Monday, February 28, 2011

Phonological Awareness- letter sounds

Ah!  Letter sounds...definately need to know the sounds of the individual letters to be able to "sound out" a word.  

A book used by many homeschooling moms had been recommended for reading and so I purchased it just to see what it was all about.  The name of that book was Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  It is written by Siegfried Engelmann. carries this book ($13.02) as does Barnes and Noble.  The goal of the book is to bring those students, behind in reading, to a first grade level in 100 lessons.  My personal opinion, it's very dry.  However, it's a perfect guide for a homeschooling parent or a parent just wanting to give their child a head start in reading, especially if you don't really know where to start. (I do recommend you supplement the lessons with other activities.)   I started the book with both of my older boys at 4 years old.  We didn't use the whole book with Aaron (my oldest) because by the time we hit lesson 80 or so he was well on his way and found other books more interesting.  But yes, I agree, it takes them to the first grade level.  It gives the adult the words to say, it teaches the letter sounds that are most popular/used first so that children are reading right away.  I find that letters and letter sounds are very abstract to preschool students and many really do just need to have it made more meaningful by bringing in simple words and teaching the letters sounds as your are teaching them to read.  Letter sounds go hand in hand with reading, so it makes sense, right?  (A side note, I often begin teaching letter sounds using the beginning letters of the child's name and names of their family members and makes it more meaningful.)  I would like to state the order that they teach the sounds.  I do not feel that with either learning to read or learning to write letters, that anyone should follow the alphabet order.  It's just not practical. (That's for another day!)  Here is the order that Mr. Engelmann recommends.
m, s, a, long e, t, r, d, i, th, c, o, n, f, u, l, w, g, I (as in the word I), sh, long, a, h, k, long o, v, p, ar, ch, short e, b, ing, long i, y, er, oo, j, wh, y (as long i), long u, qu, x, z, ea, ai, ou
Our first focus for preschool students are beginning letter sounds then we move to ending letter sounds.  Eventually, they should be able to pick out words that do not have the same beginning or ending sound and then also be able to tell you what the common sound of a group of words is.

At the Head Start program I worked at we had a set of "Alphabet Tubs". These were from  You can use these miniature objects for so many different activities. 

However, at $149 a pop, it's not practical for most homeschool families or even us home-based preschool programs.  So, you can do what I did and save a few pennies!  I started to create my own Alphabet Box of miniatures.  It's still in the process of making but I have at least 2 items per letter.  Clearanced out Christmas ornaments or seasonal decorations, the little painted wooden objects you can get at craft stores, small toys that the children have gotten here and there and so on.  Just recently we purchased the "Alphabet Mystery Box" and so that has added to our collection a bit.  You can make your own box or even use a tube sock for a mystery "bag".

Our Alphabet Foam Mats (I see them in various can also get them in numbers) get a lot of use here.
This is Caleb the week before school started this past fall.  So, obviously you can use them to create words.  Most preschool students will only have success with CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.  I'd like to share a little "Dr. Seuss" (March 2nd is right around the corner) letter sound activity we did in the past.  I don't think I have a picture of it handy though.  Bummer!  Anyway, the children like to use these alphabet mats with our "Marching Around the Alphabet" song on our One Little Sound CD by Hap Palmer.  Another excellent audio CD!  (Of course, we got it from  On their website they have a list of the songs for this CD if you are interested.)
The children put together the letters in a rectangle so that they can "march around the alphabet".  I typically don't worry about order the alphabet though, on occasion, we use it as a reminder of alphabetical order and we'll work together to put the mats in order.  The children then march around and when the song stops at it's various points, they pull the letter out of the mat and they each tell us what the letter name is (if they know it) and the sound it makes.  Older ones that know the sound I encourage to state a word that starts with that sound.  We march, jog, walk backwards, crawl, gallop, and etc to keep the interest.  At the beginning, you often have to teach them that they have to take the letter they are on when the "whistle blows"....otherwise they are running to "their letter"- the first letter in their name.  I encourage them all to look at what each child is holding up so they get the letter name/sound reinforcement also.  I think the minimum amount of times we've played the song in a row is 3.  :-)  The kids enjoy this!  So, our Dr. Seuss component.  Prior to the song I filled up a "Cat in the Hat" hat with an object from our alphabet box to represent each letter.  Then we passed the hat around and pulled out an object and placed them on the inside of the rectangle by the corresonding letter.  Then when we played the music, they all had a "word" to say because the object was right by the letter as a visual cue.  It's a good use for alphabet flash cards also. 

I love using songs with my students so, of course, I better give you a few letter sound songs to use!  Again, I do not know the origin of these songs so "author unknown".

Letter/Sound Review
Tune: Where is Thumbkin?

Where is (B)? Where is (b)?
Here I am!  Here I am!
Can you say the (B) sound?
Can you say the (b) sound?
(/b/ /b/ /b/, /b/ /b/ /b/).

Old MacDonald had an Alphabet
Tune:  Old MacDonald

Old MacDonald had an alphabet.
E I E I O.
And in his alphabet he had an (E).
E I E I O.
With an /e/ /e/ here and an /e/ /e/ there.
Here and /e/, there an /e/ everywhere an /e/ /e/.
Old MacDonald had an alphabet.

Be My Echo
Tune: Are You Sleeping?

Be my echo. (adult)
Be my echo. (children)
(M) says (/m/). (adult)
(M) sayas (/m/). (children)
Monkeys and muffins. (adult)
Monkeys and muffins. (children)
Mustard and marshmallows. (adult)
Mustard and marshmallows. (children)
/m/ /m/ /m/. (adult)
/m/ /m/ /m/. (child).
(Change the letter names, sounds, and words as you desire.)

There are many more ideas out there!  I'll share them as time allows. 

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