How to Teach Phonics to Preschoolers in Any Classroom

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Preschoolers are like sponges, so this is a great age to introduce them to phonic sounds for learning how to read. They like to have fun by playing phonics games to assist with phonemic awareness. Incorporate as many of the senses as possible, so that the child can make the phonics a part of them. A strong phonic foundation helps develop a better reader.

Focus on Sounds

When teaching phonics, focus on the sounds that each letter makes, instead of the name of the letter. While some letter names automatically translate into the sound the letter makes, such as “b” says /b/, others are more confusing, such as “c” says /k/. Children just beginning to learn their phonics are often confused by the letter names, and it can take them a little longer to learn the sounds. As the child becomes more confident in his sounds, the letter names will quickly come.

Play games that focus on the beginning sounds, such as “I Spy” with objects around the environment. Introduce objects by emphasizing the beginning sound. “This is a b-b-b-ball.” Sort or match pictures based on their beginning sound. Have the child collect pictures or objects that begin with the same sound as her name. Read books that focus on a particular sound, but try to read it using the phonic sound, instead of using the letter name.

Develop Awareness

Help the child develop an ear for phonics by doing phonemic awareness activities. These can be as simple as reading rhyming books and teaching nursery rhymes. Read poetry by children’s favorites, such as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky. Sing rhyming songs, such as “Down By the Bay”. Leave out the ending rhyme to see if the child can guess it. Make up lists of rhyming words and get silly, then have the children predict their own rhymes.

Practice oral blending by isolating sounds in a word for the child to guess. An example would be, “What word is /k/-/a/-/t/?” Take it a step further and ask the child what the sounds are in the word “cat”. This will allow the child to eventually sound out and phonetically spell words.

Visual Recognition

Maria Montessori always said that the hand was the direct link to the mind, so she taught phonic sounds with her sandpaper letters. As the child traces the letter, they say its sound. This process is repeated time and time again so the child can internalize the sound. Usually about three sounds are introduced at once, in what is called the first period. Later, in what is known as the second period, they are asked to choose the focus sound out of a group of sounds. Finally, the child is asked to name each sound while pointing to it. An example of the three periods is as follows:

  1. First period: “This is /m/. This is /s/. This is /t/.”
  2. Second period: “Point to /m/. Point to /s/. Point to /t/.”
  3. Third period: “What is this sound?”

Phonic sounds can also be introduced through other tactile methods at first, such as by tracing, painting, and by gluing something that starts with that letter on to a print out of that particular letter. An example of this would be, gluing macaroni to the letter M or beads to the letter B.

Make numerous cards with lower case letters printed on them. Have the children go around the classroom labeling objects with their beginning sounds. They can even label other people in the room including each other!

Creating a Good Foundation

When teaching phonics to your class, focus on the phonic sounds, instead of the letter names, as you are working on phonemic awareness activities. Then move into visual recognition of the phonic sounds as you incorporate them into reading activities. The more senses involved, the more likely the child is to learn them. The stronger the foundation, the better a reader the child will become.

This post is part of the series: Preschool Beginning Reading Tips for Teachers and/or Parents

In this series, you will find great tips and suggestions on how to get started reading in the preschool classroom or even at home. You will find tips on phonemic awareness and development, how to develop reading skills through games and fun activities, and there is even a great book review!

  1. Getting Preschoolers to Read: Tips and Ideas!
  2. Preschool Phonic Activities to Engage Your Class!