10 Activities to Teach Beginning Sounds


Learning to identify beginning sounds is a key skill when our students are first learning to read. Sometimes getting those beginning sounds to stick can be tricky. So if you’re wondering how to make those beginning sounds stick, remember to make it multisensory, focus on phonemic awareness, and have students practice throughout the day. Here are 10 activities to help you teach beginning sounds in your primary classroom.

Make it Multisensory

One of the best things you can do to help your students remember their beginning sounds is to make your instruction multisensory. Multisensory instruction means that students are listening, speaking, reading, and engaged in tactile or kinesthetic activities throughout the day.

#1 Play I Spy

Who doesn’t love a good I Spy game? Engage your students at their centers or even use these as early finisher activities to help reinforce beginning sounds. What’s even better about them is that these are part of our amazing I Spy series that includes I Spy Phonics and I Spy Math. Once you’ve taught your students how to complete this I Spy Early Literacy activity, you won’t have to repeat the directions every time you change out the skill. Check out this blog post on our I Spy resources for more ideas on how to incorporate them into your classroom.

#2 Tactile Letter Tracing

You can have students practice their beginning sounds by having them trace the letter that represents the sound in a sand tray, in shaving cream on a desk, or in finger paint. If that sounds too messy, consider putting colored rice in pencil boxes to contain the mess. When students trace their letters, it helps their brains form the connection between the sound and the letter. Once you’ve taught your students how to do this with letters and their beginning sounds, you can continue by having them spell words with more complex phonics patterns as they learn them.


#3 Create Alphabet Art

Incorporate the arts into your classroom by having students practice their letters, beginning sounds, and letter formation with alphabet art. Students can use a bingo dauber or Q-tip to “trace” their letters. As they dab or paint, encourage students to say the target sound out loud. This helps to reinforce those letter-sound connections that we want them to make. Use these alphabet dot art activities that also have pictures that give students multiple opportunities to see objects with the target beginning sound.

Build Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds in a spoken language. For example, you are practicing oral blending when you ask a student to blend the /a/ and /t/ to make the word at. To segment sounds, students would separate the sounds they hear. For example, to segment the sounds in the word dog, a student would say /d/, /o/, /g/. Both oral blending and segmenting are important phonemic awareness skills.

Most teachers usually have phonemic awareness drills or tasks in their curriculum. What we don’t always have are centers or independent tasks that we can give students to practice. Here are a few activities that you can add to your small group time to build up phonemic awareness.

#4 Color by Beginning Sound

For color by sound tasks, students are given pictures. Once they identify the beginning sound in the picture, they follow the code to color in the picture correctly. These activities from our Kinder monthly packets are no prep and are great for both independent practice and small-group center activities. They also help to engage our little learners not only with their sounds but their artistic brains too. They’re available right from the beginning of the year like this color by sound resource from September. Click here for more information on how to implement literacy centers in your classroom.

#5 I Have, Who Has Beginning Sounds

To make your phonemic awareness even more fun, include word or sound hunts and games like I Have, Who Has? during your ELA block. In this I Have, Who has? letter sounds task, for example, students will say the beginning sound of the picture on their card. The next student listens for the sound and matches it to the correct picture. If the letter sound is /b/, the next student would say, “I have Bee. Who was something that starts with /w/?” The game continues until students have gone through all the cards. These I Have, Who Has? games are great when you have a few extra minutes laying around or even for practice at the end of the day before dismissal.

#6 Counting Sounds

Another way to build student phonemic awareness and reinforce beginning sounds is to have students practice counting the sounds that they hear in different words. For example, students can count the sounds in different words by tapping them on their fingers, arm spelling them, or using manipulatives. After doing that, you can have students stand up if they hear the target sound or make the target sound together as a class. For centers, you can have students practice counting sounds using this resource from our CORE Binder.

#7 Practice with Sound Sorts

When students are just learning their sounds, they’re not ready for word sorts yet. Picture sorts are the way to go so that students can listen to those beginning sounds. These sound sorts for commonly confused sounds from our Sound Wall resource would make a great addition to small groups to help instruct students on how to form the sounds and how to tell the difference between them. The picture sort cards work well with a partner and then the student work page can be used as an assessment for you to see how your students are progressing.


Rinse and Repeat

Don’t be shy with having your students practice. It’s not “drill and kill” if you have variety embedded into your instruction so that students are engaging all of their senses. Check out these other beginning sound activities that are fun for your students and little to no prep for you. That’s a win-win situation if you ask me.

#8 Play beginning sound games

One of the best ways to have students practice their beginning sounds with little to no fuss is to play games in your classroom. As they’re playing games during their small group time, indoor recess, or Phonics Fun Friday students won’t even realize they’re learning. For example, students can play beginning sounds dominoes, sound shark attack, or connect puzzles where they practice their beginning sounds. Collecting phonics games can get expensive though. Why not check out kindergarten file folder games all available with your unlimited printables membership instead? That way you have more than just games for beginning sounds like the one below.

#9 Write the Room

Write-the-room is one of my favorite ways to get students out of their seats and engaged with the learning resources I have around the room. These materials can include anchor charts, learning mats, or even write-the-room picture cards like these that can be used both for phonemic awareness and beginning sound practice. Remember to give students a clipboard so they can attach their recording sheet and easily write as they go around the room and practice saying each picture’s name and identifying the beginning sound.

#10 Make that Home Connection

Another way to help reinforce beginning sounds is to send engaging work home for students to complete with their parents. You don’t want to send work that will be too complicated or have too many pieces. That won’t be fun for the parent or student. Try out these alphabet printables instead that are no prep for you and easy to implement at school or home or these beginning sound printables.

Alright, be honest… how much are you LOVING these beginning sound resources? There is so much variety in what you can do with them in your classroom. Not only that, these resources can be easily used at home to help support learning these tricky beginning sounds.

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Written by –  Dr. Shaime Cortes Vega, Ed. D.


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