Ten Fun In-Class Letter-Sound Correspondence Activities
When teaching students how to read, it’s important they learn how to “crack the code,” AKA match the letters of the alphabet to the sounds they produce. This is known as letter-sound correspondence, a key component of the alphabetic principle and an integral part of learning how to read. The alphabetic principle is the idea that “letters, and groups of letters, match individual sounds in words,” and it is a necessary step in learning how to read both familiar and unfamiliar words.
The ability to associate sounds with letters is an essential early phonics skill learned through explicit teaching and practice…lots of practice. Phonics knowledge is important for developing accurate and, ultimately, automatic word identification skills. Students arrive at the classroom with a huge variety of experiences and prior knowledge and, as an educator, it is important to try and meet the needs of every student—regardless of their skill level. This can be a tough task to balance, especially when some students might be further behind than others. How can teachers help students build this early foundational reading skill, while also providing adequate support to students of all skill levels?
We’ve compiled a list of 10 in-class activities to help students develop their phonics skills while having fun and remaining engaged with the class.
Letter-Sound Correspondence Activities Backed by Research
1. Missing letters in rhyming words
This activity implements consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, which help build the foundation for students’ phonic knowledge.
- First, display two pictures of rhyming CVC words (e.g. Dog and log)
- Next, place either the word ending (e.g. _og) or the word beginning (e.g. lo_) underneath the pictures, labeling them and emphasizing either the first or last consonants
- Present a letter to the students and have them point to the picture that starts (or ends) with that letter
- Have students make the sound and write the letter to complete the word, air-write the letter, or trace the letter shape on a card
- Repeat with additional pairs of rhyming CVC words
2. Missing letters with non-rhyming words
With the same structure as the previous exercise, teachers will present students with images of CVC non-rhyming words (ex. Cat, map, ten, etc.) with the initial or final consonant sound missing (e.g. _at/ca_, _ap/ma_, _en/te_, etc.). Students will then say the initial or final consonant sound and fill in the blank with the correct letter.
3. Letter tiles
For this activity, you’ll choose a word ending to give to your students (e.g. _at) and provide them with a bag filled with letter tiles that could work as the first consonant. Have the students pull a letter tile from the bag, place it in the blank spot, and read the word using the “blending” strategy. Blending is when one reads a word from left to right, linking each letter or group of letters to their corresponding sound.
To make this activity a little more fun, award students with points or stickers for each new word they create. For extra practice, ask students to write the words themselves, saying each sound as they write each letter.
4. Letter dice
Use or create letter dice with one letter on each side. Distribute the dice to pairs of students, as well as cards with different words on them. The students will then take turns rolling the die, naming the letter and its sound, and then pairing it with a picture that begins or ends with that sound. This activity continues until all of the cards have been paired with a letter.
For added practice, this is a great activity to add in words from other lessons. By taking vocabulary words from students’ science or social studies units, they get extra practice in letter-sound correspondence as well as other subjects.
5. CVC word bingo
Provide each student with a bingo board, each square containing a consonant letter. Show them a picture of a word, saying the word out loud. Students then place a chip on the letter that makes the initial sound in the word. Once they have earned bingo, they should name each letter covered, as well as the sound it makes.
6. Around the classroom
Label items around the classroom (e.g. map, fan, pen, bag, rug, etc.) with a consonant missing. Provide each student with letter cards and ask them to walk around the room, complete each word they find, and say the words out loud or write them down on a worksheet.
7. Recess time phonics
Letter-sound correspondence can be extended to the playground at recess, during P.E. class, or even just move class time outside. Have students use chalk to write letters inside a hopscotch pattern on the pavement. As they jump on each letter, have them say the sound that matches, or even say a word that starts with that letter.
8. Fun with shaving cream and sandpaper
Print out or write large letters on pieces of paper and hand them out to students. Provide them with shaving cream, and have students trace over each letter while saying the sound that matches. Alternatively, have students write letters on pieces of sandpaper. Using their pointer finger, they can trace the letter while saying the sound out loud. This is a great activity for students who are tactile learners.
9. Letter-Sound Correspondence Art
To encourage students to practice a variety of skills along with reading, collaborate with the art instructor to use letters and sounds in an art project. For example, have students draw or paint the first letter of their name using primary colors, or what they’ve learned about perspective in art class. Then, students can present their work to the class by showing their art piece, stating their name, the first letter of their name, and the sound that letter makes.
10. Objects in a bag
The teacher takes a paper bag, a box, or a cloth sack and fills it with a variety of objects. Pass the bag around the class in a circle, having each student reach in and take out a random object. Have the student name the object out loud, say the beginning sound of the word, and name the letter that it begins with.
Letter-sound correspondence is one of the basic building blocks to learning literacy and, as you can see, there are many ways to practice associating sounds with letters in ways that are fun, engaging, and educational. By incorporating a wide variety of activities when teaching literacy, teachers can target all types of learning styles (tactile, visual, auditory, etc.) and, thus, support students at a multitude of skill levels.
By having students repeatedly “crack the code” of letter-sound correspondence, the process of reading and decoding words begins to become automatic. This is one of the foundational components of the science of reading, helping students develop their phonemic awareness and phonics skills. Take a look at our blog post about how the human brain learns to read to learn more about the research that makes up the foundation of literacy.
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