Gateway to the Classics: Primary Reading and Literature by
Primary Reading and Literature by 

Section IV


Definitions of Terms Used

"A phonogram  is a letter or character used to represent a particular sound." Phonograms are spoken of as simple phonograms  and as blended  or compound phonograms. 

A phonogram  represents a single sound. It includes the consonants; the consonant digraphs as ch, sh, wh, th, gh, ph, ng, ck, etc.; the vowels; the diphthongs ow, ou, oy, oi; the vowel digraphs ai, ay, ey, ei, ee, ei, etc.; and the vowel equivalents igh, eigh, etc.

A sight word  is a word that has been taught as a whole. The word is recognized as a unit from the mental picture which has been formed of it.

Work in phonics is an aid only to provide tools by which the child may gain independence in reading. The more skillful the pupil is in the use of these tools, the more easily will he get the thought and feeling of the author.

The written and printed words a child first meets in learning to read are strange symbols to him. They mean nothing until they are interpreted. This interpretation is, at first, made by the teacher through:

1. Direct association of the object with its written or printed name. For example, she writes the word seed  on the board and holds the object beside the name. Later she writes the word, and, without speaking the word, asks the pupils to show her what it means. They say nothing, but point to the object or the picture of it.

2. Direct association of action with the phrases or words, written or printed, that suggest it. For example, the teacher writes the word clap  on the board, and interprets its meaning by clapping her hands instead of by speaking the word.

3. Association of written or printed symbol with the idea represented through the spoken word, a symbol which we suppose the child to understand, since he has heard words spoken for six years. This is the plan especially recommended in this book.

So long as a child depends on his teacher to tell him the words his eye does not at once recognize, just so long he has not learned to read—to get words—and through words, the thought and feeling of the printed page.

For five years at least the child who enters the primary school has acquired words through hearing them spoken. Now he sees these words printed; and since our language is in part spelled phonetically, the knowledge of the sound values of the letters helps a child to find out from the written word the spoken word with which he is already familiar, and for which the written word, in a measure, stands.

To be sure, this finding out for himself each new word is a slower way of getting the thought from a sentence than being told by the teacher or classmate, but, while speed in reading is without doubt an end to be desired and worked for, it is not the first one to be accomplished. It is only by attaining independent power in word-recognition that learners acquire freedom.

How shall we teach the children to use the sound values of the letters as a means of making them independent in reading? The following outline is suggested as one of the many possible ways of getting at the essentials with a small amount of "red tape" and no "padding."


What Shall We Aim at? By the end of the first six months in school we want pupils who meet new words on the pages of their first readers to attack them at once by thinking in order the phonic elements and then blending these elements into the word. But that they may do this, preparation and drill like the following are needed, at first not at all in connection with the reading lesson proper.

Training pupils to be attentive to sound. Tap the bell or a glass with a pencil. Pupils to note the sound. Tap another object. Pupils note the sound. Tape them again. Have pupils note the difference in the sounds. Pupils close their eyes. Teacher taps one or the other of the objects already tapped. Pupils called upon to tell what was sounded. Test with three sounds, with four sounds, with sounds quite similar. Vary exercise by having a pupil do the tapping, other pupils to name the sound.

Slow pronunciation. After the first story is completed, several times each day, the teacher should accustom the ears of the children to hearing words analyzed into their component parts as suggested in the outlined phonic drills. Now that sounds dry, dead and uninteresting, but the actual doing  of it should be lively, quick, and often even merry. Time and energy are both saved when lively interest reduces the necessity for drill to a minimum.

1. Testing and varying. She writes red  upon the board, a word they know well. The children pronounce it. She erases r. "What has gone?" she asks. "What is left?" Then she writes b  in the place where r  stood. "Who can find out the word? Letís sound it and see what it says." Children sound b-ed  and pronounce bed. This drill may begin with the first series taught and may be rapidly extended as the various series are brought into use.

2. Dictation. The teacher at another time may dictate to the children, to write for themselves, simple words made up from the elements with which they are very familiar and have them written in the air and on the board many times. These words should not be those they know at sight, or the joy of creating will be lost in the effort to recall a hazy image from memory. Such words as me, no, so,  are enough to test the powers of the children at first, and the teacher must speak them slowly and plainly. Each child should do this work correctly, and, after writing from dictation, should go back over his list of words and pronounce it, before the lesson ends, either alone, or in concert with others.

