One of my favorite early literacy activities for preschoolers and early elementary ages are initial sound picture sorts. They are easy to put together, require little preparation, and extremely effective in helping students not only recognize the initial sound in a word but also correspond that sound to a letter.
This particular initial sound picture sort is a wonderful alphabet phonics game that can be done independently, once it is formally introduced.
Initial Sound Picture Sort for Preschool
After the targeted letters have been introduced and practiced, it is then appropriate to practice letter/sound differentiation by doing an initial sound picture sort. I used the phonics photo cards I shared in this post.
I begin by reviewing the targeted letters with the students and ask the students to name them. In the case of the above photo, the letters Cc, Dd, and Rr. I lay out the targeted letters on the floor or table. I then show the students a small stack of corresponding photos and explain to them that I need to match the first sound I hear in each word with the letter that makes that same sound. I posted about this idea more fully here. I demonstrate the first few photos, reiterating the initial sound and matching the phonics photo card with the matching letter, then I invite the students to help me. Once I am positive the students can make the matches on their own, I give them each their own pile of phonics photos to match.
Students are typically eager to sort their own stack of photos. Those who finish early will often offer to help other students who are struggling. Sometimes, students will notice mistakes that have been made and will correct them. For example, if a student notices that the “rain” card was placed under the letter Dd, instead of Rr, it is not uncommon for that student to pick up the card and place it appropriately under the letter Rr card.
In preschool, we do letter sorts almost on a weekly basis. Sometimes they involve upwards of ten to twelve letters, sometimes only two. This kind of picture sorting is an excellent way to reinforce phonemic awareness skills and other early literacy skills needed in learning how to read and write.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.