Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Onset and Rime But No Ancient Mariner

Onset and rime is a common practice in teaching people to read with phonics. It helps students learn to blend the sounds by giving them the first sound, such as /h/ and then blending on short endings, such as ug, um, un, ub to make hug, hum, hun and so on. You can find books in the Literacy Network library that practice it, including Focus on Phonics (Gail Rice, New Readers Press, 1979) and Patterns In Spelling (Tim Brown & Deborah Knight, New Readers Press, 1990). These time-tested resources can be found in local libraries as well. They are appropriately aimed at adult learners.

You may find other resources as well, some of them pitched at a younger audience. Many of us also remember 'The Electric Company' TV show from the 1970s. They frequently featured videos of people blending sounds. Lisa Hepburn, Madison Public Schools Resource Teacher described them as 'the ones with the profiles of people's heads and the word chunks flying visibly out of their mouths.' I like Lisa's description but would have more simply called it a multi-sensory approach to onset-rime practice. Here’s a link that will take you to ten such videos: www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=electric+company+blending&aq=f.

An internet search for resources in onset-rime practice will turn up loads of material, much of which is aimed at children. If you choose to use 'Electric Company' skits exactly as you find them, consider your learner's style of learning. Ask yourself whether he or she would enjoy working with them or would find them too childish. And ask your learner, too. Even if you do not use them in class, watching them can give you a feel for how to make onset-rime practice light, rhythmic and fun.

A few weeks back I gave everyone the Literacy Network's delicious.com link which now has 72 bookmarks. I have put together a collection of five helpful websites with games, worksheets and general information for teaching onset-rime and other phonics skills for grown-ups:


I hope you find them useful.