4 Simple Ways to Set Up Your Letter and Sound Recognition Lessons in Kindergarten
I’ve recently started small Kindergarten alphabet intervention groups, and we are hard at work learning letters. Let me emphasize “hard” and “work” here because those two words are an understatement. Setting up effective letter and sound recognition lessons has been a challenge. These K babies are precious, but remembering letter sounds is not a priority. One little person is worried about a lost cat. Another wants me to remember how absolutely cute she looks each day. My personal favorite is the kid who reminds us daily when we review letters that “B” is also for “beer.” I’m glad he doesn’t know that “B” is also for the “berries” that I froze to blend up with my wine. But I digress. I’m really here to share my alphabet intervention group lesson ideas with you, not my frozen wine recipe. That’s in one of my Instagram reels.
Kindergarten Is No Joke!
Full transparency: I have never taught a class of Kindergarten students. I have worked with intervention groups of them both virtually and in person since 2019. While that doesn’t make me a K veteran, it does remind me that Kinder teachers are absolute rock stars. On the day I had to search for one who got lost going to the bathroom right down the hall, this veteran fourth grade teacher realized that every early elementary classroom needs its own bathroom. I’ve also learned that activities in small groups have to change frequently. Like every thirty seconds.
With those delicate attention spans in mind, I set up my lessons with multiple ways to teach one letter and sound. Here’s my list of activities:
Introduce the Letter.
There are multiple ways to do this. When I make my letter and sound recognition lessons, though, I stick to this particular routine. I show students the upper- and lower-case versions of the letter. I demonstrate the correct letter formation on a whiteboard. I have students write the letters in the air. I then distribute little hand mirrors so students can look at the placement of their lips and tongue when they make the letter’s sound. We touch our throats to see if we can feel our vocal cords vibrate when we make the sound. This tells us if the letter has a voiced or unvoiced sound. This multisensory approach to letter sounds really helps.
Choosing the Keywords
Once we use our senses to listen, see, and feel the letter’s sound, I then show pictures of items that start with the letter.
When I share items with students that start with a particular letter I am teaching, I make sure the sounds are pure. For instance, I introduce the letter T with a word like “tiger.” I avoid using words with blends like “tree” or “train.” Additionally, when I get to letter X, I use the ending sounds rather than throw out a word like “X-ray” or “xylophone.” I want to focus on the most common /ks/ sound of x that we hear at the ends of words like “fox,” “mix,” or “box.” I also avoid “soft c” and “soft g” for now.
When I introduce vowel sounds, I make sure I only find items that have the short sound. Let’s not muddy the water with the long sound just yet! I use “iguana” for “i” rather than “ice cream.” I also avoid r-controlled sounds. I would use “octopus” for “o” rather than “orange.” Once students have a solid understanding of short vowel sounds, I can add alternative sounds later.
I created a set of foldable booklets to help students match letters and their initial sounds. You can grab them here if you wish.
Write the Letter
Once students can match the letter and sound, I have them practice the correct letter formation. I have them write upper- and lower-case letters separately. I always use white boards or paper with the dotted line in the center. Some people refer to these lines as the head, waist, and feet lines. Other programs have their own trademarked way of referring to these lines. Be sure to use the vocabulary your division teaches so your kids won’t be confused.
Our program has us teach the letters in this order: T, B, F, M, N, I, U, C, O, A, G, D, S, E, R, P, J, L, H, K, V, W, X, Y, Z, and Qu. This order matches letters that are formed similarly. I always remind kids to start at the top for letters that touch the top line. Kids should start rounded letters at the center line and go counterclockwise.
Review with Games
Knowing the attention span of your average four to five year old, the above activities will definitely fill one day’s worth of instruction. I review previously taught letters and sounds each day with flashcards and picture cues. I do like to spend a bit of time on a game or two. Check out the following blog articles for alphabet review game ideas:
Need the Letter and Sound Recognition Lessons Set Up for You?
This alphabet bundle of products has digital slide presentations about each letter. It has worksheets for practice as well as digital activities for letter and sound recognition. Each letter is represented, and review is built right in.
Big Alphabet Instructional Bundle of Resources
I also like to use digital and PDF memory match games with students to help them review letters and sounds plus exercise their working memory. Additionally, kids love my board games as well. Check out this bundle for premade games.
Hopefully, these ideas will get you started and maximize your intervention or small group lessons with little learners who are having a tougher time learning their letters. Happy teaching!