Introducing the Letters & Sounds Series

I have been busy this summer doing some private tutoring as well as teaching a few small groups in my home. It was fun to teach in my home in a super relaxed environment of fewer students (and less homework since it was “summer school,” and parents wanted about half the normal amount of homework for their kids).

 

Additionally, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a special needs student on her letters and sounds. (In case you ever wonder what the best age of kids is, I stand firm in my conviction that the best is four to six year old, followed closely by every other age!)

Eliah

 

I didn’t set out this summer to write a preschool program that teaches letter recognition and sounds of the letters. (I’m still finishing my composition series, Meaningful Composition and writing a novel with my son…so I had plenty to keep me busy already!)

 

I started out like most tutors who are tutoring in an area they are unfamiliar or rusty (in my case, it has been ten years since I taught a child to read, and it has been over twenty years since I worked on my master’s degree in Reading Specialist). However, I didn’t anticipate that so many fun and flashy programs (and grocery store workbooks, flash cards, and activity packs) would be so un-sound in their foundations. (I’m sure there are great ones out there, but just not the ones I was working with.)

 

Letters and Sounds CardsFor example, one taught beginning sounds at the same time as it taught them as middle sounds and end sounds (way too much new information at one time; plus, once the beginning sound is taught, it is much easier for a child to transfer that information over to end {then middle!} sounds). Some had way too many writing (penning) expectations for preschoolers. Some taught the initial sound then had the student read words with it—really? It only takes recognizing the sound of D in drummer to be able to read that word? One had less-than-best clue words (like alligator for A—too long for a clue word and run for R (verbs are not a good first choice for clue words). Some just had vague clue words (park ranger—who looked like a policeman or an explorer). Others were downright wrong—ark for short A?????

 

So what does a curriculum writer do when the programs she tries just do not suit her? You guessed it! She writes her own program. Enter “Letters and Sounds”!

I love to teach—so this will definitely be a teaching post! I am going to paste the full front matter for the ABC Sounds Song book/packet below. If you are teaching preschool and/or kindergarten, even if you are not in the market for materials to teach letter and sound recognition, I hope you will take time to read this “front matter” as I give a lot of instruction on teaching littles these first important skills. And check back often as I continue to add new grammar, writing, and other learning materials! (Oh, and check out my demo videos here!)

 

About “The ABC Sounds Song” Packet

Your teaching of beginning letter sounds is about to get much easier! Yay!

Children remember words of songs. They remember rhymes and mnemonics. They remember jingles and ditties. Thus, a natural way for littles to learn their beginning letter sounds is through one of these means. Enter “The ABC Sounds Song Packet.”

In a nutshell, this packet contains 8.5 x 11 inch colored “posters” of each of the twenty-­‐six
letters of the alphabet (plus five additional ones) in song to the tune of “Mary Had a Little
Lamb.” (It actually includes thirty-­‐three posters; see below.)

Each song is the same (same wording, phrasing, and line breaks) as the other. The only differences among the song sheets are in the letter and the words/picture clues that begin with that letter.

 

Here is what you get:

1. Three ABC posters with the alphabet laid out in the order and with the line breaks in the same manner it is sung in the “original” ABC song. (See “Tips for Using the ABC Sound Songs” below.)

2. Twenty-­‐six “regular” letter posters-­‐-­‐the “regular” twenty-­‐six letters of the alphabet, one on each poster, with each letter ’s own “song” with the beginning sound. (See “What Makes This Packet Unique” below!)

3. Five“additional” letter posters—the five long vowels (the original five vowels in the first
twenty-­‐six letters contain the short vowel sounds) and the soft sounds of c (suh) and g (juh).

 

 

What Makes “Letters and Sounds” Unique

Letter 'C' Song Packet PreviewI developed the entire “Letters and Sounds Program” when working one-­‐on-­‐one with a special needs student at the pre-­‐school level based on my experience in my reading specialist master ’s work as well as on my experience as a curriculum author for fifteen years (sixty books and forty thousand pages!). Thus, I do not take lightly the exact breakdown of curriculum development and its usability and effectiveness. Giving students every chance to succeed is what curriculum creation is all about.

