In this video segment from Between the Lions, Leona leads a cheer, urging her cheerleaders to "hop 'til they drop." This rhyming cheer shows several strategies for building letter knowledge and spelling skills. This video segment provides a resource for Phonics and Letter Knowledge Awareness.
In order to master the various skills involved in early literacy, children need to know the alphabet and to be able to recognize letters quickly. In this video segment, Leona puts her letter knowledge to good use, as she leads the cheerleaders and spells out her lively command—"Hop 'til you drop"—with rhythm and rhyme.
Literacy research suggests that this kind of letter-to-word cheer is an effective way of building letter knowledge. More than just chanting the spelling of a word, performing the spelled word provides a meaningful context for learning letters, words, and spelling. And when exercises in letter recognition and spelling are accompanied by a fun, lively activity, children are more likely to practice and retain what they are learning.
Leona’s choice of the words "hop," "stop," and "drop" is an example of an important teaching strategy for beginners: Start with words that have predictable spellings. Focusing on one-syllable rhyming words (e.g., "hop," "drop," "stop"; "cat," "fat," "sat," etc.) gives children a chance to compare the sounds and letters in some of the most common spelling patterns of English. Linguists find that these “minimal contrasts"—where only one sound changes — can get young ears attuned to the same or different sound features within words.
The spelling pattern "–op" is called a rime, or phonogram. When it combines with onsets (initial consonants, like "h," "st," and "dr"), words are formed. "Hop," "stop," and "drop" are all part of the same word family. In fact, “op" is one of the 25 most productive rimes in English—with at least 16 one-syllable words in its word family.
Selecting target words that combine familiar phonograms can help beginning spellers understand the alphabetic principle of English spelling: that letters represent speech sounds, that letters go together to form words, and that changing the letters changes the sounds of the words.
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