Build the bridge between sounds and letters
This is Step 4 in our series of posts about how to teach your child to read. This step is perhaps the most important step. In this step parents will learn how to build the bridge between the sounds in words and the letters that represent those sounds.
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Use your letters!
In steps 1 and 2 of this series you introduced your child to sounds in words and to letters and the sounds they make. In Step 3, you used small objects like pennies to represent the sounds in words. And now you will use letters to represent their sounds in words. You and your child will land right on the doorstep of reading!
Chomping at the bit to learn to read
Step 4 should be easy if you have done your work learning about sounds in words and alphabet letters and their sounds in Step 1 and Step 2 of this series. Most children are chomping at the bit to read real words.
You can review Step 3 here. It seems so logical, but these steps are often skipped in the classroom. Students are just expected to know how to sound out words and read them. Many students just cannot automatically do that. Letters, to some students, are still a bit confusing.
You will need a sound board
For Step 4 you will need: a sound board, dry erase markers for writing letters on the sound boards, and I would strongly recommend investing in some magnetic letters. The magnetic letters I use are similar to these from Lakeshore. Magnetic letter sets can also be found in dollar sections of big box stores. You can alternate using magnetic letters and writing the letters. Make a sound board by following these easy steps:
How to make a sound board to use to teach your child to read
Sound boards are helpful tools to teach your child to read. First, children use sound boards to hear and identify the sounds in words. They slide small objects like pennies into a taped off box for each sound they hear in a word. Then, as they master letters and their sounds, children fill in the boxes with the letters that make up words.
Gather your materials
First, you will need a magnetic dry erase white board approx. 11″ x 14″ like this one from Amazon.com Premium Magnetic 11’’ x 14’’ Small Dry Erase Board. Markers come with this white board, but you can also buy them separately. This size dry erase white board will work well for a sound board.
Next you will need some kind of colored tape to make the sound boxes on the board. I just use blue painter’s masking tape, but some of the sound boards in our classroom use decorative tape like this colored tape from Amazon.com.
Tape off your sound boxes
Now, you will want to make taped-off boxes on your board. These will be your sound boxes (see image of completed sound board as a guide). You will need three boxes outlined by tape. Use a straight edge to eye where you want to place your tape on the board. I draw lines with my dry erase marker along my straight ege for where I want to place my tape. Make two horizontal lines going all the way across the white board as shown in the image of the completed sound board. Cut tape as needed. Adhere tape horizontally to white board and smooth down with finger. Leave some white space on top and on bottom of the board to store letters.
Measure and cut four equal strips of tape to make the vertical sides of the boxes (see image of completed sound board). Do not to overlap the vertical pieces of tape with the horizontal tape–that can make the tape peel up over time. There is no exact measurement for how big the sound boxes should be. I try to make them big enough so that I can fit two magnetic letters into a box. Also, make them big enough so that a child can comfortably write letters in the boxes.
Complete and ready to use
Your sound board is now complete. Quite a simple project, and you will use it a lot in the next part of the 10 Most important simple steps to teach your child to read.
How to make a sound board
Sound boards are helpful tools to teach your child to read. First, children use it to hear the sounds in words. They use small objects like pennies to slide into a taped off box for each sound they hear in a word. Then, as they master letters and their sounds, they fill in the boxes with the letters that make up words.
- Magnetic dry erase white board
- Blue masking tape or other decorative tape that can be removed if necessary
- Dry erase markers in various colors
- Set of lowercase magnetic letters that contains at least 2 of each letter
- Small movable objects like pennies or game board moving pieces for practicing the sounds in words
- Straight edge
- Obtain a magnetic dry erase white board approx. 11" x 14" and several dry erase markers in various colors. Red and blue work best.
- Obtain blue painter's tape or other decorative tape.
- Use a straight edge to line up blue painter's tape or other decorative tape on the white board to make two horizontal lines going all the way across the white board as shown in the image of completed sound board.
- Cut tape as needed. Adhere tape horizontally to white board and smooth down with finger. Leave some white space on top and on bottom to store letters.
- Eye measure and cut 4 equal strips of tape to make the vertical sides of the boxes. See image of completed sound board. Try not to overlap the vertical pieces of tape with the horizontal tape--that can make the tape peel up over time.
- Now your sound board is complete and you and your child can use it with pennies to practice identifying the sounds in short words, or with magnetic letters or written letters to practice sounding out and reading words..
Teach your child to read
The whole point of the sound board and sound boxes is to demonstrate to the child that letters have names and letters have sounds and the sounds can be put together to make words. To demonstrate this, I place magnetic letters in the white space above the sound boxes on the sound board (the area above the taped areas). I first have the child tell me the name of the letter. Then, I slide that letter into a sound box and say the sound that letter makes. I tell the child that when the letter is up on top it is just a letter, but when it slides into the sound box it is a sound.
I show the child that I can slide the letter into any box and it will make the same sound. In this step the letters make their most common sounds. For example, “c” will make the “c” sound in “cat” and not the “c” sound in “race.” Practice this over and over with many letters. Let your child take over sliding the letters into the sound boxes and saying the sounds.
Lowercase letters will do
Use lowercase letters. That is how most words appear in books. If your child was only introduced to uppercase letters (capital letters), now introduce lowercase letters and match them up to their uppercase letters. Letters have different fonts and may look different from the way your child learned a letter. For example, some students are confused by the little hook at the bottom of the lowercase Q q. Just be prepared for that and come up with a simple explanation.
We will stop here
Step 4 of our most important steps to teach your child to read ends here. There is much more we could do, but we are keeping things simple. Now practice, practice, practice this step so it becomes automatic.
Have you tried my tips for teaching your child to read by using a sound board and magnetic letters? Let me know how it’s going!
Check out some of my other posts for more tips on teaching your child to read at home
For some tips on what to do to get your child ready to learn to read, check out Steps 1 & 2 of my series 10 most important simple steps to teach your child to read Steps 1 & 2.
If you would like to learn more about using a sound board to teach your child to identify the sounds that make up words, check out Step 3 of my series.
Awareness of the world around them helps children when they are learning to read. Learn some ways to increase your child’s level of awareness in Step 5 of my series.
Next, learn all about how to teach your child to read simple 3 letter words in Step 6.
Learn how to help your child read and retain sight words in Step 7
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