For early years’ teachers, nothing is more rewarding than coaching children through their first steps towards reading fluency. Parents can equally experience the excitement and joy that comes from observing their children as they make greater progress with their reading abilities. For children aged between 4 – 5 years, it is also an important time to allow their curiosity to flourish and encourage them to explore their environment. By combining a mixture of fun, curiosity and reading strategies, children can develop an essential love for reading that will hopefully continue throughout the course of their lives. Below are some ideas for teaching phonics to early learners, combined with resources that you can download from my TPT store:
Sensory activities don’t always require a great deal of preparation. They can be put together readily and quickly, guaranteeing loads of fun and amusement for children during their independent activity time. Some ideas for sensory activities include: putting letters in water. Children can either fish the letters out with a net or their hands, say the sound and look for more! A great idea for a phonics activity with sand could be burying treasure coins in a sandpit. Children can dig to find the buried treasure and say the sound they have found. By introducing an element of play, children can explore, have fun and associate and an enormous amount of joy with early reading.
Colouring the sound
Colouring is a great activity for children to engage with pencil control activities. There are loads of fun and creative colouring sheets to choose from. Children can choose their favourite characters or scenes and colour in the picture one section at a time. Each section can include a sound from the alphabet. The children can match the sounds with the colours and become more accustomed to their early sounds. This is also great for more advanced readers, as they can begin saying and colouring words. Below is an example of a sweet jar I’ve created. Each lolly pop has a sound. The children have to say the sound and colour the lolly pop the correct colour.
Playing board games is a fantastic way to encourage children to develop those early social skills as well as introducing sound activities. Playing games introduces a fun, competitive element. Teachers can play in a team with children in their class and encourage them to follow the rules of the game. There are loads of games to choose from, including matching card games and fun board games. I’ve included some of the games that my students have enjoyed playing, including a pirate phonics game, honeycomb game and traffic lights board game. Each game has varying levels of difficulty, giving very early readers a chance to shine and more fluent readers a bit of a challenge.
Online Phonics Learning
Children are increasingly technology savvy. They have access to all manner of technology, including apps, iPad, computers etc. Children respond incredibly well to interactive resources and enjoy fast paced learning styles that maintain their interest. By allowing 15 minutes to engage with an interactive game, children can continue to develop their reading fluency and enjoy much valued computer time. Some fantastic phonics sites that I’ve come across include: Phonics Play (http://www.phonicsplay.co.uk/Phase2Menu.htm), Top Marks (https://www.topmarks.co.uk/english-games/5-7-years/letters-and-sounds) and Education.com (https://www.education.com/games/phonological-awareness/).
Cut and Paste Activities
One early skill that tends to get left behind is the simple action of cutting and pasting materials for school projects. Another great way to enjoy early reading is through activities that involve finding the correct sounds and putting them in the right order. Encouraging children to begin sounding out letters and spelling CVC words can give them a huge amount of confidence in their own reading ability. Sounding out letters and spelling words is great practice and an engaging activity for early learners.
Explore your environment
Finding and sounding out letters doesn’t just have to happen on paper. Children have their classrooms, outdoor environments and beyond that with their parents to explore the outside world. Why not play ‘find the letter’ game? You could encourage your class or children to look for letters in everyday objects. Which letters can they spot? Could they make a list of their letters? This is a great way for children to begin exploring their environment further, using their phonics knowledge and practicing their writing skills.
Find the object. Sort the object.
As well as looking for letters, children could also benefit from finding objects that start with a particular sound. If everybody is learning about the sound ‘s’, children could be detectives and walk around the classroom, looking for objects that start with the letter ‘s’. This could even be a great phonics independent activity for children. By leaving bowls out with different objects in each bowl, children can decide which sound each bowl represents or they could organise objects into the correct sounding letter.
These are just some of the ways that children can begin exploring their environment and develop a love for reading. Hopefully these tips and ideas can serve as some inspiration for teaching early reading strategies. If you are interested in any of the above resources, just click to visit my TPT and download your favourite product.