Teaching Alphabet Letter Sounds with Language Objects
3 Steps to Teach Alphabet Letter Sounds
Teaching the alphabet letter sounds is the first step to preparing your toddler or preschooler for later writing and reading.
If you're researching how to teach alphabet letter sounds, you probably already understand how hearing and isolating the sounds in spoken words is an essential pre-reading skill. It's an aspect of phonemic awareness and it's critical to being able to sound out words.
A child who has phonemic awareness can:
hear and identify the sounds in spoken words
understand that words are made up of sounds in a row
blend sounds to make spoken words
segment spoken words into individual sounds
Usually children who are around 2.5 to 3 years old are ready to start playing sound games to develop phonemic awareness.
Playing sound games with language objects is an engaging way to draw your child's attention to the sounds in words.
Keep reading to learn:
How to build a collection of language objects for playing sound games.
How to say the sounds that the alphabet letters make.
A step-by-step script for playing sound games with language objects.
STEP 1: Start a collection of language objects.
You really only need about 10 language objects to get started with sound games today, and you can start your collection using common household objects.
Take a look around your home for small items such as a battery, bandaid, button, candle, clip, dime, floss, garlic, gauze, hook, key, lock, magnet, nickel, nail, pencil, pasta, plug, quarter, ruler, rope, sandpaper, screw, staples, toothpick, tweezers, whistle, yarn, and zipper.
Realistic-looking miniature animal figurines, small toy vehicles and game pieces can also be repurposed as language objects.
Later you can buy a set of language objects and save the time it takes to search for hard-to-find letter sounds such as i, e, j, q, u, v and z at the beginning of words.
Important! Language objects do pose a choking hazard due to small parts. Be sure to supervise your child when he or she is using them. Keep language objects out of reach when you are not playing sound games.
In terms of storage, you can keep it simple by using a container such as a basket, bag or box.
As you build your collection, you may want to sort your language objects by beginning sound. It's quick and easy to find what you're looking for when your collection is all organized in individual spice jars, plastic crayon containers or the plastic drawers of a small craft or hardware cabinet.
STEP 2: Practice saying the alphabet letter sounds.
You'll want to practice saying the sound that each alphabet letter makes so that you are modelling the correct letter sounds.
All of the vowels are pronounced as short sounds (not long sounds as when we say their letter names) and you'll just introduce the hard consonant sounds at this stage. Long vowel sounds and soft consonant sounds are introduced later in the process of learning to read.
When you say each sound, make it really short rather than drawing out the sound. You don't want to add any vowel sounds at the end of the sound!
The sound for the letter "a" is pronounced as in apple and asparagus.
The sound for the letter "b" is pronounced as in balloon and bun.
The sound for the letter "c" is pronounced as in cube and candy.
The sound for the letter "d" is pronounced as in domino and donut.
The sound for the letter "e" is pronounced as in egg and elephant.
The sound for the letter "f" is pronounced as in fork and funnel.
The sound for the letter "g" is pronounced as in gift and gear.
The sound for the letter "h" is pronounced as in hinge and hamburger.
The sound for the letter "i" is pronounced as in igloo and ink.
The sound for the letter "j" is pronounced as in jam and jug.
The sound for the letter "k" is pronounced as in kiwi and key.
The sound for the letter "l" is pronounced as in lace and leaf.
The sound for the letter "m" is pronounced as in mat and mug.
The sound for the letter "n" is pronounced as in nut and nest.
The sound for the letter "o" is pronounced as in octopus and otter.
The sound for the letter "p" is pronounced as in pasta and puzzle.
The sound for the letter "q" is pronounced as in queen or quilt.
The sound for the letter "r" is pronounced as in raspberry and rose.
The sound for the letter "s" is pronounced as in spring and scissors.
The sound for the letter "t" is pronounced as in tile and tray.
The sound for the letter "u" is pronounced as in umbrella and ultrasound.
The sound for the letter "v" is pronounced as in vase and violin.
The sound for the letter "w" is pronounced as in waffle and worm.
The sound for the letter "x" is pronounced as in box and fox.
The sound for the letter "y" is pronounced as in yarn and yoyo.
The sound for the letter "z" is pronounced as in zipper and zero.
STEP 3: Play sound games with language objects every day.
It takes only about 10 minutes to play sound games with language objects to draw attention to the sounds in spoken words and begin to develop phonemic awareness.
The focus is on having fun exploring sounds in spoken words. You don’t need to keep track of which letter sounds you’ve introduced, and there’s no “correct” order to follow.
How To Play Sound Games
Invite your child to play together: “Let’s play a sound game!” Invite your child to carry the basket or bag of language objects to the table or floor mat where you will be playing together.
Take out three language objects, naming each one as you place it on the table or floor mat. Start with three language objects that have very different beginning sounds such as apple, mug and teapot.
Model how to isolate the beginning sound of an object. “I’m looking for something that begins with (the sound) /m/. [pause] Mmmug! Mug starts with /m/!” Repeat with the other two objects. Your child just listens as you model sound isolation.
Repeat the game with opportunities for your child to respond. “I see something that begins with /t/. Can you please pass it to me?” [Your child responds.] “Yes! Teapot begins (the sound) with /t/. Can you say /t/?” If your child picks one of the other objects that doesn’t start with /t/, then say: “Mug begins with (the sound) /m/. I’m thinking of something that begins with /t/.” OR “I was thinking of teapot. /t/ for teapot.”
Continue for as long as your child is interested. Use a variety of language objects during the sound game to focus on different beginning sounds.
Expect it to take some time for your child to develop phonemic awareness.
Your child may not understand the sound game at first, and that's ok because it simply reflects where he or she is at developmentally.
Initially your child may say "mmm...cat" and "mmm...ball". Your child may be unable to pronounce certain sounds or may choose not to say the sound and instead will just point to the object.
Keep modelling and know that your child is taking it all in even if you aren't getting the verbal response you expect. Notice if your child watches your lips as you play sound games together. This is a good clue that your child is trying to figure it out. Eventually it will click!
The most important thing is to just get in the habit of playing sound games every day!
Children have a natural tendency towards repetition. Doing things again and again is what leads to understanding and mastery. By playing sound games consistently each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, you’ll lay the foundation for letter recognition.
The first sound game in the series draws your child’s attention to the beginning sounds in spoken words. In The Playful Path to Reading™ preschool reading program, you'll learn the full series of sound games and how to associate each letter sound with its alphabet letter so you can set up your child for success with learning to read. Click here to learn more.
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About the Author
I'm Lisa Adele, an AMI-trained Montessori teacher and the creator of The Playful Path to Reading™. I help moms guide their preschoolers from pre-reading to early reading using a gentle child-led approach.