Here are some things that are unique about the entire “Letters and Sounds” program and specifically about these letter/picture songs:

1) There are thirty-­‐three song posters, not the typical twenty-­‐six letters only. Why?

a. I think it is important when teaching beginning letter sounds that the short and long vowels not be put on the same poster/taught at the same time. Thus, the first twenty-­‐six letters are in ABC order with the vowels beginning with the short vowel sounds. The remaining five vowels are at the end of the posters and begin with the long vowel sounds. (In other words, one A card does not have Apple and Acorn both on the same card…way too confusing for young learners.)

b. Also, the hard and soft sounds of C and G are separated. The first time through (in the first twenty-­‐six songs), the hard C and G sounds are used (the most common in primer and pre-­‐primer readers). At the end, two additional songs are included with the soft C and G sounds (less common). You may choose not to use the soft sound cards, depending on how the reading program that you will be using handles these.

c. The short vowel sound is given first because it is the more common sound of each vowel (especially in one syllable words that begin with the vowel as found in beginning readers). If you desire to teach the long vowel sounds first, simply start with the vowel song posters at the end of the original twenty-­‐six. There are definitely pros and cons to both methods/orders.

 

2) Each of the letter song posters has the upper case letter and the lower case letter on it.
The concept of recognizing both of these is very challenging for young learners. The more that the student sees these two together, the better the connection will be between the upper and lower case letters.

 

3) The letters are Primary. This means that the REAL a is used (not a
typewriter a)—the a that the student will learn to write is used (circle and line lower case a).

 

4) All of the Letters and Sounds products have the exact same clue pictures. The clue pictures are the most important pictures in all of the Letters and Sounds products, and great care was taken in choosing them. Here are some tips:

a. Do not change clue pictures or clue words when teaching the beginning sounds. A should always be associated with AX and APPLE. B should always be associated with BED and BIKE. (Obviously, worksheets with multiple pictures to practice finding pictures with a beginning sound will contain other pictures, but clue word pictures should remain constant.)

b. The clue picture words for the consonant sounds are primarily from Dolch words lists and Fry word lists. When these words did not work, the words were taken from a children’s dictionary. They are the most common words that a student will encounter when he or she begins reading. Thus, they will already have been exposed to “first words” over and over again in the Letters and Sounds products (as opposed to random choosing of clue pictures).

c. The clue pictures for the consonant sounds have a short vowel picture (BED) first then a
long vowel picture (BIKE). While students are not learning to read yet (just learning beginning sounds and letters), they are continually exposed to both short and vowel sounds with the twenty-­‐one consonants (as opposed to r-­‐controlled, diphthongs, etc., which are used in other Letters and Sounds products as needed to create rhymes, etc.).

d. Whenever possible, the clue words are one syllable words so that the beginning sound can be isolated more easily. There are instances in which two syllable words (and occasionally three syllable words) were used, but only when necessary and only when the beginning sound is clearly heard (like APPLE….even though it is two syllables, the short A sound is heard more clearly than, say, in ANT, which is one syllable, but is more n-­ controlled and the short A sound is not as discernible).

e. Whenever possible (excluding difficult ones like X-­‐tra), noun picture clues were used. It is important in sound-­‐picture recognition activities that the pictures be common ones and that they are clear, non-­‐ambiguous pictures. Verbs were used only when nouns were not clear enough or not available (QUACK for Q, for example). I tried not to use DOVE, for example, because students tend to think that is a BIRD, and this is too ambiguous.

f. Blends were not used for beginning letter picture clues unless the consonant sound was clearer in a blend word than common non-­‐blend nouns.

 

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Tips for Using the “ABC Sound Song Posters”

1) In terms of upper and lower case letters, I personally have students call them CAPITAL and BIG for upper case and LITTLE for lower case. You may choose to have students call them upper and lower case, but the key is to be consistent in what they call them—and be sure that you use the same wording all the time as well.

 

2) You may desire to use the songs in a different order than ABC order. This is up for debate, but I know many teachers choose to teach beginning sounds in the order of frequency (think “Wheel of Fortune”) as opposed to ABC order. I waffle on this because on one hand, students usually already know the ABC’s in ABC order from the original alphabet song. Thus, it seems there is a “learning hook” already in place to learn the letters in ABC order. On the other hand, learning the consonants by themselves then the vowels by themselves can be somewhat easier—and it is especially helpful not to have “b” and “d” so close to each other in the visual learning sequence (and the sound of short a, short e, and short i very close to each other in the sound learning sequence). Obviously, the order for the sound songs is completely up to the teacher.

 

3) I recommend still reviewing the “original” ABC song with students even if they already know it. Here are some tips for doing so:

a. Use one of the ABC posters provided on the next pages (with the letters in the order the way the song is sung)—not as a long string of letters. (You may use the ABC pages given here as 8.5 x 11’s or enlarge them for more “poster ” sizes.) You want the break in the letter line to fall in the same place on paper as it does in the song.

b. Students love to sing the “original” ABC song fast. This is not conducive to letter-­‐sound
recognition. (They may be able to sing the song super fast but are not able to see a B and know it is a B because they do not correlate the “sung” letter with the written letter.) Because of this, I recommend that you sing the “original” ABC song with your students painfully slow while pointing to each letter on the song-­‐letter chart. Do not let them speed up or run away with it. Then go through it again a tiny bit faster (but still slowly and still pointing to the letters). Keep going through it, letting them speed up each time until they are doing their “crazy-­‐fast-­‐can’t-­‐point-­‐to-­‐the-­‐letters” (or learn anything!) speed just for fun. If they know that they will get to do the “fun and fast” way later, they will be more patient and more attentive during the “slow and point” way.

