Why is Segmentation a Problem?
When I test my students, I notice that they often struggle with segmentation. This is the ability to sound out words, especially those containing consonant clusters, from which they leave out one of the consonants. When Educational Psychologists test struggling readers, they often report that children ‘leave out sounds when reading small words’.
Why do Struggling Readers leave out sounds?
Unfortunately, some children cannot hear the two sounds in a consonant cluster. If you listen to the word ‘bend’ the tiny n sound, is almost drowned out by the dominant d sound. Hearing both sounds in a consonant cluster at the beginning of a word is even harder e.g. ‘slip’. This is not a problem of hearing, but one of segmentation.
What kind of Reading System would help children with segmentation ?
The simple answer is one that must include a lot of segmentation practice. Segmentation is another word for ‘sounding out’: breaking words into individual sounds (NOT letters). It’s what we all do, when faced with a new word, and it is not always easy. Struggling readers seem to find this particularly difficult.
How Do I Teach Segmentation?
I don’t teach anything! We do! And, although my students are unaware of it, we do segmenting words over and over again, but embedded in a variety of activities! Skills require practice, and this is the key to teaching reading. When you download my Task Sheets, take a look at the various ways in which segmentation is practised:
Sound Shuffle (Tell me the first sound you hear in words?)
Listening Fingers (Tell me the sounds you hear in words?)
Writing a Sound (Sound out and write one sound in each box;)
What a Mix Up (Sounding out lots of words;)
What did you hear (Sound out and point to the correct sound;)
Writing Mixed Sounds (Sound out and write the sounds on the lines;)
Write2Read is all about Segmentation Practice!
I have embed continuous segmentation practice in my reading course, and encourage practice with simple words, initially. We only move on to segmenting more difficult words, containing consonant clusters, when a child becomes proficient with three letter words. This practice also lays down the foundations for spelling. If a child can hear the four sounds in the word slip, writing the word will be straightforward.
I wouldn’t ask a child to play a game of tennis, if he couldn’t hit a ball over the net. Equally, I wouldn’t ask a child to read, without his being able segment unfamiliar words. Maybe that is why my students are so willing to work with me.
Next Blog: I will be looking at another problem identified by Educational Psychologists: ‘tends to misread small words.’