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Sound Waves

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Helping students make the right grapheme choices

Australian English is made up of 43 phonemes (sounds) that make up our spoken language. Each phoneme can be represented by a number of different grapheme choices (some have more than 10 to choose from). While it may seem like the number of grapheme choices is overwhelming, studies indicate that the phoneme-grapheme relationships in the majority of English words are predictable when you take into consideration some key factors that influence spelling1. Let’s look at four main factors that can influence grapheme choice in spelling.

How pronunciation influences segmenting

Some words have more than one widely accepted pronunciation in Standard Australian English. This won’t affect communication but may affect how your students segment words during spelling lessons.

For example, do you say often with /t/ or without? Your answer to that question will determine the number and type of graphemes you end up with when you segment the word.

Variation in pronunciation commonly occurs when either a consonant phoneme or a schwa is dropped from a word, resulting in different – but equally correct – segmented answers. Let’s look at some common examples of alternative pronunciations, how they affect segmenting and how to discuss this topic with your students.

Extension List Word activities for your spelling stars

Do you have students in your class who excel at spelling? You’ve no doubt discovered the Extension List Words available for every Sound Waves unit, but how many different ways do you use them? Here are a few ideas to help your top students take their spelling skills to the next level.

Let the games begin!

Inject some fun into your weekly spelling lessons with some of our favourite Sound Waves games. Whether used as a warm up or a fun way to wrap up the week, students will relish the chance to apply their spelling skills in an engaging and collaborative game.

As an added bonus, there’s minimal preparation required so you can dive right in. Ready, set, go!

Segmenting practice (for teachers)

Segmenting is a key component of teaching spelling and it’s a skill you work on with your students time and again. But have you ever practised segmenting with your colleagues?

Practising with other teachers ensures you’re all on the same page when it comes to segmenting (which is especially beneficial for any new staff members). It also allows you to share best practice and classroom experiences, such as how to answer curly questions that students ask during Sound Waves brainstorming sessions.