Readilearn: What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification, and more! – Readilearn

teaching phonics syllabification

The first words children learn to recognise, read and spell are usually their own names. It’s not surprising, these words hold significant meaning and power for them. Why not harness that energy to teach the skills that are basic to literacy development?

Even before they begin formal schooling, children are able to read and spell their own names; and possibly the names of significant others in their lives, including parents, siblings, other close relatives and friends. When we write their names on pictures they’ve drawn, inside the covers of books they own, on letters and envelopes written to them, as well as on their belongings, they come to understand “that word means me”.

However, not all children are exposed to the same opportunities for learning prior to beginning school. It is important that we make connections with the children and help them learn in ways that are both fun and meaningful.

In this post I suggest some strategies that can be implemented in the first three years of school, starting from the very first day when children can write their names to demonstrate their knowledge of letters and sounds and fine motor coordination. Throughout the early years, children’s names can be used as a starting point in teaching phonics, initial sounds and syllabification.

The ideas suggested in this post are presented in more detail in a new resource uploaded this week:

name phonics syllabification

Name Games – teaching phonics, syllables and reading long words

Suggestions for before, or in early days of, school

Teaching letter sound relationships

An easy way to teach young children to recite the letters of their names in sequence, is to utilise their love of music, singing and recall of lyrics. Even if sung out of key, children enjoy special songs about them and their names. Simply adjust the tune of B-I-N-G-O to the children’s names as you sing.

After just a few repetitions, they are able to join, and even sing their names independently. If you sing

Continue reading: Readilearn: What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification, and more! – Readilearn

24 thoughts on “Readilearn: What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification, and more! – Readilearn

  1. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    It took me a bit of time to learn to spell by own name, Norah – actually after I was spelling other words – even though my parents used a “simple” spelling.

    Part of the challenge, in retrospect, was resistance. My parents often used a nickname for me when I was a tiny and I was somehow aware that spelling that nickname wasn’t really MY name. Introduced to phonetics from the get-go through a clapping exercise (one clap for dog, two for pony, three for Madelyn, etc), I somehow understood that there weren’t enough letters to spell “Madelyn” (actually “Madelmum” which was my early attempt – DEATH to anyone who thinks it’s cute to call me that now).

    I forcefully tried to insist that everyone stop calling me “Maddy” before I could even pronounce my given name, much less spell it – LOL – and to this day it always rankles when people assume that it is somehow “better” to call me by a nickname.

    For kids like me it might be good to ask them what “name” they wanted to sing — i.e., a “Bobby” might prefer Bob or even Robert, etc. I would have resisted singing “Maddy,” even though that’s what my well-intended parents called me at the time.

    TOTALLY on board with your suggestion to start reading-readiness early, however. I wish *all* parents would do so. You are a great resource, *especially* for teachers of kids whose first introduction is when they go to school. It must be quite the challenge to have a classroom full of little kids with varying degrees of prior knowledge.

    I think I commented before that my mother set our addresses to various tunes since we moved every year when we were young – so I can attest to how well that works. Over half a century later I can still recall the last address we had to learn to sing.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      There is an exception to every rule! I’m so pleased it was you to defy it and stand your ground in defiance for use of your rightful name, Madelyn – such a pretty name, and relatively easy to sing too. What a shame you didn’t learn to read and spell it first. It obviously didn’t hold you back though. 🙂
      I don’t know why people think it’s okay to give others “nicknames”. I always address people with the name with which they were introduced. In fact, I find it hard to change to something else, so I hope they are introduced correctly in the first place. 🙂
      I like your suggestion of asking children what name they’d like to be called. It’s so important. It would be wrong to call a child a nickname, especially if it was used just because the given name was a bit difficult to pronounce or spell.
      What a wonderful idea of your mother’s to get you to sing your address. How clever.
      Thank you for your lovely comment, Madelyn, and for your words of support.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Norah Post author

          I grew up when children were meant to be seen and not heard, and not seen most of the time, as well. I also was quiet in school, blushed at the mere thought of being called on to answer a question. I guess those earlier days influenced my thinking about education – I believe it should be the opposite of what I experienced. 🙂 xx

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Tilton

    Love your suggestions! Learning to spell your name is so important and a gleeful moment for kids. But, there are sooo many unusual names. We have an ELIO and a RHYS (Reese). Getting them to sing songs and rhyme them is a great idea. I remember being teased by kids with my child name Patti Howe — the big fat cow. And, I was a tiny, pretty child.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Patricia. I’m pleased you can see value in my suggestions. A lot of different names have certainly been added to the mix in our classrooms in recent years; sometimes through the introduction of new cultures, and sometimes because parents create a new name or innovate on the spelling of a traditional name. It can be confusing for the adults who have to adjust, but it’s just a part of the world around them to children. Elio and Rhys would be easy to sing. The difficult ones are those with just two or three letters or more than ten. I had to separate Bartholomew into two, and even then it was a bit tricky with the final six letters. It teaches us to be creative also!
      I’m so sorry you were teased for your name. I was teased for mine, too. Sadly, I guess it still happens.


  3. Jennie

    Excellent, Norah! Parents often don’t realize that reading readiness begins long before a child starts to read. Name recognition is cemented with singing (I love this), and that becomes the roots for growing and expanding. One activity my preschoolers love is jumping as we sing their names. That physical activity increases learning and alerts the brain. Thanks you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your wonderful positive comment, Jennie. I very much appreciate it.
      I love the thought of your little ones jumping to their names – jumping for joy! How gorgeous – another fun strategy to add to the collection.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. roughwighting

    Love these ideas! I’m singing BINGO already (using my grandkids’ names) It’s a bit awkward with “N E V I L L E is his name oh!” 🙂 Even more so with “S C H U Y L E R…” When he was born, I had to spell it in my head dozens of times. Haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Pam. I guess some names are easier to work out than others. It’s more an innovation on BINGO than an exact translation. I find Neville quite easy (after years of practice) Shuyler did take a try or two to get it to fit, but actually works the same way as Neville.
      How is Shuyler pronounced? I don’t think I’ve heard it before.
      I was thinking I should make up a little voice recording of some of the names that are tricky. I’m not sure how helpful it would be, though, since I can’t sing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Elizabeth, I’m so excited to hear that. Let me know how you go. It is simple, and loads of fun. I used to run groups for toddlers at my home, years ago. We had all the two-year-olds singing and writing their names. It was delightful. They loved it and learned it in no-time. I think Ashleigh was the longest name we had, but we managed with it too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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