“Mommy, look what I’ve built!” There he stands, face beaming up at you, holding out his multi-colored LEGO™ creation for your inspection. These simple, multi-colored interlocking construction toys have been around since 1949, providing children with a seemingly infinite variety of building fun. The concept is quite simple: LEGO™ bricks are assembled and connected to form vehicles, buildings, and robots. Parts can then be easily switched around to create entirely new objects.
As I considered this simple process, it dawned on me: words can be built in the same sort of ways. The building blocks of words are phonograms, which is a letter or set of letters used to represent one or more sounds we hear/say in the English Language. There are 45 such sounds which we spell in 70 basic ways. It follows then, that the quickest, most natural way to learn how to spell, to write and ultimately to read is to learn these phonograms, the “building blocks” of language. For instance, as seen in the picture above, the word birthday is composed of 5 “building blocks” of sound: b – ir (two letter phonogram) – th (another two letter phonogram) – d – ay (a third two-letter phonogram).
Once you grasp this basic concept, it becomes the key to unlock the English Language. English is often blamed for being difficult to teach, much less understand and consistently apply! But once a student masters the 45 “building blocks” they can build words with ease, analogous to constructing a LEGO™ creation, assembling and disassembling objects (words) at will. Not only does this method establish a solid foundation for analyzing and building words from the simple to the complex, but it gives both teacher and student a clear and consistent road map to Language Arts success.
One language arts curriculum that applies the above concepts remarkably well is the Spell to Write and Read program. In addition to teaching the phonograms, author Wanda Sanseri has formulated 28 spelling rules that guide and govern how to consistently use the phonograms in building words. No matter what language arts curriculum you choose, if you help children see the building blocks of language, the light bulb will come on, and soon you’ll hear, “Mommy, look what I’ve done!”