Preschool age is a period of rapid changes in terms of language and speech development. As a child’s vocabulary is growing, the semantic and syntactic structure of their language is becoming more complex. A three-year-old preschooler ought to have a vocabulary of around 1000 words. At that age, preschoolers are beginning to understand and use the relationship between letters and sounds and start to rely on their language and speech to express their needs, thoughts, and emotions.
This skill becomes especially important as children become readers. Phonics, or the idea that letters represent the sounds of spoken language, requires letter recognition, sound recognition, and their associations. This means that a child must recognize letters when reading words and then make their corresponding sounds to read words and sentences.
Activities to Teach Preschoolers Phonics Easily
Phonics instruction helps preschoolers learn the relationship between the letters (written language) and sounds (spoken language). There are a variety of creative activities to teach phonics to preschoolers in an engaging way. These activities can be used both in the classroom and at home to help preschoolers learn and practice the connections between letters and their sounds. Furthermore, these activities can be adjusted to meet different needs and levels of development of each preschool child learning to read.
Here are eight creative phonics challenges that will get children excited about learning and help them discover language.
- Play “I Spy” Letters
A hunt for letters is an original and fun way to familiarize the preschoolers with phonics. Gather old books, magazines, and newspapers and dive together into “I Spy” phonics activities – pick one letter and ask the child to spot everything in a book or magazine that has the same phonetic sound. Then cut those items out and ask the child to make flash cards together with you. This will allow the child to have the visual of the word along with the letter he/she is learning.
- Read Phonics Books
Many learning programs include phonic books that are a great resource for readers-beginners. Help the child tackle letter sounds and visual of the words by flipping through the pages and reading each word together. As the child learns to read more and more words, his confidence will rise and he will look forward to getting his hands on more books, which is a habit that will promote a lifetime love of reading.
- Write Letters on the Board
Write some letters on the board. Then read them out loud, one word at a time and ask the children to try and spell words only using the letters written on the board. Encourage them to think of as many words as possible. However, make sure to stop after each word to write the correct spelling on the board, so you can go through them repeatedly, spelling each word.
- Spell Words Phonetically
While the children practice their writing, spell words for them phonetically. Make sure to sound out every letter so they can write letters for themselves. For example, for the word Cat, sound out ‘cuhh’ so the child writes letter C, then ‘aah’ for A and so on.
- Play Alphabet Ball Game with Preschoolers
Use outdoor play time to teach children phonics. “Alphabet Game” is a multi-layered game that can teach children letters, sounds, and words while having fun and burning their energy.
Alphabet Ball Game Rules
- You call out a letter and the child must respond with a word that begins with that letter.
- After that, you throw the ball to the child.
- When the child catches the ball, he/she calls out the next letter.
- When you respond with an appropriate word, the child throws the ball back to you and so on.
- To make the game more challenging, create certain rules, such as that the same word or letter cannot be repeated.
- Play Online Games Together
Research suggests that it is the nature of the screen time rather than the length that matters. In other words, instead of worrying about how much screen time is too much, parents and teachers should encourage children to engage in hi-tech activities that will promote learning, imaginative expression and creativity.
There are many online phonics games for preschoolers that can help them learn and understand the relationship between written language (the letters) and spoken language (sounds). Some of these fun phonics games are:
– Matching the rhyming words – children look at pictures and listen to words to find rhyming pairs
– Naming the vowel – children must sort out vowels to unlock the next level in the game
– Letter sounds match-up – kids focus on letters and the sounds these letters make.
These and other online phonics games are a fun and engaging way to help young learners learn and master phonics.
- Two Sounds Activity
This activity is a great way to practice sound distinction. Write two words that represent the two different sounds, e.g., PEN and HEN and show them pictures that represent those words. Then ask the children to sort those words under the appropriate column by marking an ‘X’ under the correct column.
- Missing Sound
Present an image on the board and write all but one of its sounds. For example, place a picture of a fish and write “ish” beside the picture. Ask the preschoolers to provide the missing sound, not the letter. To make this game more interesting, you can organize it as a group activity/contest.
To teach phonics to preschoolers, read aloud to them. Choose books that the child finds interesting and reread them often. Also, you can boost comprehension by asking the child questions such as “What did he/she mean by that?” or “Why did you think that happened?”
If a child stumbles on a word while reading, encourage them to sound it out and repeat. If they still can’t do it, sound out the word for them so they don’t get overwhelmed and frustrated.
Phonics is understanding the relationship between sounds and letters, offering the beginning readers the strategies they need to sound out the words with the main aim of good comprehension of language. However, in order to understand what they read, children need to be able to read automatically and phonics enables that process.
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