Building three-letter words with movable picture-letters
©1999 Ann Turner
Using the packets approach helps when a child has difficulty with blending,                sequencing, auditory discrimination, the retrieval of sounds and spellings, or the         difficult business of having to think about too many things at one time.

Blending: This approach makes a detour around blending because children who
can't yet blend sounds can usually spell this way. It's easier than sounding out, and
it's easier than out-of-the-air spelling. Also, children who can't yet handle the
"readback" save  face because spelling is a grown-up thing to do. You kick away
the training wheels when your pupil can decode words without this preliminary step.

Sequencing: The beginning-middle-end boxes and the vowel path make it easy to       sequence the letters correctly. Also, spelling with movable cards is a hands-on            activity that keeps a child from reading or spelling the letters in the wrong order.

Retrieval: Many young children--and older students--have trouble pulling letter-          sounds and letter-names out of their memory banks, even though they can choose      a letter instantaneously when the correct letter-card is on the table in front of             them. Letter-cards speed up a child's first encounters with words because                 recognition is easier and swifter than retrieval. With further practice, the words
are memorized and the training wheels can be kicked away. 

Auditory Discrimination: Having three levels gives you flexibility. A child who is not   secure with the short-vowel sounds should use the levels that have one vowel to a      packet rather than Level Two with more than one vowel to a packet. Meanwhile, do  ear training on a parallel track by playing the Go Fish games that go with the Mnemonic Picture Game and the Color Code.

Having too much to think about at one time: The miniature versions of the picture-letters and the beginning-middle-end boxes let the youngest beginners concentrate on listening to the sounds and putting the sounds together, without having to worry about remembering which letter they have just spelled. Once a child can think about everything at once, the training wheels can be kicked away.
The cards above go into the beginnng-middle-end boxes for making the words dug, rug, tug, tub, and rub. These letters come in a ready-made, ready-to-use packet, with only a few letters in each packet so that the child doesn't have to choose from a confusing array of letters. The five words written on the cover-card are for the teacher. (The letters b and d are not a problem when they are pictures.) After spelling all four or five words, children who can put sounds together do the "readback," reading back the words they have just spelled. Children who can't yet put sounds together can learn the way words are constructed by spelling them this way.

64 packets (124 words) come in three levels of complexity:

1 - Rhyming Words - "Picture Packets" or "Pick Packets"
     Each card is a miniature version of the cards in the Mnemonic Picture Game.

2 - Level One - one vowel in the middle and two ending consonants, with picture
packets like the packet above.

3 - Level Two - These packets have more than one vowel in the middle.
They are for children who can tell one short vowel from another,
     and they come with letter-cards rather than picture-letters.

Each packet has a built-in game because a word "wins" if all three cards have the same color on the back. Spelling this way, a child is presented with whole words, not meaningless fragments of words.

If you pronounce the letter-sounds (not the names) for d, u, and g with a little pause in between, some young children--and some older students--will not be able to put together (blend) those sounds and come up with the word dug. Children who can't blend sounds are not going to be able to sound out words even if they have memorized all their letter-sounds. The tutor or home-schooling parent need not despair, however, because young beginners can spell words with these packets even when they can't sound them out because spelling this way is easier than sounding out and easier than out-of-the-air spelling.

The packets serve as training wheels that help a child learn to figure out words. After spelling the words, while the words are fresh in the mind, most children reach the point where they can read back the words they have just constructed with letter-cards (the "readback"). The manual describes the stages a child goes through before becoming competent at decoding. I have used this approach since the 1960's, and I have found it effective with those children who don't respond to the usual sounding-out approach. Research has since supported using movable letters like this.

The Mnemonic Picture Game is coordinated with all three levels of the packets for  introducing the letters gradually, and the mnemonic picture-letters make it possible to use real letters rather than taps or tokens for counting out the sounds.
The 26 letters are  introduced a few letters at a time in the packets in a sequence that is coordinated with the Mnemonic Picture Game.

The packets are also coordinated with the Spelling With Clues exercises on the next page. When a child no longer needs the hands-on process of moving letter-cards around, you can change to the Spelling With Clues pages for three-letter words. They come in the same three levels of complexity, and they are numbered the same, so it's easy to make the switch.

You have the flexibility to adapt your lessons to your pupil because these are not lock-step materials like workbooks. You can repeat packets that need repeating, skip packets that are too easy, or switch to Spelling With Clues pages without being tied down to the sequence of pages in a workbook. Also, they cost less because they are non-consumable and can be used over and over. .
Click here to see SPELLING WITH CLUES
Click here to see the MNEMONIC PICTURE GAME
Click LESSON PLAN to see how to use the Picture Packets
in a program for tutoring an at-risk beginner.