Learning the sounds that letters make is one of the building blocks for reading. While I don’t advocate rushing children to read early, I do advocate PLAYING with letters and letter sounds when they are preschoolers. As teachers and parents, we look at activities like this through an adult lens, and we may see it as an educational activity leaning towards a quiz even but if we put kid goggles on we will see a fun matching activity or perhaps a puzzle to solve. This activity could be done on a worksheet, but the dynamic aspect of this with manipulatives helps to make it a fun activity vs. something that feels like work. It’s all in how we as the guide approach the activity. Enthusiasm when we introduce activities like this matter.
Saying things like “Ooh I wonder if we can match each animal up to the right letter!” is really all I have ever needed to say – be there to help if they need it but even if they make a mistake let them be until they are ready for you to help or look it over. If they put the cat with a k, use it as an opportunity to learn instead of discouraging them.
That was a HUGE intro for an incredibly simple activity that I wasn’t going to blog about until I suggested this activity to another teacher who said: “I can’t believe I never thought of that!”
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Gather your materials. You will need some manipulative letters like these. I love them because they have upper and lowercase in the same box. You will also need some small plastic animals. I like using animals because they are easily recognizable for kids. Also, if your child is just starting to learn letter sounds if you include vowels stick to short vowel sounds first (e – elephant). You can also grab some baskets if you want.
I like to have one letter for each animal vs. just giving the children the whole alphabet and a handful of animals, and I’ll tell you why. This is a scaffold for the learner; it helps them as they match the letters up. Say a child has a cat, and a kangaroo in the basket and initially puts a k with the cat, but after matching all the others letters up, they might get to the kangaroo with only a c left and stop and think.
If they breeze through the activity, add more letters and more animals. If they breeze through that, remove the letters. Then give them a marker and have them try to write the correct letter. For beginners, I like to give them big pieces of paper. That way they have plenty of room to try to make the letters. We are focusing on learning not perfecting.
I have another fun early literacy activity similar to this one coming later this week. So if this was useful, you won’t want to miss my next one!
How do you work with your preschooler to get them familiar with their letter sounds? Share in the comments below or over on my Facebook page!