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Phonetic Alphabet Soup

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Dear Cooks, This is a lesson plan for teaching the phonetic alphabet and how to use an English dictionary to your children. It can be extended over many weeks.

I teach in Italy and the kids I have in my classes haven't been introduced to the phonetic alphabet.

Preparation and materials: 'English Sounds Chart-Vowels and Consonants' There are some good charts that show the English sounds incorporated in an illustration, like the vowell sound "ei" drawn as part of a 'train' -- a word using the sound "ei." At the bottom of the chart the words are spelled out phonetically. If you can't find a chart ready-made, you can create your own. (At the end I have included the 44 words* that incorporate these symbols/sounds so you can make your own chart.) There should be two pages- one for vowels and one for consonants.

Prepare ONE SET of 44 separate sheets with each English sound drawn nice and big in the middle of the page. (Example: draw a BIG "ei" to represent the sound, on a blank page. Make one page for each sound for a total of 44 pages.)

Phonetic Puzzle: Make a puzzle where students connect a word with its phonetic spelling. Colours work really well for this . (Example: red = /r3d/ )

Paper and coloured pens

Part One: Lexis- Over a period of weeks teach the words on the chart. Use realia or visual cues; train, fish, cat, tree, etc. Students draw a train or cat, etc. and write the word under each picture.

Part Two: Once they have learned the lexis, hand out the phonetic chart of English sounds. Ask students to identify the pictures. ("What's this? It's a train!")

Part Three: Using the 44 separate photocopied pages of sounds, students 'copy' the pictures from the chart of English sounds drawing a picture around the sound. (Example: Draw a train around the sound "ei.") Depending on the size of the class, each student will be responsible for a few of the pictures. The end result is a set of 44 pictures for all the English sounds.

Additonal preparation: After the this lesson write the word for each picture at the top of the page. Then, under the picture, write the phonetic spelling. (Example: /trein/. Be sure to place the phonetic speling inside the slashes, just like in a dictionary.) Make enough photocopies of the student's work so that every pupil will have their own set of 44 sounds.

Part Four: Hand out the pictures and ask students to colour 'ONLY THE SYMBOL FOR THE SOUND.' They can use the phonetic chart from Part Two as their reference. As they work, have them say the words and the sounds.

Part Five: Give students the phonetic puzzle you have prepared explaining that they must draw a line between the word and its phonetic match.

Now pupils work in pairs to look in an English dictionary for some words and make their own puzzle. Students exchange their puzzles.

Part Six: By this time your pupils should be familiar enough with English sounds and they might even have a few 'favourites.' Ask them to make an 'English Sounds' folder decorated with some of these. Now they have a nice folder with phonetic work to use as a reference for years to come!

Here's a list of words* to use to create your own illustrated English sounds chart. As you can see, they are perfectly-suited for drawing a picture 'around a sound.'
VOWELS- fish, tree, cat, car, clock, horse, bull, boot, computer, bird, egg, up, train, phone, bike, owl, boy, ear, chair, tourist CONSONANTS- parrot, bag, key, girl, flower, vase, tie, dog, snake, zebra, shower, television, thumb, mother, chess, jazz, leg, right, witch, yaught, monkey, nose, singer, house.

Last Word: This will get your kids started and give them that extra push toward understanding English pronunciation. Most of my adult students are scared of the phonetic alphabet. But young learners seem to eat it up! Have fun! Buon appetito!

Stephanie Marino, Lucca, Italy

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