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It takes me a good long time to be ready to move on from the large "sandpaper phonemes" that I described in Part II of this series. I think that I worked with my current emerging reader for about a year using the large cards, from age 4 ½ to age 5 ½. The (optionally textured) letters on the large cards are nice to trace with a finger, and they're unlikely to go missing since they're so big. But after you've got more than about 20 of them, they begin to feel a bit unwieldy to use.
My advanced cards are much smaller. Three-by-five cards might be the most popular size of homemade flashcards, probably because the 3×5 size is so widely available and cheap; but I really like the "business card" size, as it fits in a child's hand so well. Another convenience: you can buy pre-perforated sheets of business cards that fit in your printer.
The basic features of the advanced cards are:
- Small (business-card sized).
- Any manuscript style or font.
Some options that I have found helpful:
- Laminated for durability.
- Hole punched in the top left corner (so they can be kept on a ring, which orients them correctly).
- Printed rather than handwritten.
A note on lamination: After I printed the cards and separated them, I took them to a print shop and had them laminated for durability. I did not use the little individual card-size laminating pouches at the self-serve station -- that would have taken forever. I had them send it through the wide-format, roll laminator, and then took the roll home and cut the cards out. If you have a laminator at home, you can do this yourself.
A note on fonts: I used Times New Roman. Now is a good time to introduce the other shapes of "a" and "g" -- kids need to be able to recognize both eventually. But if you prefer, you can choose a font that has the a-shape and the g-shape that the child is used to seeing.
Cards in this set:
Did you remember how, back in Part I, I said that I taught 4-5 spellings of each phoneme, and the total number of combinations was about 175? You'll notice that my set contains not 175, but 109 cards. That is, of course, because some of them are used for more than one sound, which is the entire reason why English is such a pain to learn to read.
(The reason English is such a pain to learn to spell is because it employs more than one spelling for the same sound. Kind of the reverse of the first problem.)
It's probably apparent that there is a semblance of order, but only a semblance of one. What's happening here, in this advanced set of cards, is that we are marching through the forty-or-so phonemes of English, introducing the most commonly seen spellings for each one.
The first phoneme that is studied is -- I hope you deduced quickly -- /b/. That would be (from left to right) /b/ as in bag, /b/ as in rubber, /b/ as in globe, and /b/ as in build.
The next phoneme is /d/. Why yes, we are dealing with b-d reversal up front. And wait a minute: "ed" spells /d/? Why yes, as in "braised" or "blazed."
The next phoneme is, well, it isn't exactly a phoneme -- it's a rhotic vowel together with its r. /ɔ˞/ is how it is written in IPA (at least if that came through on your web browser) -- it's the same as pronouncing the word "or." I have it spelled six different ways, as in born, poor, four, sore, roar, quart.
(Kelly -- who lived a long time in Kentucky -- pointed out to me in the comments that she pronounces "poor" and "pore" differently. Wherever these distinctions sometimes exist, I tried to merge them in order to cut down on the number of phonemes that must be learned; in my experience, it's only necessary for a child to hit reasonably close to the pronunciation to be able to recognize it. I tried to apply this to my own dialect too -- I happen to pronounce "cot" and "caught" differently, but I treated the two vowels as one for the purpose of my program.)
I don't have duplicate cards in this set. By the time I get to the pirate phoneme (/ɑ˞/, mateys), I have already introduced a card for the spelling "ar," so we only need to introduce "orr" (as in sorry -- unless you're Canadian, in which case you ought to have introduced it earlier along with "oor" and "ore" and the like.)
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So, that's the "advanced" card set. I'll write about how I use both sets of cards in future posts.