Montessori Language: Sound games
What are sound games? Sound games are designed to develop the childs phonemic awareness. To teach them how to listen for the different letter sounds, in different parts of a word before even introducing them in written form (sandpaper letters). It is an essential step and can be started around 2.5 years of age, or whenever your child is ready.
There's a natural phase progression of the sound games which I will outline for you, whilst there is rough age ranges for each phase, absolutely follow your child, if they're ready to move on sooner, move on sooner. If they're not ready to move on, don't move on. Always follow your childs lead and their interest in the work.
Phase 1: Introduction of 1 phonemic item to listen for
In phase 1 there is no room for error. The child can not get it wrong as there is only one item. The purpose of this phase is to teach the child to associate the letter sound they're hearing and the object in front of them.
You will choose one item like a pen, cup or ball. This should be an item already familiar to the child that they know how to say. Anything short that starts phonetically and you will put it on front of your child and ask them to point to, or pass you the item beginning with "Phonetic sound".
For example using a cup, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with "kuh"" You will repeat this with different items (only one at a time) until your child has obviously understood the connection of the letter sound and the object in front of them. Then you can move on to phase 2.
Phase 2: 2 phonemic items, with different starting sounds.
This is very much the same process as phase 1, but now there is more than one object so there is room for error. So your child will have to work a little hard on listening for those phonemic sounds before making a decision.
If the child gets the answer wrong, just repeat the "I spy" stage. If necessary you can introduce the object names first and then ask the "I spy". For example "Ball" *point to ball* "Pen" *point to pen* "I spy with my little eye something beginning with "puh"
As your child progresses in this phase you can add more items at a time. As well as items with similar sounds. Like "mmm" and "nnn". Once your child is comfortable with this stage you can move on to phase 3.
Usually sandpaper letters are introduced somewhere around mastery of phase 2 in sound baskets like I've pictured below.
Phase 3: Recognising ending and middle sounds.
This is the part people usually gloss over, and when it comes to the child using the movable alphabet it often starts to show. Children also need to learn how to listen for sounds throughout a word, not just at the beginning.
You can lower the difficulty back to 2 items to begin with. But this time they will start phonetically the same, like a car and cup. Only now you will ask the ending sound. "I spy with my little eye something ENDING with "rrr" it's often a slow start because they see two items beginning with something different to what you're asking and it takes a while to figure it out.
Middle sounds are a little more difficult as finding items with JUST different middle sounds can be challenging, I'd recommend if you're struggling, just use printed pictures, i'll give you a few ideas below to get you started. But it's the same as the before but this time it's "I spy with my little eye something with "UHH" in the middle" Look for CVC words with just the differentiating vowel in the middle to make this easier for the child.
Phase 4: Playing more traditional I spy wherever you are.
This is the I spy we were more used to as kids, the only real difference is using the phonetic letter sounds over the letter names. But you won't need specific objects you will be able to just play it wherever you are or in a specific area with limitless items.
Now that you've got to this point and your child can identify letter sounds at the beginning, middle and end of a word. Personally I just stick to the beginning sounds and it's easier and more fun IMO. But if you and your child enjoy the range of letter sound placement, by all means have fun with it.
Phase 5: Matching objects to sandpaper letters
This comes after your child is familiar enough with the sandpaper letters AND the sound games to successfully combine the two and get creative with it. I recommend going in the same order that you introduce the sandpaper letters and again, sticking with beginning sounds. Just mine and Jax's personal preference, but follow your child.
Start with 2 sandpaper letters and 1 item for each letter. And gradually build up to a full set, with multiple objects for each letter. Then work your way up until you child no longer has interest, which is usually when the child has progressed their language skills to the point of starting to write more with the movable alphabet, but it depends on the child.
Phase round up
Phase 1: Introduction of 1 phonemic sound to listen for
Phase 2: 2 Phonemic items with different starting sounds
Phase 3: Recognising ending and middle sounds
Phase 4: Playing traditional I spy, phonetically.
Phase 5: Matching objects to the sandpaper letters
There are a few variations of the phases of sound games, but this is the one that makes the most sense for me to provide in terms of development, and phonemic awareness. Some don't include middle and ending sounds, some don't include sandpaper letters. This is a mix of what I would consider the best of all of the ones I have seen combined together to make the most sense.
Feel free to experiment with your own progression, just remember the end goal and follow your child during the process.
If you want to know more about how children learn to read and write you can read my other blog post about exactly that here.
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I believe Montessori is for everyone, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.
Montessoraus mama. x