A successful reading program starts out with learning to identify the letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds. The focus should be primarily on the lower case letters as these are most widely used in the English language, as opposed to the upper case ones. The first step consists of introducing first letter sounds, implying those at the beginning of the word. The emphasis of this approach is on the actual phonetic sound which is made by the letter as opposed to just the name of the letter being introduced. The materials needed are as follows.
Letter bags for each letter of the lower case alphabet filled with objects corresponding to each of these 26 letters
Letter pictures-pictures made out of each lower case letter of the alphabet
Sandpaper letters-letters made out of sandpaper or other tactile materials, for children to trace with their finger
Letter songs in order to reinforce each letter of the alphabet (Sesame Street has put out a CD to this effect (Sings Sesame Street the Alphabet )
Letter dictionary to color
Printing worksheets for each of the 26 lower case letters
Phonics worksheets for each of the 26 lower case letters
Materials like these can be downloaded at several educational sites. One of my favorite is the Sesame Street website at www.pbskids.org/sesame, particularly for the alphabet coloring dictionary sheets.
In order to instruct the letters and sounds in a way which is motivating to children, take interesting, fun, and colorful items out of the letter bag, corresponding to the letter which you are introducing on that day. Take these items beginning with the lower case letter such as “b” written on the bag out one by one, and say their name, emphasizing their beginning sound.(book, ball, boat, bagel etc..)
Next ask the child to show you a certain object to place back in the bag(Show me something you eat that begins with the b sound)This encourages them to focus the correct item ,in this case the bagel. Consequently this activity and the letter game are both excellent for building vocabulary along with word pronunciation skills.
The letter game or movable alphabet teaches children to make words, using the skill of manipulating the letters. This game instructs children in placing sounds together in order to form words, and as a result it can be employed to teach children spell. This movable alphabet is used to encourage children to place letters together in order to introduce the exploration of various combinations of sounds. It can be used as soon as three first sounds have been introduced: a,b,c (ba, cab)- The word ba can be explained as the sound in which a sheep makes.
Each time you introduce a new letter add it to the letter game. Take out no more than 7 letters, which the child has already learnt. Review each one’s sounds using pictures and or picture letters before placing them down on the floor.
Say the word such as cab and sounds it out slowly as the child picks out the appropriate letters. This activity enables the visual learner to see if each word looks correct. You may also assist the child who is creating the word by pointing to the letter picture or even the actual letter associated with that sound. The child places letters in the correct order to form the word which you have chosen. In the beginning the adult will need to assist with this segmentation, especially in terms of the correct placement of the letters. Ask the auditory learner to say each letter as the word is being spelt. When they finish a word have them say the word out loud.
There is also a second component of the letter game in which the children close their eyes while the instructor makes a two or three letter word using this movable alphabet. The children sound out the word with the help of a hint (This is what we wear on our head to keep it warm…hat) This exercise is referred to as blending.
The sounds of the lower case letters can be taught in alphabetical order. However there are a few exceptions to this. Certain letters should be left to the end, after the letter Z is taught. These include d, n, k & q. The reason for this is as a result of the similarity in sound between b and d, and m and n. By teaching these pair of sounds simultaneously before the first one is automatic, this may create confusion for the child. Since the letters c, k and q are all identical in sound this may cause some confusion as well. The c sound is the most readily recognized by young children. The vowel sounds other than “a” are taught last as they are the most difficult for children to acquire.
Another means of teaching upper case letters starts with the ones which resemble the lower case, as well as the first letter of the child’s name. To teach the actual names of the letters emphasize how in many cases the letter name starts with its own sound. The letter B starts with the b sound-bee) Once the child has adequately acquired all of the sounds of the letters, and can match the upper case with the lower case letters they are then ready to go onto the next level which consists of reading phonetic story books.