Welcome to the next post in the series, 3 Important Skills Needed for Reading. Please click here to read all the posts in the series so far. Today we’re going to talk about a more complicated term: phoneme. Specifically phoneme isolation.
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What is a Phoneme?
The smallest unit of sound in the spoken language is a phoneme. A phoneme can be created by one letter, such as b: /b/ or more than one letter sh: /sh/. Once a child begins to isolate, blend, segment, and manipulate sounds at the phoneme level, her literacy world begins to explode! You’ll see how in these next posts.
Phoneme (or Sound) Isolation:
Developmentally speaking, the best way to introduce phoneme isolation is:
- initial sound in a word- “What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word?”
- final sound-“What sound do you hear at the end of the word?”
- medial sound-“What sound do you hear in the middle of the word?”
When you examine kids’ spellings, this is the natural way they spell as they develop in their awareness of sounds. They start by writing initial consonants; so bed may first be spelled B. Then they may add the d to spell BD. And finally, BAD or BED for bed. To read more about the spelling progression of young children, you can purchase my book, Teaching Kids to Spell.
Playing with BEGINNING SOUNDS
Using Letter Sound Tubs
Montessori inspired me with her sound tubs, so I created a set of my own for use when I taught public school. Here are a couple of pictures of my sound tubs (nothing fancy):
I collected 6 objects for each letter of the alphabet. I had a few extra containers left over, so I also have a tub for ch, sh and th.
You can purchase your own set too, but I didn’t want to fork out the money. It was way cheaper to put them together myself. I collected objects from around the house and went shopping (craft stores, the $1 store & Goodwill worked very well for me!). Just recently, I noticed that Nicole @ The Activity Mom has a more efficient way to store her letter objects. I wish I’d seen her idea 6 years ago!
We even use our sound tubs to sort by more than one letter sound, like you see below.
With Reading the Alphabet, we sort picture cards by their beginning sounds in our pocket chart, like you see in the image below:
More Resources for Phoneme Isolation:
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- Learning the Alphabet, our newest ABC printable pack series, has alphabet cards in the bonus material. Plus, you’ll find some clip a sound cards for beginning sounds.
- Reading the Alphabet has picture cards for every letter of the alphabet in color OR black and white!
- Beginning and Ending Sound Listening Games– for kids who are ready to listen for both the beginning and ending sounds- FREE printable pack included!
- Letter Sounds Tic-Tac-Toe is a fun way to work on isolating the beginning sounds in words.
- Alphabet Scavenger Hunt with Beginning Sounds
- Write and Stick a Sound– this activity also incorporates the written letter and handwriting!
- Beginning, Middle, & Ending Sound Clip Cards – The Measured Mom
- The Same-Different Game from Playdough to Plato
And to keep prep time to zero, you can integrate phonemic isolation into everyday life as you live literacy together. For example, while getting your child dressed, you can say things like, “/s/ /s/ /s/ sock. That starts with the /s/ sound, just like your name /s/ /s/ /s/ Sam!”
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