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Dictating the Ayres List

By Rodney Everson • Updated Oct 7th, 2023

OnTrack Reading Phonics Program

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After teaching the first 50 of the 84 revised phonograms, you are ready to start dictating the Ayres List. Follow all of the instructions in WRTR, but make the following modifications.

Change the Coding of Words

First review the Coding Revisions and then make sure you have the Recoded Ayres List at hand.

The Recoded Ayres List shows all words that are coded differently in this revised approach than they are coded in the 5th edition of WRTR. If a word is not on the list, it will be coded the same as in WRTR. The revised coding method is very simple, so you should quickly learn to mark words up on your own. Once you start on the list, you will need to make some modest adjustments.

Introduce the Concept of a Vowel Sound

Author’s Note

The information below describing how to teach the meaning of a vowel sound is taken directly from What are Vowel Sounds? in the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program elsewhere on this site.

Here's an effective way to teach a child what a vowel sound is.

Tell your child that vowel sounds give words their volume and then ask if he knows what you mean by volume on the television. Every five-year-old has heard a parent yell “Turn down the volume!” enough times that they will understand what an adult means by volume. Again state that vowel sounds are the sounds that give words their volume and proceed with the following demonstration.

Ask your child to tell you the sounds in the word fish. If he can segment, he will tell you /f/-/i/-/sh/ are the sounds. (If he can't tell you the sounds in fish, just say them for him.) Then ask him if he knows which sound is the vowel sound. He might say /i/, or he might not. Tell him if he doesn’t know. Then tell him you are both going to try saying fish without the vowel sound. In other words, you’re both going to say "fsh" (/f/sh/; no /i/ sound) and you’re both going to say it as loud as you can. Incidentally, the presence of other people within hearing distance helps make the point here.

Spend a few seconds yelling "fsh" at the top of your lungs and then tell him you’re going to put the /i/ sound back in and yell "fish" as loud as you both can. I had lots of kids yelling "fsh!" as loud as they possibly could in my office, but not one ever dared let loose with full volume on "fish!" They immediately realized that the /i/ makes fish potentially much louder.

Start Dictating the Words in the Ayres List

Because the Main Rule in the chunking method specifies that the chunk be stopped after the vowel sound, it's important that your child clearly understand what a vowel sound is in a word. As you go through the one-syllable words in the Ayres List, use the above technique to illustrate the vowel sound in several words. For example, after dictating the word me, have him say me without the /ee/ sound, etc.

Skip the Ending-e Word Group

After dictating the word "good," you will encounter in either edition of WRTR a list of words that Ms. Spalding used to illustrate her five rules for the "ending-e." Each of the words (time, have, blue, chance, charge, little, are) appears later, sometimes much later, in the Ayres List. You should skip them here, so the next word in the list will be "little," which also happens to be the first 2-syllable word in the list. One of the major improvements made in this modification of Spalding is to eliminate the five rules for an ending-e, replacing most of them with ending digraphs that are much easier for a child to understand, not to mention a lot of parents.

Code Chunks, Not Syllables (Optional)

If you decided to adopt the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method, something I highly recommend, then the word "little" will be the first word that will need to be broken into chunks, rather than syllables.

At this point, as you will be doing with Ms. Spalding's rules, tell your child the Main Rule, Stop each chunk after the vowel sound and use the first vowel sound, and explain that the first chunk would be "li" according to that rule.

Next, indicate the phonogram tt in little by underlining it and tell your child the First Exception: If the next chunk starts with a doubled consonant, add it to the chunk before it. For your convenience the following information is repeated from the page Chunking Multisyllable Words:

Explain that a doubled consonant is just a consonant letter that is repeated, giving examples like bb, dd, tt, etc.

Author’s Note

You might need to explain what is meant by an exception, using an example of a household rule that is always followed "except when..." For example, you probably have a main rule regarding bedtime. Exceptions might be Friday and Saturday night, or on a special occasion, etc. Thus, you follow the main rule except when it's Friday or Saturday; Fridays and Saturdays are exceptions to the main bed time rule.

While it's not ideal, you have now introduced both the Main Rule and the First Exception. (In the OnTrack Reading Advanced Code Workbook, the Main Rule is instilled first, and the Three Exceptions are introduced one by one in sequence, but here we are constrained to working within the Ayres List.)

Distinguish Chunks from Syllables (Optional)

Author’s Note

Don't bother with this explanation if you are going to stick with WRTR's syllable divisions, instead of using the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method.

Immediately after dictating the word little, explain that long words can be divided into either syllables or chunks. Syllables and chunks differ in where the dividing points are made, but one thing they always have in common is that they each have one vowel sound. Thus, a five-syllable word will have five vowel sounds and, therefore, it will also have five chunks.

Then tell your child that you are going to be showing him how to divide words into chunks, not syllables, so if he has to know syllable boundaries for another teacher someday, he will not be able to simply use the chunking strategy to figure them out.

Coding Chunks Using the Second Exception

After the word little, the next word is ago which is chunked according to the Main Rule. None of the exceptions apply. (The "g" is not doubled, "g" is not a marker, and we can say "go.")

