X is for /ks/

siamese-cat-408766_640 (1)Bogging A-Z: X is for /ks/.  Yep, bring your hands up like claws, make a snarling face, and go /KS/ like a cat!  Louder!  That’s one way I help kids learn the /ks/ sound.  If you consult an ABC poster, you’ll find “xylophone” and “x-ray” as the top choices representing the letter X.  Apart from X-Men on a lunch box, most young kids aren’t going to run into words beginning with ‘x.’  Dr. Seuss really helped further the renown of the ending sound of /ks/ in his “Fox in Socks” book (customer image below from Amazon):FOx in SOcks

I also like the above book because it illustrates the most common way to spell /ks/ in closed, single syllable words (-ks).  Kids who struggle with reading and writing often have trouble with syllables like “ex.”  The short e is not really distinguishable from some consonants that follow (n, m, p, l, s, f), as in exit, enter, empire, and escape.  I work with a fifth grader who still spells closed syllables without a vowel, because all he hears is the consonant.  For that reason, it’s important to teach kids that vowels rule, consonants drool.  You know what I mean: we can’t have a syllable without a vowel.  In the southern part of the US, once you draw attention to the missing short e, many kids will substitute a short i instead.  Many adults do the same thing around here.  “Do you write with a pin or a pen?”

Back to X.  Once you teach the hissing cat sound with lots of drama, that /ks/ is firmly memorized.  If you’re going alphabetically, you know the problems we encounter with W and Y.  Many kids get totally undone by these two letters.  After all, there’s a pattern of similarity between the NAME and the SOUND of most letters.  But W becomes “duh” as in ‘duh-ble-u” and “wuh” is the letter sound for Y (why? why?).  There’s something to be said for teaching letter sounds “out of order” for kids who are showing signs of reading problems.  If not, they guess at letter sounds for W and Y by trying to follow a familiar pattern.  Then practice makes permanent.  Speaking of practice, show me your sharp claws, your sharp cat teeth, and HISS!  /KS/!  Great!

* Should phonics be taught to ASD kids?

boy readingI’ve been asked if kids with autism should be taught phonics skills.  Yes, yes, yes!  I know there’s a stereotype out there that autistic kids simply memorize everything they read, but I have known many who didn’t.  No matter what the reader’s strengths or weaknesses, phonics is a vital tool for decoding unfamiliar words.

(I think this is the shortest post I’ve ever written!)

* KizPhonics

KizPhonics advertises itself as a Pre-K to 2nd grade site for teaching phonics, but I’ve been using it with a few third and fourth graders who have weak phonics skills.  This site is HUGE, with online and printable resources, as well as phonics programs with books and CDs that are available to purchase.


If you are uncertain about a scope and sequence for teaching phonics, this site is for you.  The lessons and materials are leveled by grade: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten levels 1 and level 2, first grade levels 1 and 2, and second grade levels 1 and 2.  There are assessments for each level, scoring sheets, progress report sheets, and certificates for students.  A subscription to KizPhonics also includes lesson plans for teaching each level, with pacing guides and links to resources on the site.  To give you an idea of the numerous resources, for each specific letter-sound association in English (including digraphs), there are paper and online books, worksheets, videos, games, songs, PowerPoint presentations, and practice activities.  The skills start with letter identification and advance through r-controlled vowels and vowel diphthongs such as au and oi.  The site has been updated in recent months with online team board games and phonics songs that accompany worksheets.  Listening activities are also coordinated with worksheets.  Despite its phonics emphasis, KizPhonics provides materials for teaching sight words though board games, online matching games, and more.  An entire section is dedicated to teaching formation of upper and lower case letters, where kids watch a video and then use a mouse to trace the lines.  KizPhonics also sells an app (The Monkey Sentence Game), although there is a free “lite” version available.  It’s an impressive website that is easily navigated though a simple menu system.  The prices are VERY reasonable for a site with this much fire power.


  • The site has a massive number of resources available, all of which can be easily accessed.
  • The materials are interesting enough for older students with delays in phonics skills.  The monkey sentence game and online board games (with automated dice rolling) are highly engaging.
  • All the voices are “real” and easy to understand.
  • Both beginning and experienced teachers can make use of this site due to the great organization of materials.  Each section has pointers for teachers, which would be helpful for newbies.
  • The graphics are eye-catching and interesting.
  • The assessments are good and match the skills being taught.
  • The price is unbeatable.


  • The phonics songs are a bit cheesy but hey, they set each song to a different melody and beat.  FIX:  Try to imagine how you could do better!
  • Every game and feature is marked by grade level, so older kids could feel self-conscious.  FIX: Turn the computer away or block the screen while you load the activity.
  • Every activity is also clearly marked to indicate what skill is being practiced.  The more astute kids can figure out what words they should look for by referring to the name of the activity.  FIX:  Turn the computer away or block the screen while you load the activity.

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars