Teach your child to sound out words using sound boards and pennies.
This is Step 3 in our series of posts on how to teach your child to read. We want to help parents help their children and we want to make it as simple as possible. Once your child knows most alphabet letters and letter sounds, teach your child how to sound out words. The best way to do this is to make a sound board. Surprisingly, this step does not involve letters at all.
What is a sound board?
A sound board is board that uses small objects that slide into boxes to teach children how to sound out words.
To start, make a sound board by drawing with a pen or marker on a piece of paper, a small white board, or a small chalk board. I prefer a small white board since later on in teaching your child to read you will want to write letters in the boxes with a dry-erase marker. On the “board,” draw three equal- sized boxes with marker or tape off boxes with blue painters tape or decorative tape.
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
- Small movable objects like pennies, poker chips, Legos or game board moving pieces for practicing the sounds in words
- Set of magnetic letters which you will eventually use to help bridge into reading words using the sound board. Letters should be lowercase with at least 2 of each letter.
- 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, poker chips, game pieces, Legos, or any small objects to practice identifying the sounds in short words. Eventually you will substitute in magnetic or written letters for the pennies.
Use small objects like pennies, game pieces, or Legos as moving pieces to slide in to the boxes. Be aware that Legos can be distracting–for obvious reasons! The sound board and pennies act as visuals for sounding out words.
Next, explain that when the penny is next to the box, it is just a penny. But when it slides into a box, it makes a sound. Then show your child how this works.
Then, say a sound in a word and slide a penny into the box. Say a word like “me” that has two sounds in it–the sound of m and the sound of e. Say “mmm” and slide a penny into the first box on the left. Then say “eee” and slide a penny into the second box from the left. After this, use a finger and run it under the pennies left to right as if reading the word “me” and say “me.”
This step helps your child learn the fundamentals of reading by hearing and identifying the sounds in words without the complication of letters. The pennies in the boxes represent the sounds in short two or three sound words. In this step, focus is on the sounds in words, not the spelling. There is plenty of time for spelling later!
This step is crucial to teach some children to read. Children with learning differences or who might not be developmentally ready to read will benefit from this step. It prepares children for the idea of reading from left to right and for sounding out words.
Finally, practice this step over and over with any two or three sound word. Step 3 in our series 10 most important simple steps to teach your child to read eases the reader into reading without overwhelming them with the rules of spelling and the “rule breaker” words that are so common in English.
In the next step in this series, Step 4, parents will teach children to use letters with the sound boards. In the meantime, keep practicing with the pennies. But get ready to read!
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.
- Step 4 in the series teaches parents how to make a sound board and how to introduce letters to go along with the sounds in words.
- 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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