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Rocket Saves the Day: A Phonemic Awareness Delight

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Rocket Saves the Day a Phonemic Awareness Delight!

If you're a parent of a toddler or preschooler seeking the best foundation in language and academics for your little one, you're probably wading through a sea of information about early literacy. Allow me to emphasize one key aspect of literacy at this stage – the most crucial action you can take is fostering a love for reading. Equally important is grasping the fundamental connection between reading and the sounds that letters produce. By establishing early awareness of letter-sound relationships, you are providing your child with a significant advantage for their long-term success in reading.

The Evolution of Reading Instruction: A Critical Overview

The podcast "Sold a Story" provides a valuable perspective on the shifts in reading instruction in the United States over the past few decades and why so many children have become struggling readers. This podcast highlights concerns surrounding current methodologies like Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study "balanced literacy" curriculum, which places less emphasis on crucial phonics skills. This approach relies heavily on the "three-cueing system," encouraging children to guess unfamiliar words, a practice at odds with established research.

Balanced Literacy vs. Structured Literacy

The goal of Balanced Literacy is to provide children with a variety of strategies to help them become competent and confident readers. Experts have expressed concerns that teachers may not receive adequate training in how to teach reading, and as a result, they rely on a flawed curriculum (...Units of Study) to guide them. The program has also been faulted for not being well-suited for students who need additional practice in specific areas of reading or language.

Structured Literacy, on the other hand, champions a research-backed, step-by-step approach to teaching children to read. This method focuses on developing strong phonemic awareness skills, mastering phonics, acquiring proper letter formation, spelling, decoding words, and enhancing comprehension sequentially and cumulatively.

Phonemic Awareness in Structured Literacy

Phonemic Awareness, a critical component of structured literacy (and falls under the broader umbrella of phonological awareness), involves understanding and manipulating sounds within words. This skill set includes:

Phoneme Isolation: Identifying sounds at the beginning, end, or middle of a word. For example, in the word "cat," recognizing the first sound says "k."

Phoneme Blending: Combining individual sounds to form words. For instance, blending the sounds c - a - t to create the word "cat."

Phoneme Segmentation: Breaking down words into individual sounds. For example, segmenting "dog" into /d/ /o/ /g/.

Phoneme Deletion: Determining the word left when a sound is removed. For instance, deleting the /p/ sound in "pant" leaves the word "ant."

Phoneme Addition: Adding a sound to an existing word to create a new one. Adding a sound to "cat" might result in the new word "chat."

Phoneme Substitution: Replacing one sound in a word with another to create a different word. Changing the /m/ in "mad" to /d/ yields the word "dad."

Rocket Saves the Day: Merging Entertainment with Education

Now, to the whole point of this blog post…I buried the lead here, didn’t I??? Last week my kids stumbled upon a wonderful TV program that aligns perfectly with the principles of phonemic awareness – "Rocket Saves the Day." This TV show features Rocket and his friends tackling phonemic awareness challenges, posed by the mischievous Letter Pest.

The Letter Pest wreaks havoc on the town by deleting phonemes, turning the town’s Plant Store into the Pant Store, and then the Ant Store! Children can see how important individual sounds are to the meaning of words, in a silly, engaging way. Rocket and his pals employ phoneme addition and subtraction themselves to counter the havoc, eventually transforming the Letter Pest into a friendly "Letter Pet."

PBS Kids does it again with this program! Rocket Saves the Day, is not only a captivating cartoon but it also helps to develop essential phonemic awareness skills. Rocket Saves the Day goes to the top of my list of recommended shows for toddlers and preschoolers to boost language and literacy skills!

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