Building early reading skills can be simple and fun for children and carers alike. A set of magnetic letters and a fridge door leads to a lot of phonics blending fun…
The kitchen is a great place for young children to learn. But those discoveries don’t have to be limited to fun food science, not if you have a metal fridge door available!
I selected ‘Using Magnetic Letters’ as one of my favourite blogs from 2021. Eleven months on from the first time we made use of magnetic letters, they continue to provide opportunities to engage with Daisy and her developing reading skills.
Once Daisy had gained confidence in her phonetic skills and she had begun to be able to read, I recognised another opportunity to use the magnetic letters and support her reading.
Phonics on the fridge door
When I was staying with Daisy and her parents, I started to use the magnetic letters to leave a word for her to read on the fridge door. Her Daddy continued this initiative after I left, and it became routine for Daisy to find a new word on the refrigerator door, ready for her to read.
In the autumn I sat with Daisy as she played on her tablet. She was completing a new ‘peak’ on her reading game app and I realised that she was ready to progress from a single word on the fridge.
It was the perfect time to introduce short sentences, using words built from basic single-letter phonemes, where Daisy could comprehend and read each word. To help with Daisy’s reading, Mummy and Daddy had taught her to sight-recognise a few challenging common words – like ‘the’ – which expanded my options a little.
I was soon assigned the weekly task of compiling a set of short sentences for Daisy to find on the fridge door!
Whereas some people wrestle with daily word puzzles, I was being challenged to create a variety of short sentences that could be spelt out using the available magnetic letters.
This was not as easy as it sounds when you consider that there were five instances of the letter M, but only one each of R, S and T!
Working from the available letters, here are some examples of sentences that I came up with:
we can run
a man in a car
hop on a mat
a cat on a big log
we can sit on a big rug
a pig sat in a mug
we can go on a big red bus
You’ll notice that these short sentences may consist of words of only two or three letters, and I regularly included the same words, but they gave Daisy the opportunity to practise her new word recognition.
And if the sentence was silly and made Daisy giggle, or caused her to ask a question, then we knew that she had read it and understood the meaning – without the pictures in a book to help her. That’s a sign of real comprehension.
It became something that Daisy started to look forward to at the beginning or end of a school day – she enjoyed the surprise element! Occasionally there was a small treat to reward her when she successfully tackled a challenging sentence.
Walking home from school recently, Daisy and I talked about her day. After telling me about what she’d had for lunch (fish fingers and chips), she told me that they had been doing ‘ng’ words, and we walked on, trying to think of ‘ng’ words together – song, rang, long, bang, Bing!
Blending two consonant sounds
Alongside her classroom phonics sessions, Daisy was also learning about blending two consonant sounds as part of the latest stage on her reading scheme. My fridge sentences needed to reflect this, to include more words with two consonant blends, at the start or the end of the words.
i can sing and drum
a frog can jump on a log
we went for a swim
While Daisy continued to enjoy finding a new sentence on the fridge and reading it, we continued to create them for her. The only limitations are the letters available and the amount of free space on the fridge, what with family photos and Daisy’s artwork!
And when Daisy has had enough of our words and sentences she takes those magnetic letters to form her own words and even finds a creative way to transform some of the letters into new shapes and characters.
Alongside early phonics-based reading schemes at school, these activities at home provide children with an opportunity to practise reading and can give them a big confidence boost.
With the additional practice, you soon arrive at the magic moment when a young child starts to realise that words are all around in our environment. Soon they spot a word that they can read. Last week, when the family was out on a shopping trip, Daisy pointed at a nearby chainstore and exclaimed, “Look Daddy, that says Next!”
Granny Smith says…
Here’s an idea for children who are starting to read a single magnetic lettered word on the fridge (such as cat, bus, pig): have a selection of pictures/ small-world animals and toys to match with the word, so that a child can read the word and make the association with the relevant toy.