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Teaching Letters and Sounds: 27 Strategies that Work

January 25, 2022 by Suzanne Kelley




If we want to help our students learn their letters and sounds, we must have multiple Strategies for Teaching Letters and Sounds. Alphabet recognition and mastering the sounds are essential skills for our earliest readers. Without mastery of the earliest skills, students struggle with building and recognizing words and patterns. We have composed several blogs giving you some of the best Strategies for Teaching Letters and Sounds, but we have even more great ideas and resources now! Here are 27 Strategies that we are confident will help you as you teach your littles–#9 is sure to be a favorite!

Teaching Letters and Sounds

1– Use repetition when assigning teaching letters and sounds during independent and partner practice.

At some point during your day, your students should have a chance to practice their letters and sounds in a routine and repetitive way. This practice serves as a great instructional routine that does not take much time.

You want to give students repetitive practice because they know what to expect, they have a short time to practice what they’ve learned, and most students can complete the activity without much direction.

During this time, you can help your students who need the most intervention. We created these Alphabet Printables, so students have a variety of activities to practice when doing independent and partner practice.

Kiddos get to practice writing the letter, both upper and lowercase, distinguishing between the upper and lowercase letter (with daubers), identifying pictures that begin with that letter sound, and finding that letter on a keyboard. So many different ways to practice one letter, and it is all on one piece of paper!

2– Have multiple references and tools available in the classroom when teaching letters and sounds.

Students need the same resources we do when they need information. Kids will use these resources if we teach them to use them before asking you or another teacher for information.

These can be posters on the wall, an informational page in their desk folder, or resource cards. We have created these Alphabet Poster Cards for our students, so they have access to this information when they need reminders for letters and sounds.

Print these posters as full pages, half pages, or quarter pages. You use these as a sound wall, visual cues, posters, and flashcards!

Each poster comes in both black and white and color. We have included the alphabet, blends, digraphs, diphthongs, long vowels, r-controlled vowels, trigraphs, short vowels, word families, and double consonants.

3–Be creative and provide novelty when practicing letters and sounds

It’s important to remember what kids want to create. They want to do things that are out of the ordinary. So be creative with the activities you choose when introducing and practicing each letter and sound.

You will have great success with Alphabet Crowns. Kids love these crowns! However, there are so many other things you can try with your kids. Be creative! Use Pinterest, and find something to connect this content with your little ones.

Great Strategies that are Hands-On

4–Allow kids time to explore with hands-on and fine motor activities

Having students use their hands/bodies while learning is fundamental to their brain development. When kids use their muscles and brains simultaneously, they are less likely to forget what they learned. It is also great to incorporate fine motor practice into hands-on learning. We created these Alphabet Play Dough Mats to have a hands-on way to practice. Give your tactile students a chance to roll out play-dough and model the letters of the alphabet.

Plus, we have got a great recipe from instructables.com, so if you need a great Play-Dough recipe, I recommend this one! It is fabulous. I think the cream of tartar does the trick with consistency.

5–Incorporate art into learning letters and sounds.

Whenever I have an opportunity to allow my students to express their creativity while learning, I embrace it. I have found art activities like Alphabet Dot Art also keep behavior problems to a minimum when managed correctly. 

Students get to work on fine motor, letter recognition (of different fonts), and letter/sound correlation with this activity. Students can use the dot-art piece to dab a Q-tip in paint and “dot” the image. They then cut out the pictures of objects that begin with that letter and glue them onto the different font representations of that letter. It is a fun activity for little learners! Or use Bingo Daubers from Amazon!

6–Kiddos Love Swat-a-Sound.

You can use the giant swatters from Dollar Tree (or the $1.25 Tree). Then, spread letters out on the carpet and give two kiddos (each) a swatter- then say, “Find the letter that makes the sound (insert here).” They hit it with the swatter and say its name and sound. Then two more friends go. We have played in whole and small group settings. They always ask to play!

-Jessica R.

More Letters and Sounds Strategies that Get Them Moving

7–We sing and dance to songs like this: Everybody dance now!A says /a/,/a/,/a/. And on and on

-Vera from The Tutu Teacher

8–Have Fun Teaching videos from YouTube! They are great. We listen to them every morning.

https://educationtothecore.com/2021/03/youtube-videos-that-teach-phonics/

Phonics videos are great to use in a variety of settings! I use phonics videos to get my students started in the morning, during indoor recesses, brain breaks, 5-minute time gaps, and of course, during the reading block. They are a great tool to get your students up and moving while learning phonics skills. Here are some of my favorite YouTube videos that teach Phonics skills our students have to learn.

A Sound Wall for Letter Sounds!

9–Why a Sound Wall?

Sound walls have grown increasingly popular in recent years. For good reasons too!  

Sound walls stem from the Science of Reading where it focuses on the connection between print patterns and phonological information. Sound Walls allow for explicit instruction of phonemes or the sounds we hear. We use letters to represent those sounds or graphemes. A sound wall pairs the speech sounds (phonemes) to the letters (graphemes).

Using sound walls, your students will have everything they need to

  • Properly produce sounds.
  • Identify which sounds correspond to certain spelling patterns.
  • Read and write words that have them.

Strategies for Letter and Sounds that Don’t Feel Like Work!

10–Alphabet Foldable Booklets

There are three different versions for each letter. And, you can use them with all of your students, regardless of their academic level. Start with learning just the letters and words that start with that letter. Move onto one sentence per page with the same images. Lastly, students can practice reading two sentences per page with the same pictures. Students can learn print concepts, identify letter names and sounds, and practice sight words and fluency with these foldable booklets.

