Before your students can connect specific letters in words to sounds ( orthographic mapping), they need to be able to differentiate between sounds. Young children need time to play with and manipulate letter sounds long before they start learning which written letter makes that sound. Young children love to sort and classify but did you know it’s actually a very powerful teaching strategy too? Classifying things into yes and no examples is a powerful way to learn. This strategy is also a great way to differentiate between letter sounds using these letter sound sorting cards. These cards will help you create all kinds of activities that are tailored to your students, their abilities, and their learning.
For this set of letter sound sorting cards, I focused on what we would be using in an early childhood classroom; the consonant sounds and the short vowel sounds.
Here are a few ways to use Letter Sound Sorting Cards
- Same/ Different ( Group Activity)Grab your pocket chart and a bunch of the cards. Ensure you have all the cards for one letter sound and a random assortment ( no duplicates) of others. We want the children to be listening for one specific sound. The goal here is to learn what is and what isn’t that sound.
This can be done in a whole or small group setting.
Give each student a card. In a small group, you can give students more than one card.
Place one card of the sound we are looking for in the pocket chart.
Announce the item in the pocket chart “Baby” Invite the children to stand up and announce what they have. Does that picture make the same sound as the picture in the pocket chart? There is no need to stretch out words or specific sounds. Say the words normally and let the children hear them as they would as they are reading or speaking.
All the pictures that don’t fit this sound place in a pile on the floor.
Read the pictures together, making a lovely alliteration baby, bottle, books, barn, bat, bee, banana.
- This and That ( Center or free choice activity)This sorting activity is simple. Separate two sets of letter sounds. Pop one picture on one side of the pocket chart and the other letter sound sorting card on the other. Leave a big pile of cards making those two sounds, and let your student separate them into two groups.
I love this activity for free choice because it lets me observe and see which of my students are interested and capable of this and if there are any that aren’t or need some help.
Sound to Letter Connection
I know I said that we weren’t going to focus on connecting printed letters to the sounds, but I wanted to give you the next step if you need it. In all my teaching experience, I have always had some children ready for the next steps long before their peers. Teaching in a developmentally appropriate way means being prepared to teach the child in front of you, whether making something more simple or making it more challenging. Here are some fun ideas to use these letter sound sorting cards.
- Picture Letter Hunt
Hide cards around your classroom, using only one card per letter sound. Using letter magnets, paper, or sentence strips, write out the letter sounds you are hunting for. After your students have found one card each, it’s time to match them up. “Who has something that begins with A?” if your students need help, give examples including but not only the picture you know they have ” Apple, avocado, and ant are some examples. Does anyone have one of those?”
Note that I don’t do this in alphabetical order. That’s by design. Letters aren’t used alphabetically, so we always want to teach the way we use something.
- Alphabet Book
Invite your students to create their own alphabet book. This isn’t a one-and-done activity. This is a long-term one. Every few days, at free choice or another designated time, offer children the chance to make a page for their alphabet book. Use the letter sound cards as examples for items for each letter, of course allowing students the opportunity also to draw something else that they know with that letter. When the student is done with their drawing, have them dictate what it is and write it on the bottom of their picture. If your student can write this themselves, by all means, encourage them to do so.
- Spell your name in pictures – yep, just as it sounds.
Have letter cards available on a table along with sentence strips with your students’ names on them, or use letter magnets like I did. Invite them to make their names with pictures! This isn’t an easy activity, but for students who are looking for a challenge. This is best done in a small group or teacher table where you can quickly pivot if the challenge is too much to avoid frustration.
Get all 108 printable letter sound sorting cards ( that’s 18 pages) here for just $3.99