Learning the ABC's - Sounds of the Letters


Chances are, as your child has been learning the names of the letters and what they look like, they have also picked up some of the sounds as well. In most cases, the names of the letters give a hint as to the sound or one of the sounds it makes. For example, the letter T makes the /t/ sound at the beginning of its name. The sound of F makes the /f/sound at the end of its name. For those that don’t (we’re looking at you c, g, h, w, x and y!), practice is the best way to learn them. 
Note: When writing about phonics sounds, we enclose the pronunciation in // to signify that it is a sound.

One of my favorite tools to teach letter sounds when I was teaching was a program called ZooPhonics. ZooPhonics uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics, combining the sound with an animal symbol and a motion. As you know, the more senses you can use, the better the retention of any subject matter. And if you can get those little bodies moving, it is way more fun, too! If you are interested in giving their approach a try, check out their website or some of the videos available on Youtube

The following are some activities that are fun for kids and will help reinforce learning the sounds of the letters:

Swat the Sounds - Lay letter cards on the floor - begin with just a few, and as your child learns them gradually add more and more. Give your child a flyswatter and instruct them to “swat the letter that says /a/!” Repeat with other letters.

I Spy - Place letter cards around the room (you can use letters from a puzzle as well). Tell your child “I spy something that says /t/.”  They look around the room to find the letter T. Then it is their turn to give the clue and YOU find the letter. This gives your child practice both in making the sound and in matching the sound.

Letter-Sounds Go Fish - You will need 2 sets of letter cards mixed together. Deal 4-5 cards to each player and put the rest in a pile. Player 1 calls out a letter-sound and asks if player 2 has a match. If they don’t have a match, tell them to “go fish” which means to choose from the pile. 

Letter Moves - Tape 4 large letters to the wall, within your child’s reach. Call out a letter sound and tell your child to run to the letter that makes that sound, touch it and run back. To add some more fun, change up the challenge. Here are some examples:

  • Hop to the letter that makes the sound.
  • Skip to the letter that makes the sound.
  • Tip-toe to the letter that makes the sound.

Racing Car Sounds - You will need toy cars and a "race track". The race track can be as elaborate as a Hot Wheels track, or as simple as an open space on the floor with a start and finish line marked with tape. Place a sticker dot on each toy car and write a letter on it. You and your child each choose a car and have a race. Cheer for your respective "letter" car. The player whose car wins tells the name of the letter and its sound. Repeat.

Muffin Tin Sounds - Write a letter on 12 different small cards or round stickers. Place each small card or sticker in the cup of a muffin tin. Your child tosses a penny towards the muffin tin. Whichever letter it lands on, he/she names the letter and gives its sound.

Letter Hop - Use sidewalk chalk to write letters on the sidewalk or driveway. As you call out the sound of one of the letters, your child hops to that letter, then stops waiting for you to call out another. If played with more than one child, take turns hopping to a letter. Be sure to change roles and let THEM call out the sound, as well.

Beginning Sounds of Words

Since your child now knows most of the letters and understands many of the sounds associated with the letters, this is a good time to also work on distinguishing the beginning sounds of words (example: alligator starts with /a/). Once they understand the concept of listening for that initial sound, they will quickly catch on to associating it with the corresponding letter.

To help them learn how to listen for the beginning sound, you don't really need any special supplies. I have always loved playing "listening games" in the car with young children -- you've got a captive audience that begs to be entertained. Even if you only play a few rounds before you arrive at your destination or they tire of the game, that is a great use of time that might otherwise have been wasted. Make it sound fun and exciting and you will find them excited to join in as well!

What Do You Hear? - Name an object that you see around the house or car. As your child "What sound do you hear at the beginning of ______?" (You want them to give your the sound first, and then name the letter associated with that sound. Then let THEM give you one.  Children find it especially funny when you get things ridiculously wrong, so occasionally, throw some of those in there just to keep them interested. It also lets you know if they are understanding the sounds themselves.

Same or Different - This game helps your child differentiate between which words begin the same. Ask them, "Same sound or different sound?", then name two words. If the beginning sounds are the same, they respond with "same" and if "different", they respond with "different".

Memory Match - You will need cards with a variety of simple pictures on them as well as a set of corresponding letter cards. Begin with 6-8 pairs placed face down on the table. Your child turns over one card, names what is on it, then quickly turns over cards until they find the matching beginning sound. (Example: They turn over a picture of an alligator, then search for the letter A) All remaining cards are turned face down and the next player has a turn.

Most of the games that you have previously to help with letter identification can also be played using letter sounds, so, change things up from time to time to keep things interesting. Kids love to be the “teacher”, too, so be sure to give them a turn while you are the student.  This is the last post in this particular series, but I will do a wrap-up post that highlights some of my favorite books and commercially-bought alphabet games next week. Please share in the comments any products that you have found helpful, so that we all can enjoy them! 

Have a great weekend!!