Importance of Phonetics and Phonology

Phonetics and phonology are extremely crucial to understand in order to decipher the English language. According to Moats*, phonetics is the study of the physical production and perception of speech sounds that occur in each language and in all languages.

Without an understanding of phonetics, one cannot effectively read and spell. It is required to understand how speech sounds are formed by paying attention to the shape and feel of the mouth when speaking or reading, and have the knowledge to remember, separate, combine, and manipulate phonemes, and to do so rapidly and without effort (Moats, 2020). Once there is a sense of how phonetics works, then one can form a file system of rules for how to create words using the speech sounds.

Phonology is the study of the speech sound system of any language, including the rules and patterns by which phonemes are combined into words and phrases (Moats, 2020). An understanding of these rules and patterns helps to build a vocabulary framework in the brain and learn how to pair sound patterns that are similar together. When learning to read, a person recalls learned patterns about the speech sounds and applies that knowledge to learn new vocabulary. All facets of language learning revolve around the basis of phonetics and phonology. 

* Source: Moats, L. C. (2020). Speech to print: Language essentials for teachers (3rd ed.). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

Meet the Author: Katie Worthington, B.A.

Katie is a certified early childhood and elementary teacher from Baltimore County. She is trained in research-based literacy practices such as Orton-Gillingham and Phonographix. Over the past ten years she has worked in public and private school settings specializing in working with students with language-based-learning differences.

The Critical Lines of Communication Between Parents and Teachers

A strange thing happened during the 2020 school year: in a year in which all my high-school classes went virtual and the face of school changed more than any time in the past century, attendance at my Back-to-School-Night meeting was at an all-time low. Prior to 2020, parents attended Back to School Night in huge numbers at the suburban high school where I teach, moving from classroom to classroom to meet their children’s teachers and get a sense of class expectations. Many parents report back that it is “nice to match a face to the stories.” So why is it that, in the midst of a global pandemic, when school systems underwent a major overhaul, classes moved online, and Back to School Night was held via Google Meet (meaning no commute or challenges to find parking), parent attendance was at an all-time low?

In the 2020-21 school year, teachers were encouraged to maintain accurate online records, to distribute materials regularly, and to maintain clear lines of communication. Simultaneously, many parents found themselves working from home, sometimes even sitting in the same room as their children as they worked. The upside of this challenge is that many parents were offered a daily glimpse into their child’s world, oftentimes hearing lessons directly from the teacher and having their inbox filled with assignment updates, grade reports, and announcements.

As students return to in-person classes this school year, teachers are returning to in-person instruction as well, and a drawback of that is that the line of communication between teacher and parents has been interrupted. In the months ahead, materials may not be consistently provided electronically, announcements may only be shared with students, and it might not be as easy to see your child struggling academically because they will no longer be in class in the same room as you. Throughout this, students will be facing a number of social, emotional, and academic challenges as they try to adapt to the ups and downs of in-person instruction.

As a parent, maintaining the line of communication with your children’s teachers is just as critical as monitoring your child’s progress and performance. The relationship between parent and teacher is a vital partnership in the growth of the child. Let your child’s teacher know of any major changes or concerns in your child’s life, and ask questions early and often.

If you or your child’s teachers notice any changes in behavior, attitude, enthusiasm, or achievement, please know that at Bridgewater, we are here to help!

Meet the Author: Thomas Stuppy, MA

Thomas is a certified English Teacher from Howard County, Maryland. He earned his Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and English from the University of Maryland, and his Master’s of Arts in Teaching from the University of Pittsburgh. Thomas specializes in test preparation and creative writing, in addition to writing for the Bridgewater Blog.

The Roadblock of Test Anxiety

As school districts around the country return to in-person instruction, many students may find themselves feeling anxious about the workload, and new or pre-existing anxieties regarding testing may begin to emerge. In the digital model of education, students were often granted a greater level of flexibility with their assignments, with untraditional models of assessment offered to capture student knowledge and meet students differing needs. A downside of returning to in-person instruction is that many accommodations that were offered by virtue of the online model may not be guaranteed. Additionally, counties in Maryland will be making up for a year of missed standardized testing by doubling up in the 2021-2022 school year.

Over the past decade, our understanding of test anxiety has grown tremendously. Test anxiety combines physical and emotional symptoms, and interferes with a students’ ability to perform well on tests, quizzes, and assessments. While these symptoms may vary from student to student, the truth of test anxiety is that it can really stand in the way of student success regardless of test preparation or subject matter knowledge. Standardized tests are still seen as a universal measure of student skill, and struggles with test anxiety can create a situation that negatively affects your future. Students of all strengths and abilities can struggle with test anxiety, and left unchecked it can be a roadblock to success.

At Bridgewater Psychology & Learning Center, we offer a number of services that can help to minimize the effects of test anxiety. Our academic coaching and tutoring can foster confidence and teach coping strategies, while our assessments can identify the potential for accommodations at the school, state, and national level. Testing is stressful for students, but students with test anxiety are disproportionally negatively affected by their test performance.

Your success is our mission at Bridgewater Psychology, and we will work with your student to help them to better understand their needs.

Back to School, Back to “Normal”

Back to School feels a little different this year! Along with the old standard school supplies like pencils, notebooks, and markers, students are loading their backpacks with the needs of 2021: masks and hand sanitizer. While districts across the country strive to re-acclimate students to the rigors of classroom instruction, it’s important to remember that this transition might just feel like the “First Day of School” all over again.

Students across the country will be in classrooms full-time this fall, a major change from the past year in which many districts conducted some form of virtual or hybrid/mixed instruction. With the return to a normal schedule, students will be expected to adjust to the timing of a standard classroom. The shift will be hard for some young people; while they may have made their own schedule in the past year and taken breaks as needed, being back in the school building means focusing for eight uninterrupted hours.

Beyond the change in hours and expectations, back to school means the potential for great social change. For some students, it is going to be a tremendous positive to be face-to-face with their teachers and peers after a year behind a screen. Meanwhile, others may feel anxious. One perk of the digital model for some students was feeling less scrutiny from their peers, with the anonymity of school without social interaction allowing them to focus on their schoolwork. Another concern that is arising is the policies of many districts to focus on “accelerating” education, encouraging teachers to make up for lost time. Finally, your family might be apprehensive about returning to in-person instruction from the perspective of COVID transmission.

The greatest truth of returning to in-person instruction is that it is a change, and changes can be challenging. While we hope that back to school is an exciting time for your family, we are here to support you with the transition and to work with your children socially, emotionally, and academically.