Initial sound object matching is one of my favorite phonics activities for beginning readers. I love it because it is tactile, and many students really respond well to tactile learning.
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One of the first steps in learning how to read is being able to hear and identify the initial sound in a word. Most children develop these skills between ages four and six, however some preschoolers as young as young as three can begin to identify initial sounds. To help children in identifying the beginning sound, add a tactile element. For example, allow the children to handle physical objects.
Children are automatically drawn to learning that encourages them to act.
What Makes Tactile Learning Different?
Tactile learning is often referred to as hands-on learning, and remains a buzzword in the education field. This kind of learning gives children opportunities to actively engage in the learning process by doing something instead of simply listening to the information fed to them. Tactile learning can be most effective, because children, especially preschoolers, use all five senses to learn.
Imagine trying to teach a child to tie his shoes through demonstration alone; never allowing him to actually practice on his own. More than likely he will not be successful, and for good reason! Hands-on learning allows children to not only observe a process, but to also practice doing it, allowing them to gain mastery in skills that will make them more independent.
This is true of academic processes as well. The simple use of flash cards in front of a class of preschoolers will not teach letter identification as effectively as activities that require a hands-on experience. Examples in teaching letter identification include, but are not limited to, tracing sandpaper letters, making collage letters of beginning sounds, constructing letters, finding letters and sounds in books and environmental print, and of course, beginning sound objects.
Materials for Initial Sound Object Matching
- container for each focus letter
- objects beginning with each focus letter sound
Initial Sound Object Matching Activity
Begin by reminding each child of the names and sounds of the focus letters. I like to use this set of alphabet sounds teaching tubs because all the objects come in a perfect sized storage tub and a great storage rack to keep all those tubs organized. You can also collect items from around the house or find some from the dollar store.
Before we begin the matching activity, I always allow the children to handle the objects. They will play with them and make stories which ends up reinforcing print concepts. This is good because often they incorporate the beginning sounds into their play and it helps them focus during the directed activity. During this time, it is important to have each child name every object to make sure they know all the names.
I then put the tubs, which are labeled with the letters, on the preschool table and the preschoolers helped me set out all the items, randomly, on the table.
For my preschoolers that struggled, I invited them to find a single item that interested them.
Me: What item are you holding?
Student: a rainbow.
Me: That’s correct. What sound do you hear at the beginning of /rrr/ainbow?
Me: What letter says /r/?
And then the child puts the rainbow into the appropriate tub.
Me: What sound do you hear at the beginning of /rrr/ainbow?
Me: I hear /r/ at the beginning of /rrr/ainbow. Do you hear /r/ at the beginning of /rrr/ainbow?
Some of my students needed guidance for each and every item they selected, and that is just fine. Working in such a way with the children gives them the practice and scaffolding they need to later identify letter names and sounds on their own, as well as build their sorting skills. But because of the tactile element, this kind of object sorting is really beneficial to children as it helps them connect their current knowledge to a new skill.