 

Speed of Use

If you are using the product for one-­‐on-­‐one teaching, pay close attention to the student’s of learning and base your speed through the product on that. Some programs recommend a letter a week if you have that option and that amount of time to spend on each letter. Of
course, you will want to do other activities to help cement the letter-­‐sound learning. Watch this spot for additional “Letters and Sounds” products, including our “Little ABC Rhyming Books,” which students love!).

 

ABC Sounds Song Packet Preview

 

What to Call the Sounds

What to call the consonant sounds: All of the “Letters and Sounds” products have the consonant sounds indicated with buh (or whatever consonant plus uh-­‐-­‐with the uh in a lighter color). This is easier for the teacher than having a key that is confusing (such as /b/ or “b” always refers to the sound, but B refers to the letter, etc.). However, you really do not want your student to say “B says BUH.” You really want your student to say a quick B sound. Thus, be careful that you are not stretching out the BUH (which is why the UH is written in light font).  (see image above)

 

There are two methods for ensuring that your student does not say BUHHHHHH:

i. One method for teaching the beginning consonant sounds is to have the student whisper the sound (buh). He will be less likely to drag out the UH if he does this.

ii. The second method is to have him say the sound with his
lips closed or just open ever-­‐so-­‐slightly as much as possible (just when saying the isolated
consonant sound). In this way, he will likely say bbb not BUH. (This method might not be desired for students in speech therapy since the advice may be the opposite of what the therapist is giving.)

 

What to call the vowel sounds: All of the “Letters and Sounds” products have the short vowels written like this Ah, Eh, etc. (with the exception of o since the combination oh is
really a long vowel word—too confusing!). This tells you that you are working on short A, again, you don’t want your student to say AHHHH like he is getting his tonsils checked. The ah is in light font and is there to remind you that it is short A. Sometimes it is better to say “A says ah like in AX” than it is to say Ah by itself.

 

The Songs

The songs are all laid out with the same breaks as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It should be easy for children to catch on to the songs. The song purposely has the following components in it:

1. Letter name (D says the sound of…)
2. Sound (sound of duh)
3. Two clue words (as described earlier in this forward)

The pictures of the clue words at the bottom of each song are in the same order that they fall in the song. Thus, even if your student does not know “sound of duh, sound of duh,” when you get to the end of the song, and you point to the dog and the deer, he should be able to recognize and sing those easily. The song is repetitive enough that children learn it very quickly.

 

Using the Packet/Book

Letter Sounds & Song Packet PreviewIt is debated as to whether it is more beneficial to learn to recognize the letters by themselves before embarking on sound learning or if it should be done jointly.

Hopefully, your student has had a lot of exposure to letters and has done puzzles, coloring pages, etc., with letters as well as had fun experiences with letters on signs and in his environment.

This makes the transition to letter recognition and beginning sound learning much easier.
If your student does not recognize letters, it might be a little bit difficult to jump right into
the sounds. In my upcoming book (Letters and Sounds: Patterns, Posters, and Pages), I begin with letter recognition entirely—and matching upper case and lower case letters before beginning with sounds.

 

Whenever we ask students to learn two or three things at one time with no “learning hook” to hook the new material on, learning becomes challenging-­‐-­‐like in the case of very little
letter exposure followed by learning (1) Upper case letter recognition; (2) Lower case letter
recognition; (3) Beginning sound; and (4) Clue words. That is a lot to learn at one time.

 

For this reason, I recommend that you work on letter recognition first by itself (using theLetters and Sounds Cards
letter portion of my “Letters and Sounds ABC and Picture Cards”). Once the letter recognition is mastered, your student is ready to move into sound-­‐letter correlation. (I know this is debated, and each teacher has her own way. Some programs even recommend not doing letter recognition at all but simply sound recognition of that letter (this letter {B} says buh as in bed without saying the letter ’s name). That is not how I would handle it because that is not natural—how the child has been introduced to letters at home, at the library, in preschool, etc.—usually.

 

Email me to let me know how this product helps you. Feel free to send me questions. I answer questions about parenting, homeschooling, language arts, marriage, family living, organization, and teaching in my Wondering Wednesday podcast episodes. I would be happy to answer your questions there or via email or Facebook. Check out my products and blog posts at LanguageLadyBlog.com. Thanks for buying Language Lady products!

 

 

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