If you have a struggling reader, teach them how to read using sound cards. To master phonics letters and sounds, students need to see each unit individually. If they learn to recognize phonetic units on cards, they will begin to identify them in words. In this post, I discuss the exact sound units to introduce to beginning readers.
Create Sound Cards
Sound cards can be simple. You can write the sound units on flashcards and review them daily. Mix up the flashcards so the student doesn’t memorize the order.
Flashcards have a bad rep. But by definition, reading is a visual exercise. We don’t read with our eyes closed. We need VISUAL exposure to the units! As a teacher, you simply cannot escape writing the units down somewhere! Some programs proudly proclaim NO flashcards! But if you don’t write phonics letters and sounds on flashcards, you have to put them on a poster, or wall…and students can simply memorize their location. Flashcards are great, because you can mix them up; this way, the student won’t memorize the order.
What Phonics Letters and Sounds do I Teach?
If you have a beginning reader develop good habits when reviewing phonics letters and sounds. Focus on the five short vowels. Review the following short vowel sounds on cards:
a_, e_, i_, o_, u_
Short vowels make the following sounds:
a_ as in apple (ex. mat, sat, map)
e_ as in elephant (ex. pet, let, red)
i_ as in igloo (ex. hip, did, rim)
o_ as in octopus (ex. hop, pod, dot)
u_ as in up (ex. cup, tub, hum)
Introduce these phonics letters and sounds incrementally. For example, start with short a. Once your student masters short a, introduce short i. I usually skip short e until the struggling reader has mastered all the other short vowel sounds. Short e tends to be the hardest sound to say. Once your student masters short a and short i, introduce short o. Continue with this systematic method until your student knows all vowel sounds, including short e. Reading Elephant offers short vowel books.
Incorporate letter sounds that the student is weak in
If your student doesn’t know all letter sounds, write those on sound cards too. Oftentimes, kids struggle to read: b, d, p, w, x. Figure out which letter sounds your student needs work on. Review these phonics letters and sounds on cards too.
Hold continuous sounds
If your student is learning letter sounds and short vowels, focus on instilling good habits. Make sure he holds continuous sounds. What is a continuous sound? A continuous sound is a sound you can hold for a long time without distorting it. For example, /m/ is a continuous sound, because you can say “mmmmmmm” without distorting the sound. N, f, s, l, z, v and all short vowels are continuous sounds. Make sure your student holds these sounds. Why? If they learn to hold continuous sounds, they’ll start linking sounds together when reading. They’ll read more accurately and they can start reading short vowel books sooner.
Clip Stop Sounds
When reviewing phonics letters and sounds, make sure your student clips stop sounds. We cannot hold stop sounds for a long time. If we try, we inevitably distort the sound. For example, if we say/d/, we often add an “-uh.” This is a mistake. Make sure you clip the “-uh” component so your student doesn’t say “-uh.” You want your student to clip stop sounds and avoid saying “duh” guh” “buh”…etc. If your student hasn’t gotten in the habit of clipping stop sounds, they’ll read a word like “dog” as “duhoguh”—an indecipherable series of sounds.
What phonics letters and sounds do I teach after letter sounds and short vowels?
After letter sounds and short vowel sounds, teach consonant digraphs. What are consonant digraphs? Consonant digraphs are 2 or more letters that make one sound. For example, the following are consonant digraphs:
sh, th, ch, _tch, _ck, wh,_ng, _ing
Consonant digraphs make the following sounds:
sh as in shop
th as in bath
th as in that
ch as in chop
_tch as in patch
_ck as in kick
wh_ as in when
_ng as in song
_ing as in king
Of these, only sh and th are continuous sounds. The rest are stop sounds.
Up until this point, the sound cards might consist of: b, d, p, a, e, i, o, u, sh, th, ch, _tch, _ck, wh, _ng, _ing. Mix the sound cards up before each review. You don’t want the student to memorize the order of the sounds.
Reading Elephant will offer consonant digraphs books by the end of 2017. That way, your reader can master consonant digraphs. I’m very excited to offer the consonant digraph set. The short vowel set was created on a shoestring. The consonant digraph set has professional pictures!
Don’t make sound cards for blends
During reading, teach your student to read blends sound-by-sound. Don’t teach him to memorize blends. Thus, don’t make sound cards for consonant blends.
Next, make sound cards for long vowels
When your student masters letter sounds, short vowels, consonant digraphs and blends, it’s time to introduce long vowels. There are lots of long vowels. Start with the final e unit. Sound cards for final e look like the following:
a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e
Final e makes the following sounds:
a_e as in bake
e_e as in Pete
i_e as in bike
o_e as in hope
u_e as in cube and duke
Of these sounds, only e_e is continuous.
After final e, there are a variety of long vowel sounds that students need to learn. Here are some sample long vowel sounds:
ai, _ay, ee, ea, igh, ow
These long vowels make the following sounds:
ai as in tail
_ay as in bay
ee as in tree
ea as in speak
igh as in light
ow as in snow
Again, of these, only the long e sound can be held for a long time. Make sure your student says long vowel sounds quickly as not to distort the sound.
Students also need sound cards for r-controlled sounds:
or, ar, er, ir, ur
R-controlled makes the following sounds:
or as in fork
ar as in dark
er as in clerk
ir as in swirl
ur as in curl
R-controlled sounds are not continuous sounds.
Other vowel digraphs sounds
There are a few other vowel digraph sounds students need to know. Here are a few of them:
oo, ou, ow
These make the following sounds:
oo as in moon
ou as in found
ow as in gown
oo is a continuous sound. Treat ou and ow as stop sounds.
There are more sounds, but the above phonics letters and sounds provide a good foundation
Of course, there are more phonetic units students need to know. However, the above units can provide a good reading foundation. Give your student opportunities to practice the units in books. Reading Elephant offers short vowel books, and will soon offer consonant digraph books. Eventually, Reading Elephant will have a complete phonics library!
K-2 readers need sound cards
As a parent or educator, you can stay informed on what sound units your student is working on. If you are the parent, ask the teacher exactly what units your student knows, and what units your student is currently working on. As an educator, make a running list of sound units your class has reviewed. Make sure you review sound cards with students at least 2x a week, though daily review is best.
For more phonics books, check out: The Printable Phonics Books Library.