After the first story has been read, these kinds of drill for fixing phonic values in the memory are going on daily, at a time removed from the regular reading lesson, which concerns itself so far with words, sentences and stories. But when the children can read a number of pages from the "Primer" readily, the teacher begins to connect the work in phonics with the reading. A new word is to be taught, in connection with picture, story, or nature lesson, for example the word rabbit. "I know," she says, "that you havenít seen me write this word before, but perhaps you can find it out and whisper it to me." And from this point she pushes and leads and guides and encourages the children to find out things for themselves. It needs patience and persistence, but it is well worth the while. Two rules are needed here for the teacher.

a. Very rarely do for the children the thing they can do for themselves.

b. Still more rarely ask them to do a thing they have no preparation for doing.

3. A Guessing game. Here the teacher may introduce a game. "I am thinking of a word I want you to guess. Iíll give you a hint. It begins like this," and she gives the sound of the letter m. If the children are slow to get the hint and guess at random, she suggests, "It might be mine, men or me,  but it is none of those—yet it begins as they do. Listen!—m—" and the children try again.

General Suggestions

Have drills, bright  and quick   and short, but frequent. Encourage each child to use all the knowledge and power he has in finding out a sentence for himself, but be responsible for furnishing him the needed power and knowledge beforehand.

do not let children lose what has once been learned, but remember that a thing has not been learned with one or two presentations—often not with many presentations. Do not hesitate to repeat, at first for accuracy,  to be sure the symbol is associated with the right sound, and then for speed  in making that association.

Make the children delight in independence, in finding out for themselves, and so find an early joy in reading.

By the time the children have finished the "Primer," they not only have a considerable list of words recognized at sight, but are not afraid to meet those they have never seen before, for they know they can find them out by the help of phonics and the context of the thought.

Reading should by this time have become a pleasure. The fun of finding out what a page says, and then lingering over and "tasting" the thoughts expressed appeals to all normally constituted children, unless the thought is unworthy, or the habit of independent reading poorly taught from the beginning. Worthless material destroys the motive and kills the joy of learning to read. 

Kinds of Lessons

1. Study lessons with the teachers in class time.

2. Seat work based upon the story previously read with the teacher.

3. Silent reading based upon vocabulary and thought used in the "Primer," but changing order of words and sentence.

4. Oral lessons in reading for fluency, natural expression, etc.

5. Lessons for quickening the pace, without mentioning speed to the pupil, in reading familiar material.

This idea of speed in early reading may be misunderstood. The aim is to avoid hesitation and drawling. There is an equal danger that, as pupils gain in freedom, they will fail in grouping, so essential to interpretation and expression.

In all of these, use is made of phonics and word drills, though most emphasis is placed upon the thought content and its expression in sentences.

When children are ready to begin the First Reader they should have the ability to get many new words phonetically.

By the end of the First Grade pupils should have had drills in 80 phonic series and should have power to use the phonic knowledge gained.

Explanation Of Phonic Drills

In the foregoing pages, from time to time, suggestions have been made as to the time, place, and manner of the phonic drills. It is believed, however, that the summary which follows will be of distinct service to teachers.

There need be no phonic work with the first story, but, after its completion, the drill with consonant elements should begin and the phonic lessons should occur daily thereafter, through at least the first two grades.

While reading the second story, the consonant work should be on r  in red, h  in hen, p  in pig,  and l  in little. 

While the children are reading the third story, the consonant drill is on n  in not, d  in dog, y  in you,  and c  in cat.  Here drill in the phonic series should begin, and four of these should be done while reading this story.

With the fourth story, the consonant lessons are with m  in man, s  in so, b  in but,  and th  in then.  At the same time there should be drill in the phonic series from 5 to 8, inclusive.

The consonant work while reading the fifth story is with f  in fox, t  in to, g  in get,  and k  in kill.  Phonic series from 9 to 12, inclusive, should receive regular drill.

During the reading of the sixth story, the phonic drill will be with cr  in cry, wh  in why,  and qu  in quench.  Add phonic series from 13 to 16, inclusive, with reviews of former series. The consonant drills with the seventh story will be with ch  in chicken, sn  in snout,  and sk  in sky.  Add to these a thorough review in all phonic series already taught.

