Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Importance of Letter Sounds

After parent teacher conferences this week, I noticed a big theme, the Importance of Letter Sounds. It is always amazing to me how fast Kindergarten students learn their letter names. Often by the end of October even my kiddos that came in knowing only a few letters can identify their uppercase and lowercase letters.
Sounds however is a trickier concept for many students. There are a lot of misconceptions about letter sounds and parents can find them especially difficult to teach to their children. So below are a few of my recommendations for letter sound teaching.

Tips to letter sound teaching at home:

1. If you are unsure of how to produce sounds in isolation you are not alone. Many adults, even teachers, struggle with producing sounds in isolation. Isolation means that the sound stands alone. For instance a common misunderstanding in sounds is when students produce the initial sound and add the "uh" sound following it. So when a child says "puh", "tuh", "kuh", "vuh", etc., they are actually saying the sound incorrectly. Producing a sound in isolation means that you are only producing the first sound and not adding any additional sound. If you notice your child adding the "uh" sound to their letters, give them a gentle reminder. You said, "tuh", if we say the word tap, do we say "tuh"-ap or "tap", let's stretch it t-a-p. The sound of T is "t".

2. The letter name doesn't match the sound. So how many times have you heard your child say the sound of C is "s" and the sound of W is "d". This means that your child is relying on the letter name to help them determine the sound. A reminder that letter name and letter sound are different is helpful for students as they learn those sounds.

3.Vowels are tricky at the Kindergarten level and some programs don't require solid vowel sound recognition until 1st grade, especially vowel understanding in writing. The tricky part about vowels is that when they are produced the mouth, lips, and tongue move in a similar way. So the difference between the short sound of "e" and the short of "i" is minimal in mouth movement. Using the reminder that I is "icky" hands on head and  E is the "old man saying eh" hand to ear is very helpful. Also understand that vowel recognition is especially tricky when writing because vowels can be changed by the consonants that follow them.

Resources to look at:

Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD-I use this in the beginning of the year to introduce the letters and sounds. This DVD provides visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (body movements) to teach the sounds. So every letter has an action to match it to help remind kids of the sound. This DVD is very reasonably priced at your local Target and Wal-Mart. If you want to join your child in learning the sounds to teach them the correct sounds this is a go to video.
Starfall.com
This website is free for most resources that would be valuable for you at the letter sound level. When you go to Starfall.com click on the ABC's. It will list the letters and you can do all of them, they make the sound, share words that start with that letter, and have games to reinforce letter and sound recognition. The students and I have used this before and it is a fun way for kids to play and learn about sounds.

Of course the biggest thing I can recommend as a resource is my knowledge as a teacher. If you are noticing that your child is having trouble with a particular sound ask me for some strategies. It is always a challenge to write my thoughts without the audio which would be beneficial for you to hear what I was thinking :) 


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