How to Teach Letter Names and Sounds in Kindergarten and First Grade
February 11, 2022
Teaching letter names and sounds to your kindergarten, first grade, or second-grade students? These ideas and activities are a fun way to get students practicing the sounds our letters make and letter recognition. Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:
To read the information, just keep scrolling!
Tip #1: Focus on the Letter Sound
This one may seem pretty basic, but when you are teaching the letters of our alphabet make sure you focus on the letter SOUND. We really want our students to make meaning while they read and understand that the letters and graphemes on the page are just there to represent the sounds that we hear. To help students with this, you will want to include an image with each letter name that you teach so your students can go back and refer to that sound when they see the letter in other words.
For example, Fundations uses a bat for the B letter name:
After you introduce a sound, you can do a quick sound sort and have your students give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down if they hear that specific sound at the beginning of a new group of words. To do this, you want to keep your letter name and focus image on display so your students can go back and refer to it while they practice. Then, you can either say the words in the sort out loud to your students or show them images and have them think of the word in their head before giving a thumbs up (yes, this word has the /b/ sound) or a thumbs down (no, this word does not have the /b/ sound). I like to do these quick check-ins in both small group and whole group.
You can also take this activity one step further and have your students do this activity independently or in small groups sorting the sounds on their own:
(this image above is from my >> Phoneme Isolation Sound Sorts << where I have a bunch of sorts in both digital & printable format)
Tip 2: Make it Multisensory
I shared a bunch of ideas for using multisensory activities in my How To Teach Sight Words video that you can check out here:
(How to Teach Sight Words Video: https://youtu.be/dRuuvC-vmU4)
You can use these same activities for letter names! For example, you can have your students use skywriting to trace each letter in the air or use finger lights to “draw” the letter with their fingers. You can use any tactile materials, like sand, play-doh, shaving cream, etc. to get your student to practice feeling, writing, hearing, and seeing letters in a bunch of different ways!
*The important thing to note during this exercise is that you still want your students to connect the sounds to the letters. You can do this by having them say each sound each time before or while they make the letter.
Another great multisensory activity for teaching letter names and sounds is through music! Jack Hartmann is a great resource you can find on YouTube for using songs and music with your K-2 classes. He has a great song video called See It, Say It, Sign It, where students will see a letter, say the letter, and sign the letter using American Sign Language. He also has another song video called the Secret Stories Better Alphabet Song that emphasizes the sounds that each letter in the alphabet makes. You can check out both of those videos below:
See It Say It Sign It Song Video: https://youtu.be/WP1blVh1ZQM
The Secret Stories Better Alphabet Song: https://youtu.be/q3M_rdef7sw
Tip 3: Practice, Practice, Practice
If you follow me, you know that I love to practice new skills through games! Below are a few of my favorite games for practicing letter names and sounds:
5 in a Row: in this first game, I actually have different boards where students will have to spin the spinner then either identify the matching uppercase letter, lowercase letter, OR beginning sound.
*Note that when I created this game, I separated the letters into groups of 3 based on the order that Fundations teaches! You can grab the TBF board free when you download the preview here: LETTER GAMES
Once students have been introduced to each collection of letters, they can go ahead and practice using all 3 game boards!
To play, students will spin the wheel, find the corresponding cube on the grid, and place one of their cubes in that box. They can play independently until the whole grid is filled in or competitively with a partner until one student gets 5 in a row!
Another Game I love is called Roll-A-Sound
To play this game, students will first roll their die and find the correct image based on the number that they rolled. Then, they have to identify what sound the word in the image starts with and write down the corresponding grapheme.
For example, if you roll a 4, you would find the image of the slide. Then, you would identify the “s” sound that “slide” starts with and write down the letter that makes that sound: s. You would continue this until you fill in one complete row! Please note, 2 in the image above should be /wh/.
I have tons more of these Roll-a-Sound boards over in my store here:
Shopping for Letters
As a bonus, I created this FREE game called Shopping for Letters that you can download below and play with your students!
In this game, there are a bunch of shopping carts with letters or images on them. Students will have to shuffle up their letter tiles, find the matching letters on their shopping carts, and use the tiles to cover them up until the whole shopping cart is covered. This game also has three levels: uppercase, lowercase, and images for letter-to-sound matching. You can grab this freebie here >>> Shopping For Letters
So there you have some fun and effective ways to help your students learn their letter names and sounds! If you are looking for even more activities and games to help students review, just check out my Print & Play Letter Names/Sounds unit below:
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