Phonics instruction that young learners encounter in school can unfortunately be repetitive, systematic, and downright drab. Many phonics programs that schools use to teach reading and writing acquisition are prescribed—meaning that they follow a specific, almost formulaic pattern for everyday instruction. While these programs help students memorize and familiarize themselves with letter/sound patterns, they often fail to spark imagination, creativity, and engagement. With this in mind, parents can supplement their child’s formal phonics instruction with several different activities that also allow for some fun at the same time.
“I Spy Collage”
To help children make connections between letters and their corresponding sounds, parents can use old magazines for letter/sound inspiration.
- Allow children to choose a letter of the alphabet.
- Using craft scissors and adult supervision, children should skim through the magazine to snip out photos of objects that begin with that phoneme or sound.
- After snipping a solid collection of images that begin with specific sounds, children can then organize the magazine clippings into numerous different categories.
- On one day, ask your child to sort images of vowel sounds.
- Then ask your child to sort images into long and short vowel sounds.
- On another day, ask your child to organize clippings in alphabet form.
- As an extension, parents can help children come up with a picture story using the various magazine images. Children can then glue the clippings down and have a visual short story that represents their alphabet journey.
“Leap to the letter”
An engaging way to incorporate movement involves just a few household items.
- Using colored construction paper or card stock, write down different letters of the alphabet, one letter per piece of paper.
- Scatter the letter cards facedown around the room or backyard, making sure that the papers are trailing one another in stepping stone format. It will look like a giant game board trailing around the room.
- Using dice, ask your child to roll, count the number, then take that same number of hops onto the colored letter cards.
- Once they’ve taken the appropriate number of hops, ask him or her to turn over the letter card that they are standing on.
- Your child should then make that letter sound, as in /p/, for example.
- To extend the activity, challenge your child to find an item in the room that starts with the same sound.
- Want even more of a challenge? Use a small chalkboard or scratch paper to keep track of each “hopped” sound. Then help your child arrange those letters into sight words.
Swat the letter
This is another fun activity that requires very little prep time and minimal materials. What parents will need are plastic magnetic letters, a magnet board or refrigerator, and a fly swatter.
- Scramble the magnetic letters around the surface of the fridge in no particular pattern.
- As you call out sounds, your child will take the fly swatter and swat the letter that matches the sound that they heard.
- Parents can also increase the challenge by saying words or names, then asking the child to swat the beginning or ending sound of that word or name.