The term "word sandwiches," borrowed from author Emma Donoghue, refers to a slightly more advanced, delightful game you can play with children to help them become adept at manipulating the sounds in words. This will be helpful later, when your child recognizes part of a word (e.g. the “mo” in “mom”) but must replace the familiar, final sound with one she is not expecting (e.g. p instead of m to make “mop”). Word Sandwiches, a game that involves combining existing words to make new ones, is best if played in the context of everyday situations. For example, if your child says that a grilled cheese sandwich is “yummy” and you agree that it is “delicious,” you can combine the two words to make “delummy.” Ask your child to “clidy” her room and help her figure out that you made a word sandwich from “clean” and “tidy.” As she gains practice, she can build combinations for you to guess. Children think word sandwiches are very funny, and they don’t even know they’re getting great practice in isolating and manipulating phonemes as they play.
A great, hands-on way to help your child build phonemic awareness is to help him compile a sound scrapbook. Choose a letter with which to begin, preferably a common, basic consonant (t is better than v). Tell your child that you’re going to play a game with him, introduce the letter and the sound, and list a few words he knows that begin with the sound. For example, you could say, “I can think of lots of words that start with /t/*. Let’s see: “turtle” starts with /t/ and “toy” starts with /t/. Does “tambourine” start with /t/, too? Can you think of any other words that fit?” Emphasize the first sound of each word to make it easier for him to hear them clearly. If your child has difficulty latching onto the concept, try providing words in multiple choice format: “Which of these words starts with /t/, “tiger” or “snake?” Hmmm, let’s see: /t/, tiger, /t/, snake. /T/, tiger, /t/, snake. I think it’s “tiger” because I can hear a /t/ at the beginning of “tiger,” but I hear a /s/ at the beginning of “snake.” Emphasizing the initial sounds in each word in close proximity to the target sound (in this case, /t/) will help your child to hear the similarities and differences in sounds.
*Note that while the sound of the letter is clearly highlighted, its name is not. Introducing both t (“tee”) and /t/ can be confusing to very young children because they sound different. Mention the letter t as you point out the page on which the child will be working, but after that refer only to its sound, /t/. Your child will be ready for letter names after he has built good phonemic awareness.
Once your child seems to understand the concept, demonstrate how to flip through an old catalogue or magazine to look for and cut out pictures that begin with t. The more you can model your thinking process, the better.
Parent: Say, “Ok, which picture begins with /t/?"
Parent: "No, I hear /h/ at the beginning of house.”
Parent: "No, that’s a /b/ sound."
Child: "Oh look, I see a table!"
Parent: "/T/, table – yes, that sounds right. So I’ll cut it out."
When your child appears to understand the task, allow him to flip through and cut out pictures. Help your child write T at the top of a page in a special notebook, leaving lots of space to glue in the pictures. Check the images with him before he begins to glue by asking him to say the target sound, then the name of the picture to ensure that they match.
For children who are slightly older, use the remaining pages in the scrapbook for collecting rhyming words. An easy way to begin is to read your child a rhyming book and ask your child to choose a rhyme he likes. If he chooses /–at/ words, help him write “-at” onto one of the notebook pages and encourage him look for pictures of hats, bats, rats, etc. Remember to be creative: A book can fit into the /-at/ category because it is flat!
--Beth Guadagni, M.A.
Cited: Bear, D., Invernizzi, M, Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2008) Words Their Way, Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.