find it difficult to decode graphemes in other locations.
To address these phonemic awareness skills, the team implemented a phonics instruction intervention utilizing “progressive minimal contrasts” — also known as word chaining.
Word chaining allowed them to direct children’s attention toward each letter’s position in a given word. Positive results followed researchers concluded word chains could effectively move learners into the full alphabetic phase for word reading.
Explicitly teach the alphabetic principle
Learning to connect speech sounds with written words can be an arduous task for students, particularly those who have dyslexia or just struggle with reading.
To make the process easier and ensure success in word building, lots of practice is necessary so that a student builds instant recognition of letter-sound relationships. With this knowledge at hand, they will then find it easy to use familiar spelling patterns with new words.
When you begin with word chaining make sure, to begin with letters that have continuous sounds like <s>, <m> or <l>.
These letter sounds can be easily blended with the next sounds in a word making blending much easier for beginning readers.
Also, I recommend beginning with vowel that are distinctive from one another like /ĭ/ and /ă/.
How to Word Chain
Engage with language learning in a fun, interactive way by creating word chains. Utilize materials such as paper and dry-erase boards to form the chain – or why not try magnetic letters for an exciting alternative?
Pave your path towards successful reading one sound at a time! Why not try this free download to walk you through word chaining.
What is the difference between word building and word chains/ladders?
Word building is an excellent way to help students understand how words are created! With this activity, you can provide your class with either verbal or visual stimuli.
Point out the separate phonemes(sounds) and letters (graphemes) within a word as they build it and then have them read it aloud for practice – get their creative juices flowing by having them come up with sentences using what they’ve just built!
Word chaining only changes one or two sounds at a time. Try creating a word chain with your students to develop their phonemic awareness and reading & spelling skills!
Word chaining is an educational game that involves gradually transforming words by changing one sound at a time. For instance – the word “lot” turns into “lit” then “sit” next and eventually “sat.” An entertaining way for kids to learn while having fun!
7 Steps for word chaining
Make fostering consistent word chain procedures an easy win for your lessons – this way, you can help students know exactly what to do and get the ball rolling! Not sure where to start? Use a consistent procedure in small groups or in one-on-one instruction.
- The teacher would say the word.
- The students echo the word and segment the phonemes as they pull down a game marker or write a dot for each sound the learner hears in the word.
- Then the students can map the word by writing each letter in a box or you may use letter tiles. Saying the sound of each letter as they write it or place it.
- Then have the student work on spelling the word saying the letters as they write.
- Then the student will read the word and use it in a sentence orally.
- Then the teacher says a new word that differs in only one sound.
- Students segment the sounds in the word and determine where the sound changes. For example, the teacher might start with the word “band” the student would say “band” – segment /b/-/a/-/n/-/d/, pull the letters, read the word “bend”, and then echo “sand” – repeating through the word chain. More complex chains can teach silent e patterns. For example, the word “bake” to “back”.
Start Word Chaining Early
As students become more familiar with phoneme-grapheme correspondences, their writing skills are given the perfect scaffold to blossom! To begin with when teaching phoneme manipulation only give students the letters they have been taught – a limited range of letter choices. But as they progress, these options can expand and allow our students to create more words.
We can help students build words from the very first lesson taught with letters. Connect speech to print and teach children the sounds and letters are connected and create opportunities to identify letters and blend them into words from the beginning. Many children do not need to wait to start reading when we build phonological awareness from the beginning of instruction.
Understanding how to link words together through effective word chaining is a key literacy skill, and orthographic mapping can ensure your students develop the capability. Get creative strategies for teaching this subject by clicking below with word chaining lists. Please contact me with questions or comments .I would love to hear from you!
Download Word Chains for practice