What To Do When Your Student Can't Hear The Rhyme

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We know that one of the core deficits of dyslexia is a lack of sensitivity to phonemes thus making phonemic awareness skills such as rhyming very difficult to master.

In school, students are often asked to do rhyming activities in small groups or as a whole class. This has great benefits for practicing rhyming skills, but one drawback is that this can also allow a student who struggles with rhyming to go unnoticed or fly below the radar. It is important that phonemic awareness skills are screened in a one on one setting until mastery is reached. For students who struggle with these skills, they must be developed and at times, explicitly taught.

Some students need explicit instruction and guided practice with rhyming; both hearing the rhyme and producing a rhyming word.

To do so, begin with using picture cards that have no words or letters on them. Use pictures that the student will easily recognize and that are age appropriate.

It is important to first understand that what is referred to as the "onset" is the initial phonological unit of any word (the d in dog) and the term "rime" (yes, it is supposed to be spelled that way) refers to the string of letters that follow, usually a vowel and final consonants (-og in dog). Not all words have onsets.

When starting with picture cards, guide the student in naming the picture to ensure they are using the key word for your rhyming activity. Then, model for them how you make the onset sound and exaggerate the rime.

For example, with the word log, I would say, “/l/ /og/ /og/ /og/” repeating and emphasizing the rime portion of the word. I am doing this to help the student isolate the sounds in the word that will rhyme. We don’t rhyme by connecting the onset or the first sound, we use the vowel and ending sound or rime.

If I were to show a picture of a log and a dog, I would do the same pattern of emphasis for both picture cards so that the student can hear the emphasized ending or rime and that it matches for this set of words.

The same is true for words that don’t match. If I had a card for dog and a card for bug, I model reading the cards as: “/l/ /og/ /og/ /og/ and /b/ /ug/ /ug/ /ug/. An example such as this can be tricky since the /g/ sound at the end of the word is the same in both words, but due to the different vowel sound – the words don’t rhyme. The emphasis and repetition of the rime here is essential.

This may take repeated modeling before the student is ready to try this one their own.

To learn more about the basis of literacy, click here.

Kelly Hoover