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What is the difference between Playful Sounds and Phonics?

Phonics is a system for changing spoken words into visual form, using letters or combinations of two or more letters to represent speech sounds.

Playful Sounds is a tool for learning to discern, categorize and remember the sounds themselves. One picture represents one consonant speech sound. Playful Sounds helps children to develop the brain power that makes Phonics work!


Why do children need to learn the speech sounds?

Learning the sounds of speech is one of the natural tasks of childhood. Clear articulation and successful reading depend upon it. Playful Sounds makes this learning accurate, memorable and fun.

As children learn to speak, they may make typical errors which begin to clear up as they learn to discern differences between speech sounds (auditory discrimination), and as they learn to pronounce the sounds (auditory-motor integration).

For children with articulation difficulties from whatever cause, learning about and practicing the sounds of speech can be a boost for more rapid progress.

Research shows that children who are ‘good at sound’ learn to read more easily and well than those who have not learned certain listening skills. These skills, including Phonemic Awareness, depend upon a ’Mind‘s Ear’ that can sort out and remember the sounds of speech.

When children ‘sound out’ a written word, they are in effect giving a sound-name to each letter (or combination) in the word. When they need to stop and search their ’mind’s ear’ to find the sounds, they can get bogged down as they try to use Phonics.

But children who have a clear memory for speech sounds, can ‘name’ the letters they know more rapidly and automatically. We know that rapid, automatic naming makes Phonics work.

And children who can name and blend sounds quickly and easily have some attention left over for figuring out the meaning of the words--they have attention left over for reading comprehension.


Why not use letters instead of pictures to teach the sounds?
Don’t children need to learn the sounds of letters anyway?

Pictures make the speech sounds easy to learn, meaningful and memorable.

The pictures of Playful Sounds hint at the sounds they represent. Playful Sounds can be more rapidly learned than letter-sound associations. And children can learn to focus on sound, without the distraction of abstract visual symbols.

The English alphabet is not consistent. One letter can represent more than one sound, and one sound can have more than one spelling. Playful Sounds tells the truth about speech sounds--one picture for each sound.

So Playful Sounds provides an accurate foundation for the alternate rules and exceptions of Phonics.


What about children who naturally have a well developed ‘mind’s ear’?

Research shows that all children can benefit from rehearsal in essential listening skills--Phonemic Awareness--for learning to read.


Why is there no C, Q or X in Playful Sounds?

Playful Sound does include the
sounds of these letters.

The sounds of C are included: /k/ and /s/.
The sounds of Q are included: /k/ + /w/ (kw) and /k/.
The sounds of X are included: /k/ + /s/ (ks) and /z/.
Four Playful Sounds, important but not included in alphabet books, are: Sh, Ch, and the voiced and whispered Th sounds.

Playful Sounds teaches the truth about speech sounds.


If Phonemic Awareness skills are essentially auditory skills, why add pictures?

An analysis of the typical Phonological Awareness tasks reveals prerequisite skills which some beginners may not have.

  • As adults, we are accustomed to thinking about individual speech sounds, but the truth is that individual speech sounds do not exist in the actual stream of speech.
  • Instead, the sounds overlap one another, and there are no dividing lines between one and the next.
  • The individual speech sounds that we use to read and spell, are in fact a mental invention that we have learned.
  • So some specific initial experiences with these fleeting and 'imaginary' units which we call phonemes, may make the Phonemic Awareness tasks more available to all children, including the learner with special needs.

In addition:

  • For children not yet able to repeat a sound, the Playful pictures allow for a pointing response on discrimination tasks

  • For children with poorly developed auditory attention, the pictures provide a concrete, consistent and non-fleeting 'anchor' for the auditory experience

  • For children with poor working memories or poor naming for phonemes, the Playful pictures may provide a cue.


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