While reading the eighth and ninth stories, the consonant work will be with gr  in gruff, th  in thank,  and tr  in trip.  Complete the series from 17 to 20 inclusive, and give a thorough review of all previous phonic drills, including the phonic series to 20. When this is done, the consonant elements will have been mastered. It will be noticed that the consonant elements are taught from words that have been taught in a former story. When the Primer is completed, there should have been thorough drill, also on twenty of the phonic series.

Let it be remembered that these phonic drills should be short but frequent. In some schools these drills are given fro from two to five minutes at a time, two or three times a day, conditions varying with the size of the class and the time at the disposal of the teacher. The phonic work, whether the teacher uses the book in the beginning or later, should be given as indicated.

The phonic lessons to be given with the work of the first reader should cover sixty additional phonic series, making 80 in all to the end of the first year.

The remaining 120 series involve more difficulty and may require more careful drill. If they are not completed by the end of the second year, they may go over into third year work. But most teachers will experience little difficulty in including all of them in the second yearís work.

         Arrangement of the Series 

In the series from 1 to 33, inclusive, the short sounds of the vowels are taught. No consonant is at any time required which has not been already taught from sight words.

Next come the series teaching the long sounds of the vowels. These include series 34 to 62.

In the reviews of these series it will be noticed, that the first word of each series is used. All the words of the reviews are given as wholes and, in the review drills, no word should be separated into its elements, unless pupils fail to recognize it as a whole.

In the first 33 series it should be observed that when a vowel is followed by a single consonant, the vowel has the short sound. This may be shown to children but, in on case should this or any other rule be taught formally in the first two years. It may be suggested here that, because our language is not phonetic, few rules can be made to which there may not be exceptions. But the rules herein suggested are sufficiently general in their application to afford great aid in word mastery. The exceptions to the rules, in most cases, may well await the greater maturity of children.

In teaching the long vowels, it may be shown that, if two vowels have a single consonant between them the first vowel is long and the final vowel is silent.

In all of the series to 81 the soft sound of s  is used, but in this series is introduced the hard or z  sound of this element.

From series 62 to 94, two consonants follow the same vowel. If these have the same values, but one of them is sounded.

In series 68 and 69, show that when a consonant is doubled, but one is sounded.

In series 82, blended consonants are introduced. A few of these have been used in previous drills, but they have heretofore occurred in sight words—words already known to the children. These blends are used first, as initial phonograms and then as final phonograms.

In series 87 may be shown that t  is silent before ch.  From series 95 to 120, other consonant combinations are used both as initial and final phonograms. IN all of these exercises, the pupils should be practiced in blending so that the consonants blended may form a single sound.

Series 121 to 123 introduces the three sounds of y. 

In series 124 to 128, inclusive, ai  and ay  are shown to equal long a;  and from this time forward, other equivalents are used in the series. Not all equivalents are here used, but it is believed that those omitted, for the most part will offer little difficulty after a thorough drill with those here given. In some of the equivalents not here given as well as in some of the peculiar and difficult sounds of certain vowels, a discrimination is required that is beyond the ability of children in first and second grades.

From series 129 to 138, ea  equals long e.  From 139 to 145 ee  equals long e.  In 146, ie  equals long i. From 147 to 150, oa  equals long o,  and 152 shows ue  equal to long u. 

In 153 and 154, i  is long when followed by ld, nd,  or gh.  Series 156 shows o  long in some other combinations. Series 157 to 159 give drills with ow,  and from 160 to 165, ou  is shown to equal ow,  and in 167 ou  is equal to long o. 

In series 168, final er  is shown. This list may be used, also, to show plurals by adding s.  Series 169 and 170 use the ing  termination.

In 171, gn  equals n;  in 172, kn  equals n;  in 173, wr  equals r;  in 174, gu  equals g;  in 175, bu  equals b;  in 176, bt  equals t,  and 177 shows mb  equal to m. 

Series 178 and 179 show that when one consonant is used between two vowels, the first vowel is long, and that when two consonants are so used, the first vowel is short.

From series 181 to 200 are taught the following equivalents: ea  equals short e, ea  equals long a, cd  equals t, ci  equals long a, ie  equals long e, eigh  equals long a, cy  equals long a.  Also oo  is taught in both values. Series 191shows that when r  is used before u  the vowel is long. Also, u  is equal to oo  short, oi  equals oy, g  equals j  before e, i  and y, c  is equal to soft s  when used before i, e  and y, dj  equals j, ph  equals f  and gh  equals f. 

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