However, a few words later you will encounter the word into. Write the word on the board tell your child what it is. Then tell him that the Main Rule would make the first chunk just "i." Then point out that it's very hard to say "nto" and tell him that the Second Exception is to move a phonogram from the second chunk to the end of the first if the second chunk is "hard to say." Now write "in to" on the board, with a number 3 over the phonogram o to indicate its third sound and have your child write the word that way in his notebook.

Coding Chunks Using the Third Exception

It will be a long ways into the Ayres List before the Third Exception is required to explain the chunking of a word. Your child will quite likely run into one in his reading before covering it in the Ayres List. Recall that the Third Exception just states that a marker is moved to the chunk ahead of it. The markers are the phonograms x, ck, dge and tch. However, in the case of the marker dge, the letter "e" is almost always split off as part of the vowel sound in the next chunk, so the marker being moved becomes just the phonogram dg which should be taught when it is first encountered. (Incidentally, the phonogram dg never appears in the Ayres list. Examples are words like badg-er, gadg-et, budg-et, budg-es, bridg-es, etc.)

One way to address the lack of attention to words chunked by using the Third Exception would be to simply cover a few of them the first time a root word, or base word, ending in a particular marker appears in the Ayres List. For example, the first word using the marker ck is sick in Section I. You could dictate sick er and sick est at the same time and point out the use of the Third Exception.

Introduce the Concept of a Split Vowel

When you reach the word time (word #50, following the word out in the 5th edition), you will be modifying the Ayres List just a bit. Here it's necessary to explain the concept of a split vowel, and it's best to introduce a word like pie or tie first. Also, since the split vowel concept applies to five vowel spellings, a-e, e-e, i-e, o-e, and u-e, it makes sense to show two examples at once. So, following the word out, dictate the words toe, pie, and home, in that order. Mark them as follows:

toe, pie, home with no numbering needed.

When you get to home, first write hoem on the board and tell your child we could have spelled home that way. Say each sound in hoem to make the point.

Then take a minute to explain that the man who designed the first widely-used dictionary really, really liked to see the letter "e" at the end of a word. You can point out all the ending digraphs already taught to make this point. Then tell your child that instead of spelling words that contain the phonogram oe as hoem, he decided to split the digraph oe and put the "e" at the end of the word. Write "o-e" on the board point to the dash between "o" and "e" and tell him that he tucked the last phonogram in where the dash is, and wrote home instead.

Now dictate the word home to your child and underline the phonogram for the /oe/ sound like this: home. Tell him home is spelled with the "o-dash-e" form of the phonogram oe and that the last phonogram in the word is tucked into the /oe/ phonogram where the dash is.

Then, as your child says the sounds of the phonograms when writing them, tell him that he just says /h/.../oe/.../m/ and then quietly writes the last half of the /oe/ phonogram because he's already said it's sound.

Next, dictate the word tie followed by the word time and explain that time is spelled with the "i-dash-e" form of the phonogram /ie/ee/, and again, the last phonogram in the word is tucked into the /ie/ phonogram where the dash is.

Author’s Note

You might want to cross home, toe, and pie off the Ayres List where they occur later. The word home is on page 264 in Section H; toe is on page 281 in Section J; pie is on page 303 in Section M.

Reinforcing the Split Vowel Concept

When you reach the word make (word number 67 in the 5th edition, following the word must) just write it on the board and underline the /ae/ spelling like this: make. Then tell your child that make uses the "a-dash-e" spelling of the /ae/ sound, reminding him of home and time.

Much later, you will hit the word blue in the Ayres List. (It's about word number 270, the 12th word in Section J on page 275 of the 5th edition of WRTR.) Make a note now to teach both cute and tune right after the word blue. As you do so, underline them as follows (cute, tune) and remind your child of the "a-dash-e," "i-dash-e," and "o-dash-e" spellings and tell him the same thing happens with the phonogram ue.

Author’s Note

Because the /oo/ sound is so close to the /ue/ sound, and is often spelled the same, as here with cute and tune, it's not necessary to number the /oo/ spelling in tune. Just tell your child to always try the /ue/ sound first, because if it's an unfamiiar word, he'll easily end up at the /oo/ pronunciation if that's what it turns out to be. Thus, /t/ue/n/ easily becomes /t/oo/n/. The reverse isn't usually true. For example trying the /oo/ sound first in cute results in /c/oo/t/, or coot, a real word and he never gets to the word cute. It turns out that in English, we tend to say /oo/ for a /ue/ spelling when the /ue/ pronunciation is a bit tricky.

You're Off and Running

That's it. You've now implemented all of the modifications and revisions necessary in this Improved Spalding Method, including, I hope, the OnTrack Reading Multisyllable Method. If you have, you might want to briefly review these three pages, Chunking Multisyllable Words, Examining the Ayres List, and Special Situations. Then just use the Recoded Ayres List for a while to ensure that you're following the revised coding process accurately.

Also, if your child is older, and writing cursive already, he should be starting with a narrower-lined notebook and should be filling out the first several pages with example words as indicted in WRTR. The next page, Revise Pages 1-8 of the Notebook, has instructions for modifying those pages to accommodate the revised phonograms.

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