My little girl is in Pre-K and does not want to do school most days. If I can get ten solid minutes on letters and numbers I'm absolutely thrilled. But here is the weird thing about her lack of desire to "work" on letters and numbers: if I ask her, "do you enjoy school?" she always says, "Yes!" I don't quite understand it, but since her older sister does school everyday (and most days are not a battle with her) she typically does one of the activities I set out for her without a lot of balk. Here's the thing about her age - I'm not worried about it. Even at two, she was not interested in reading books with us until I made it so much fun that she couldn't resist being apart of whatever Brielle and I were doing. The same goes for her "school" at four and a half.
These beginning years are meant for play. I do not want to underestimate the value of playtime! That's how they learn, so the activities we do are what she enjoys most: coloring, cutting with scissors, playing with magnets, stickers, a secret envelope, fun books, and crazy games. By crazy games I literally mean that our magnetic number line (with eyeballs) get themselves all mixed up (I pull out my crazy mom voice, oh no! Those silly numbers are all out of order again! We need to fix it! which makes her laugh a lot) and then we put the number line in the right order. I try to do similar activities with letters. All of which she enjoys, but fights "school." I don't understand it, but I want her excited about what we do together, so when I begin pulling out the activity for the day - nine times out of ten, she's all in without a fight. It's because it peaks her curiosity and like a cat, she can't help herself.
At four I simply want to introduce her to beginning consonants and short vowel sounds. I want her familiar with the letter symbols and how they represent sounds. I want her to write and color and draw to her little heart's content without me breathing over her shoulder about her backwards (and upside-down) L. She'll get it! So this is me, telling me, to be patient and take a chill pill, while also encouraging all you momma's out there to have fun, play with, and read to your little person. That in and of itself works miracles in the world of literacy.
Before we really begin, let's answer this question, What is phonics?
Phonics is a method of teaching word recognition or decoding that emphasizes the sound-symbol (letter) relationships that exist in a language. Phonics is usually employed in the beginning stages of reading instruction. - Timothy Rasinski & Nancy Padak in their book, From Phonics to Fluency: Effective Teaching of Decoding and Reading Fluency in the Elementary School
With that lengthy introduction, here are some activities we do together:
Sometimes I put things in a bag and pull them out to introduce a sound. I simply want her to hear it first. For the letter A we talked about (and ate) the apple that was in the bag. There was also an avacado, her toy alligator, etc. (I want all the objects to begin with the short a sound.)
Other times we walk around outside and discuss all the things we find that begin with the sound we're learning. Both activities are a fun way to introduce a letter.
Color, Cut, and Glue
We use an old Paste Pot Phonics book for initial consonants and for short vowel sounds. And by old I mean this book is from 1989, but I've used these reproducible pictures over and over again with my girls and in tutoring. It's always a big hit. Since those links provided do not offer a picture, here is the cover of mine, with an example of the finished product hanging on her bulletin board of finished work. My little girl is super artsy. Coloring and cutting are some of her favorite activities.
Little people love stickers and I cannot say enough about this book. It took everything in me to keep her from doing them all.at.once. Plus it's decently priced with realistic big and small stickers to stick and move around. Putting this in her penguin writing notebook are a BIG hit. (Click on the picture for the link to those products.)
Dry Erase/Chalk Activities
Anything that she can do on a whiteboard is also a win, win. We own the one on the far left, but any one of these would be great if your little person also loves coloring and then erasing.
Plus just practicing writing on a white board with multiple colors available is another activity we try quite often. Or let's draw an ant. Ant starts with /a/. This is also applicable to outside chalk activities like hopscotch and an alphabet trail ("Let's follow the Aa's to the ant pile!") Be creative!
I create YouTube playlists for each letter of the alphabet. I actually enjoy channels like ABCMouse, Storybots, and Sesame Street. The girls adore Olive and the Rhyme Rescue Crew. Here's my playlist for the Letter B as one example.
Her favorite is our secret envelope. I cut pictures out of magazines, fill that envelope with stickers, stamps, and anything else that will help her understand the letter we're working on and she gets to fill a piece of paper with all those things I secretly hid in that envelope. It's like opening a present! She LOVES it. Then I create an ABC book with all those pages she made and it's a super cute and creative way to learn the alphabet. Here are picture examples of what I mean:
Then that secret envelop for the next letter is sealed up and on the next page. She can hardly contain herself. It has the same effect as the sticker booklet. She wants to do them all.at.once.
Finally, every day we read books. Gobs and gobs of books centered around the letter or sound she is learning, especially an ABC book and since that's the topic of my next post, I won't get into that too much, but books are the heart and soul of our letter time together.
Every month I do a Facebook Pole where my followers vote on the topic they most want to learn about. For the month of October, phonics won! To participate in next month's pole be sure to follow me on my Facebook page.
If your reader is in the 1st or 2nd grade and is still struggling through phonics, I'd love to chat with you on how I can help. Contact me and we can set up a FREE consultation. The sooner you can help your reader move from learning to read, to reading to learn, the less frustration they'll face in their future learning experience. Research suggests that after the 2nd grade the struggle becomes more and more fierce. Let's work together to find the gap in their phonics education! This doesn't mean there was a failure on the part of their teacher, or if their teacher was you, please do not waste any time blaming yourself. It simply means your student may need more strategies and tools to overcome whatever isn't clicking. I can help!
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