My daughter has recently started school. From day one she got straight into it and wants to read and write like “a big girl” yesterday. There’s no slowing her down. Since I don’t have time to sit with her for hours on end each day, I decided to duplicate some of the resources I’ve seen her teachers use at school. One of those is this simple letter sound game.
Let me talk you through my version of this classic and give you some tips on how to make it your own and get the most out of it.
How to Make your own Letter Sound Game
The concept of this game is pretty simple: you write all the letters of the alphabet on little cards (we used cereal box cardboard) and find items from around the house whose beginning sounds match those letters. Put them together in a little drawstring bag (see how you can easily make one yourself here) and you’re ready to go.
While the concept in itself is pretty simple, as I was putting this game together I had a number of questions that I needed to get answers to in order to actually turn this into a meaningful literacy resource. You see, when it comes to supporting my children in their educational development, I am way out of my comfort zone. I have no experience, talent nor special interest in education which is why I’ve had to ask my daughter’s teacher’s more than once to explain me a thing or two!
So if you’re a regular everyday parent like me, just starting out on this whole primary school journey, the following points might be worth looking into:
How do they write and/or teach writing letters in your part of the world?
I grew up learning to write in cursive. So when my daughter started practising writing letters, we often got confused and I had to double check with her teacher to get the right information and make sure we were on the same page.
What letter sounds are taught where you live?
My husband and I for example would say ‘c’ sounds like ‘see’, but my in my daughter’s class it’s like the ‘c’ from ‘cat’. Again, we were utterly confused and had to check with the teacher (several times) again. (They’ve been very gracious even though I was stalking them for a while there!)
In finding items to match the letters it took us a while to get it right so it would match what my daughter was learning at school. The ‘g’ for example sounded more like the ‘g’ from ‘guinea pig’ then the ‘g’ from ‘giraffe’.
If you’re unsure, test on your child and double check with their teacher and you should be fine. Or if you’re home schooling, I’m sure there’s plenty of info on line or to be found within your network.
Here’s what our alphabet ended up looking like:
a (ant), b (banana), c (car), d (duck), e (elephant), f (fence), g (guinea pig), h (hook), i (iguana), j (jar), k (koala), l (ladybug), m (motorbike), n (needle), o (octopus), p (pig), q (question mark), r (rock), s (star), t (turtle), u (umbrella), v (velcro), w (watch), x (xylophone), y (yarn), z (zebra)
Finding a suitable item for each letter of the alphabet was quite the challenge. In trying to help me, my husband kept suggesting items that our children didn’t know the name of, couldn’t pronounce or were safety hazards (!). We had a few good laughs about coming up with a version of the letter sound game that no kid would ever enjoy. I guess there’s a reason why most of these games stick to images of food, animals and toys!
How to Play with your Letter Sound Game
Interesting question! In my humble opinion there is no real right or wrong, it’s all about play and exploring. Along the way children will pick up and learn what they need to anyway. Having said that, we’ve been experimenting and changing things up a bit just to keep it interesting. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Focussing on small groups of sounds at a time:
I’ve been allowed to observe in my daughter’s classroom for a couple of days and noticed that the teacher would play this game in small groups of children. They call it the ‘treasure bag’ and it only contains a few letters and a bunch of items, preferring to focus on learning only a few sounds at a time. The letters are out on the carpet and the children get to pick something from the bag without looking, then they need to put it next to the letter that matches the beginning sound. There are a few rounds so that each child has had a couple of turns practising 5 or so letter sounds.
Self directed learning:
At home I set up the tray like in the image below. I let my daughter work on it in her own time, which I guess is more of a Montessori approach. She usually starts with picking the items she knows the beginning sounds and letters of and then slowly works her way through the rest, asking me to come and check every so often. (This is a great activity while I’m making dinner and she’s working at the kitchen table.)
Play the game backwards:
Sometimes we play it together and I challenge my daughter to play the game backwards. I show her an item and ask her to find the first letter of that word. Sometimes we have to sound the word out to get there.
Add more items or change them up:
After a while they know the items and their letters by heart and the game stops being challenging. At this point we had a treasure hunt to find more items from around the house to match the letters. Now that was a lot of fun! And it gave me a great insight in exactly how much my daughter really ‘got’ the sound and letter.
Turn it into a race:
Leave it to my husband to turn things into a competition. But … it was fun. We divided the items and corresponding letters, put them in two bags and see who matched theirs the fastest. Considering we’re kind of new to the way of writing and sounding out words it was hard the first few times for us parents too. Which delighted our daughter to no end!
Get the letter sound game out at a play date:
In the image below you’ll see my daughter and a friend playing the letter sound game. It was great to see them collaborating and correcting each other along the way. They were very busy sounding out words and talking about what the letters look like (heads up: upside down letters can confuse children!).
Make it your own!
I’m sure you can come up with many versions of this popular classic literacy game. I believe learning should first of all be fun, especially since children seem to start ‘formal’ school at such a young age. And while I’ve always been slightly reluctant to be what I thought of as ‘teachery’ as a parent, one can not deny that children love to learn. Now that my daughter is in an obvious full ‘learn as much as I possibly can’ mode, it’s also up to me to play a part in facilitating creative learning opportunities to satisfy that hunger for knowledge.
If you have other ideas for this letter sound game, experiences, thoughts or anything else you’d like to share around fun learning, education at home or anything that touches on the subject, we would love to hear from you!
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