If you have a Kindergarten student, you might wonder what she’s supposed to learn this year in reading. By the end of the year, what phonics sounds should your student know? In this post, I’ll outline Kindergarten phonics sounds in sequential order, the order they’re typically (but not always) taught in.
There are some differences in state and country standards, so keep in mind that your Kindergartener might need to learn some phonics sounds that are not outlined in this post. However, in general, most Kindergartners learn letter sounds, short vowels, consonant digraphs, consonant blends and (maybe even) silent e.
Kindergartners need to learn continuous letter sounds. These are sounds you can elongate without any sound distortion. For example, you can elongate /m/ as mmmmm without changing the sound in any way. Kindergartners should learn to hold continuous sounds for about 3 seconds. This will help them blend when reading words. Here are some other continuous sounds: a, e, f, i, l, n, o, r, s, u, v, z.
In addition, Kindergartners need to learn stop letter sounds. These are sounds that you must say quickly, as not to add an /uh/ at the end. For example, you should teach your Kindergartner to say /d/ not /duh/, /b/ not /buh/ and /c/ not /cuh/. If your student clips stop sounds (and eliminates that uh), she will be able to read words more accurately. Here are some other clip sounds: b, c, d, g, j, k, p, q, t, w, y
Introduce letter sounds 2-4 at a time. Make flashcards containing all the letter sounds your student has learned. Review them daily.
Make sure you teach one sound per letter. For example, for e just teach “eeeee” as in “met.” Don’t say, “Well e also says i sometimes and u sometimes and sometimes it’s silent.” All this additional information will only confuse your Kindergarten student. For now, just teach one sound per letter. She’ll learn all the additional sounds each letter makes later on when the time is right.
Teach the hard /c/ as in cat for “c,” and the hard /g/ as in goat for “g.”
DO NOT SAY LETTER NAMES. Contrary to everything in early literacy culture, letter names do not unlock the words and they may even delay reading. Teach your student letter names after she learns to decode words like: “ssss-aaaa-mmmm… sam!” “mmmm-oooo-mmmm….mom!”…etc. Stanislas Dehaene, a cognitive scientist and reading researcher, writes:
“Sometimes the child knows the names of letters (ay, bee, see, dee…). Unfortunately, this knowledge, far from being helpful, may even delay the acquisition of reading. To know that “s” is pronounced ess, “k” kay and i eye is useless when we try to read the word “ski.” Letter names cannot be assembled during reading- the hookup involves phonemes” (p. 200, taken from Reading in the Brain The New Science of How We Read).
Thus, focus on letter sounds.
Also, only teach short vowels in the beginning.
Your Kindergartner should learn and focus on short vowels until she completely masters them in both reading and spelling. Short vowels are all continuous sounds, so make sure she holds these sounds for a long time (about 3 seconds). Holding short vowel sounds will help your Kindergartner blend short vowel words, the first words types she must sound out when learning to read.
Short vowels are book sets 1-5 in our shop. Here are the short vowel kindergarten phonics sounds:
a_ as in hat, bat, nap, can, ran (use apple as a mnemonic)
i_ as in lit, sit, bin, pin, rim, kit (use igloo as a mnemonic)
o_ as in hop, mom, pot, dot (use octopus as a mnemonic)
u_ as in cup, pup, run, sun, tug (use up as a mnemonic)
e_ as in met, Meg, net, pet, ten (use elephant as a mnemonic)
Just teach these sounds for the vowels for now. For example, although “a” says multiple sounds, just teach your student to say “aaaa” as in “apple.” She can learn that “a” says “ay” and sometimes “uh” later on.
Next, your kindergartner should learn consonant digraphs. Teach consonant digraphs one at a time. Add them to your students flashcards (that contain her letter sounds) and review them daily.
Consonant digraphs are book set 6 in our shop. Here are consonant digraph kindergarten phonics sounds:
sh as in ship
th as in math
th as in then
ch as in chop
_tch as in match
_ck as in back
_ng as in long
_ing as in king
_ang as in sang
wh_ as in when
Make sure you pick the appropriately leveled word types. Just because your student has learned “ch” for example, does not mean she’s ready to read “cheetah,” “cheese” or “cherry”—these word types come later. Your kindergartner is still only able to read short vowels. Thus, you must couple these consonant digraphs with only short vowel words.
For example, if your kindergartner knows “ch,” she’s ready to read: chip, chop, chat, chess, chill, chug—all short vowel words that contain “ch.” If your kindergartner knows “sh,” she’s ready to read: ship, bash, mesh, sash, dash, rush, dish, wish, fish, posh, hush, gush…etc.—also all short vowel words.
Consonant blends are 2 or more letter sounds in a row as in spot and splash. Do not teach your student to memorize consonant blends; it can start a guessing habit that is difficult to break. Instead, teach your student to decode blends sound-by-sound. Simply have them practice with consonant blend words. Here’s a sample word list for a Kindergartner learning consonant blends. Notice how the list interleaves short vowels, consonant digraphs and consonant blends—everything the student has learned thus far. There are even some words that do not contain consonant blends.
Sample consonant blends list with interleaving- this list contains varied sounds with everything the student has practiced thus far. A leveled list like this should be included in every lesson.
Create varied lists like the above. Have your student read the words sound-by-sound. Make sure she can read every word type she’s learned thus far. Students become more accurate readers if they learn to read sound-by-sound. So encourage her to read sound-by-sound, especially when she’s reading those consonant blends.
Not every kindergartner will learn to read silent e, but it’s a good goal to aim for. Silent e is also called magic e and bossy e. Here are the silent e sounds:
a_e as in make
e_e as in Pete
i_e as in kite
o_e as in hope
u_e as in use
u_e as in duke
Reading elephant offers systematic phonics books to help your student learn kindergarten phonics sounds in a step-by-step fashion.