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Pre-writing Skills to Writing

One of the most exciting things to see in my job is watching a young learner start to read and write. Amazing.


Here we counted the phonemes in the word “rabbit”; we count the sounds we hear when we say the word slowly. We put a different block down for each sound. Once a student can do this oral blending (see previous blog entry “Turtle Talk”) we talk about what letter to write to match each sound. I point to each of the separate blocks as we write the letters to help children think about separate sounds. Later I will add things like two letters making one sound (like th, sh, ch). Today was one of those amazing times.

Turtle Talk

I am constantly thinking about how to isolate a skill. Turtle Talk has helped me isolate the blending skill for early intervention and then the idea grew to help with so much more.
The idea started with this book:



The idea is that the turtle talks so slowly that he only says one sound at a time.

Early intervention starts, for me, with games of oral blending. This isolates the blending skill. I ask if the child can understand turtle talk and I proceed to make the sounds of the word and the student blends them together. I often use different colour unifix cubes and point to each one as I make each sound so that the student also has visual reinforcement of different, separate, sounds. I start with short, 3 phoneme words, and build up from there.

“My turtle is so slow and tired. He can only say one sound at a time. Can you tell what he is trying to say? /c/ /a/ /t/”

The second step is asking the student to do turtle talk, perhaps with an “eye spy” game.

“How about you be the turtle and I will try to guess what your turtle is saying?”

Third, once the first two are well on their way to being mastered, I will ask a child to say a word in turtle talk and then ask which letter matches each sound and I will write each letter as they go through the process.

“What is ‘cat’ in turtle talk? What letter matches /c/? I will write it. What matches /a/?….”

Fourth, students do the turtle talk and try to match and write each sound independently.

As students get older I still refer to the turtle. To spell a word we will first count the individual sounds using turtle talk and then we will discuss how one sound might be spelled with two letters. I have found that this reminder helps activate the memory of phonics skills that they have acquired.

“Let’s do turtle talk to figure out how to spell ‘chair’. We hear 3 sounds – /ch/ /ai/ /r/.Two of the sounds are spelled with two letters. How do you spell /ch/? How would you spell /ai/ with two letters?…..”


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