Phonemes, Phonetics, and Phonograms: Advanced Language Structures for Students with Learning Disabilities

By Yoshimoto, Ronald | Teaching Exceptional Children, January/February 1997 | Go to article overview

Phonemes, Phonetics, and Phonograms: Advanced Language Structures for Students with Learning Disabilities


Yoshimoto, Ronald, Teaching Exceptional Children


Wait a minute! This looks like an exercise in which you cross out the word that doesn't belong. Were you thinking "fun"? Think again; this article shows how you and your students with learning disabilities can have fun while learning about the structure and origins of the English language-and along the way improve their vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, and writing.

The program is called "Advanced Language structures," and it is taught at ASSETS, a private K-12 school for students who are ted, gifted/at-risk, and dyslexic/learning disabled. At this accredited school, National Elementary Blue Ribbon School (1991-92), these three groups receive instruction at the higher levels of the English language as part of their overall curriculum, with appropriate modifications relative to their learning styles and needs. In my experiences of teaching in elementary, intermediate, and high school, instruction in the Advanced Language Structures has been an enjoyable and challenging component of language arts for all students.

In the Advanced Language Structures program, we introduce students to the smallest meaningful units of the language, the morphemes, as they develop mastery of the "sound" and "syllable" levels of decoding/encoding. We emphasize these unitsprefixes, suffixes, and Latin/Greek roots-to provide strategies for reading and spelling higher-level words and developing vocabulary. Students enjoy word-building exercises involving these elements; we use multisensory presentations-modified from more traditional phonetics approaches (see box, "Phonetics and Dyslexia"). Overview of the Advanced Language Structures The English language has three major origins, or influences: Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek. Figure 1 shows these influences as layers, each with a system of letter-sound correspondences, syllable patterns, and word-building strategies using morphemes.

The Advanced Language Structures program deals primarily with the study of Latin/Greek morphemes-prefixes, roots, and suffixes-as well as the patterns for building words or derivatives. The order of instruction is as follows: We first teach students to recognize and learn the meanings of lower-level prefixes (e.g., pre, un, re) and suffixes (e.g., ed, ing, er, est). Subsequently, we provide instruction in Latin roots, which supply the main meanings of words. At the same time, we continue the word-building strategies using affixes (prefixes and suffixes) covered previously.

Throughout this introductory phase, we select affixes and roots to reinforce knowledge of phonograms (e.g., ceive for ei having the long e sound), phonetic generalizations (e.g., gest for soft c/g rule), and syllabication patterns. As we proceed along the continuum from simple to more complex structures, we teach the students chameleon prefixes, the schwaed affixes (e.g., ob, ible), Greek Phonetics and Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia/learning disabilities experience difficulties processing the English language despite having average to above average intelligence and receiving traditional instruction in reading, spelling, and writing.

The Orton-Gillingham ap proach and subsequent adaptations, such as Slingerland, Spalding, and project read, were developed as alternative methods to the look-say strategy to assist these otherwise bright students to progress in language arts (e.g.,Gillingham & tillman, 1987). All these methods emphasize structured, multisensory, phonetic presentation and repetition, with the goal of achieving automaticity in identifying and applying phonograms/phonetic generalizations for decoding/encoding.

In addition, most of these methodologies provide strate-\gies for teaching syllables/syllabication, as well as lower-level prefixes/suffixes. Thier focus, then, is on the basic structures of the English language-sound/symbol relationships, phonetic rules (e.g., 1-1-1, the doubling rule for adding suffixes, ect.), and structural analysis. …

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