Things to do with your children
December 30, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

‘ay’ word activities – helping my boys to learn phonics.

Over the Christmas holidays I’m going over the sounds made with 2 letters to help my boys learn (for the 4 year old though he just has fun with it all) and consolidate (for the nearly 10 year old who still finds spelling a bit of a fog) and also in the case of the 6 year old experience in a different way to see if this would help him remember them.

I’ve written before about how my sons seem to find learning the letter sounds beyond initital letters very difficult and although I’ve never really got to the bottom of exactly why I know that just to leave them learning only at school may not be the best thing so I’ve put my teacher’s hat back on and are going over certain sounds that the older 2 seem to have missed or not consolidated. My 4 year old just likes to be with his brothers so whilst I don’t expect him to remember everything we do I don’t want him to feel excluded.

I started with making letters and certain sound sets out of old cereal packets. I laminated them so we could use them again and again and I also wrote the letters in different colours so when they are put together to make words you can clearly see the different sounds in the words which I think will really help them.

After that Henry and I went through the 2 letter sound groups -ay, ee, ea, ai, ou, ir, oo, or and we’ll do this every day as I’ve found that flash cards really work with him in terms of learning words so I’m trying it with sounds to see if this helps him remember. We then concentrated on the ‘ay’ sound and I said this is what we’d be looking at today.

We are using the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ series of books and Henry is really loving these as there is a clear progression (so he can feel good about his progress which is important when you’re 6)  and most of the books are standalone stories so he’s really reading and not just memorising certain patterns of words as can happen in other reading schemes. I’ve used these books with my oldest son and they were great as we underlined, highlighted, counted and really used the books as work books that we wrote on to suit our purposes. This also helped cement ideas as it was unusual to be allowed to write on any book -a mortal sin that never happens in our house as books are something to be revered.

Here’s Henry looking for ‘ay’ words to underline before we even started to read the words. I think this is a simple scanning exercise that helps him look through the words more quickly. Yes he’s not technically reading but just searching for a certain sound pattern but I think scanning is a useful skill in itself…


On another day I may just give him a number of the sound patterns that he needs to find or ask him to tell me how many words have the certain sound we are looking at. He likes to underline the sound and also highlight it using precious highlighters. I think using colours, special pens and other different ways of looking for sounds again helps his memory as it’s something slightly different which might just tickle his brain in the right way.

I didn’t just want to focus on words and reading when learning the ‘ay’ sound. I think manipulating and creating something gives him more memories to call upon when he’s struggling to remember the spelling of a word. I bought some air drying clay as it has the ‘ay’ sound in and I wanted us to think of ‘ay’ words whilst making something out of clay. Again this might tickle his brain, it certainly tickles mine.


 I wanted all the boys to be making something together (they LOVE playdough, clay or anything wet, slippy and something you can cut with a knife) rather than isolating Henry to ‘learn his sounds’ as that’s more school like and very much not what I want to achieve. I split the clay into 3 pieces and off they went…

I asked Henry to help me spell some words whilst he was making as I wrote what we were doing on a piece of paper.


 I underlined the ‘ay’ sounds and then asked the boys if they could think of any other ‘ay’ words that I could write if they spelled them for me.


Here’s the beginning of the clay making. It got a LOT messier!


Henry’s ‘Steve’ from Mine craft.


Ollie’s Hammerhead shark.


Tobes’ plane.


And here’s all the words they came up with whilst they were making. I asked them to spell them but I wrote them. I did ask them how many they thought we could get before we started as there’s always motivation in competition when it comes to my boys.

I’ve stuck the list of words up on the unit in the kitchen and they’ll tell Hubbie all about what they were doing (explaining to someone else is also a really good test of understanding. If you can explain something you can show you understand it) and show him their models that will slowly dry out in the next few days.

The next sounds we’re going to look at is ‘ar’ which, to me, when said in a piraty type voice is just crying out for lots of piraty activities and maybe even a little dressing up!

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