Each booklet focuses on one letter of the alphabet. Every no prep booklet has these activities:

  • Uppercase and lowercase letter identification
  • Letter writing practice (uppercase and lowercase)
  • Beginning sound identification (color pictures)
  • Letter art decorating
  • Writing words that begin with that letter
  • Fill in the blank sentences with words starting with that letter

11–Letter Building STEM

Students can build letters using popsicle sticks. They can then count how many sticks were used to build that letter and record the number.

More Strategies Using Their Hands

12–Alphabet Sensory Tubs

Take a set of magnetic letters and bury them in some sensory substance (sand, rice, water beads, etc.). Students will then have to “search” for the letters and match them to a corresponding sentence strip. Sensory Bins with Letters (picture and several ideas from Still Playing School)– Sometimes, the best way to help kids learn is to let them explore. Or, spread shaving cream out on a tray and have your students write out the letters in the cream.

13–Write and Wipe Puzzles

I let my students each have a set of these. They could practice cutting out the puzzle pieces and writing each letter of the alphabet. They kept all of the pieces in an envelope, so it was a center they could repeatedly do while practicing the beginning sounds of words.

 

14–Alphabet Watches

Students can wear their letters and sounds with these watches. These watches are just a different version of the crowns for those of you who would rather have your students wear alphabet practice around their wrists instead of their heads. They can “check the time” as they practice identifying the letter name and then pictures/words that begin with that particular letter.

Additional Strategies for Letters and Sounds

 15–Digital Alphabet Activities

For those of you who are teaching virtually or parents who prefer not to print out a lot of papers at home, we recommend using digital alphabet activities. This bundle includes alliterations, keyboarding practice, and beginning sound hunts. This digital practice will engage kids for hours with these alphabet practice activities.

16–Data is a part of teaching, but sometimes our kindergarteners are given assessments that are not suitable for their skills. We have created a Kindergarten Data Tracking Book that assesses the skills we teach.

In this databook, teachers can track letters, numbers, shape identification, sight words, CVC word reading, writing letters and numbers, and addition and subtraction.

Check out all of the pages we include in this Kindergarten Data Tracking Book. (As a fun bonus, they are all created around chocolate chip cookies. Yum, Yum).

17–Pancake Flip – Cut out 5-10 brown circles and write the letters students are currently working on in class (you may want to do 3-4 circles for each letter). Using a spatula, students “flip” over the circles and say the letter name.

18–Letter Game Board – Print out a couple of free game board templates. Fill in the blank spaces with letters that you are working on. Find a die and a couple of cubes or other math manipulative items, and students can play a letter identification game.

Easy Strategies for Letters and Sounds

19–Magazine/Newspaper Ad Scavenger Hunt – Students will go through old magazines and newspapers, searching for pictures that begin with a given letter sound.

20–CORE BINDERThe CORE Binder is the ULTIMATE resource covering daily activities from classroom routines, math, and ELA. These Classroom Organizers and Resources for Education also include social and emotional tools because we know teaching isn’t all 123s and ABCs. But, it does include letter sounds, word building, phoneme blending, and so forth!

21–Alphabet Flip Books

These are Alphabet Cards designed to teach letters and sounds!

ABC Flip Books: Alphabet cards. Use these to teach words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Each letter contains six cards and one letter writing practice. These cards can be laminated, cut, hole-punched, and secured with a ring.

22–Alphabet Flip and Reveal

This activity is Alphabet Flip and Reveal. These are great for small group instruction, centers, intervention. Alphabet Flip and Reveal is also a great resource to have on hand in the classroom.

Flip and Reveal includes all letters/sounds of the alphabet and ten images for each letter/sound. All letters have an accountability sheet where your students can practice letter formations while matching the letter with the corresponding picture.

More Games for Letters and Sounds

23–I Have Who HasThis is an ABSOLUTE MUST-HAVE! Your students will beg to play these games, not only for their alphabet and ELA but for their MATH as well!

  • Learning Through Play: Students can learn while doing something fun and effective!
  • Flexible Use: This is the perfect warm-up for your lesson, lesson practice for a new concept or skill, review, small group, and more!

24–Play the game “I Spy.”

In the game “I spy,” you pick something you see and don’t tell the child what it is. The child has to guess what you see. Or, grab our I Spy Phonics–ETTC developed an entire resource dedicated to phonics-based I SPY Activities – updated to include 84 activity pages!

25–Bingo

We have so many fantastic resources that you can use in your classroom to expose your students to the letters of the alphabet and their sounds! But, we also don’t mind sharing from other sources!

This gorgeous Initial Letter Bingo Cards set is perfect for a small group or whole class activity.

Need daubers? Grab some here: Bingo Daubers from Amazon!

26–Memory

Choose five to ten pictures and matching letters. Place each card face down. In pairs, students take turns to flip over two cards. Once they turn over a matching picture and letter, they get to keep these cards. The student with the most cards wins!

Or how about this great idea for letter memory using paper plates from FrugalFun4Boys!

27–The Name Game

Give your children a notecard with their name spelled clearly on it. Say, “Whose name has a __ in it?” and all children with that letter in their name have to do something silly, like stand on one foot or touch their tongue to their nose, etc.

And Here is a Great Bonus: If you aren’t quite sure about our Sound Wall resource yet, please read Making the Most of Your Sound Wall! This resource is manageable and user-friendly and naturally lends itself to student differentiation. If you are a paid premium member, you can also find this resource BUNDLED within the premium website! Because this is a bundled resource within premium means it is not available to our free members. So be sure to become a premium member to gain access!

WRITTEN BY – SUZANNE KELLEY

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