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How I Taught My 5 Year Old to Read

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When COVID-19 hit in 2020, my plans to have my then 4 year old finish pre-kindergarten were thrown out the window. Like many of you, I had to quickly shift to homeschool my son. My little guy could not sit through a Zoom call and I realized that he still had not picked up several of the letter sounds. With kindergarten on the horizon I knew I needed to pull from my years of teaching in an elementary classroom to find some hands-on activities to use at home with him.

Letter Sounds Sorts

One of the first things I created was this letter sound sort. We would begin by using an alphabet card (see picture below) and practicing the letter sound together. Then, I would send him on a scavenger hunt around the house to find something that started with that letter sound. An alternative to this activity was hiding an object with the letter sound in a bag and having him pull it out.

After introducing the letter sounds, I would pull out the corresponding box with the pictures sorts. I used these cute little boxes from Really Useful Box to organize the pictures and uppercase letters. He loved opening the little boxes and handling the pictures. I focused first on the letter sounds (not the letter name) to get him ready to read. I also included an uppercase letter in each box so he could start to visualize both lowercase and uppercase letters.

Keeping Track of Progress

Since my little guy knew some letters better than others, I realized I needed a way to track which sounds he already knew and which ones we needed to work on. I followed a research based scope and sequence that has kindergarten students focus on letter sounds that are easier to learn. (These letters sound like their name, so students memorize them more quickly.) We also used an incentive chart (see pictures below) to celebrate with him when he learned a new letter sound.

Whatever pace your child/students learn their letter sounds, remember that repetition is EVERYTHING! When we stopped reviewing letter sounds that my son "knew," we discovered that he would forget them or get them mixed up. It is best to continue reviewing letter sounds even when introducing new letter sounds.

Phonics Matching Games

As you can imagine, most students need more than one way to learn and review a concept. I knew I wanted something tactile for my son that would help with fine motor skills too. These phonics matching games were perfect for him because they were visual and kinesthetic! I made a digital version of the games on Google slides because I wanted to have another way for teachers and parents to use the activity.

The thing I love about these phonics matching cards is that there are 3 different versions for each phonemic unit. For example, with the alphabet unit, you can choose to have your student work with level 1 which is simply matching lowercase to lowercase (this is great when you are first introducing letters at the prekindergarten level), or you can choose level 2 which is matching lowercase to uppercase letters, or level 3 which is matching letter sounds to the lowercase letter. (See image above)

I also added little velcro dots to the cards to help with fine motor skills for my son. It also made it easier to keep track of the cards we were using! After making the cards I decided it would be nice to have an interactive notebook component since we were already working with interactive notebooks. (See image below) This made it fun for him to go through his interactive notebook and look at all the letters he had learned.

After creating the dinosaur themed alphabet and beginning letter sound activity, I decided to make an a BIG bundle of phonics units so that I could keep pushing him forward with his reading. The bundle includes 6 units (alphabet, digraphs, beginning blends, short vowels, long vowels, and ending blends.) The short vowel unit is shown below.

I had so much fun making the digital games too! Each unit in the bundle comes with 3 different digital games made for little fingers in mind! They are an easy drag and drop motion across the screen and my son loved the different themes.

FREE Sight Word Wall

One of the first obstacles you may notice when trying to teach children to read is the enormous amount of sight words (words that can not be sounded out phonetically.) I knew we would need a constant visual to reference our sight words so I created a super cute ice cream themed sight word wall. We would practice saying our sight words each day and would add a word or two when he was ready for new ones. You can snag this word wall for FREE by clicking here!

CVC Emergent Readers & Activities

When my son knew the most of his letter sounds, we began working on blending the sounds together. He was very motivated to begin reading but I could not find a good set of readers that were primarily CVC words. Most emergent readers had a variety of words and sight words. I wanted books that focused on word families (-at, -ip, -ug etc.) and a few sight words at a time while he was building his sight word list. So I made these emergent readers that specifically focus on word families and introducing only a few sight words at a time!

My son has loved reading these cute stories and they were a perfect challenge for him as he began reading! Click here to view. They made him feel confident that he could sound out the words and see similar spelling patterns! With each book I included a real vs. nonsense word activity, hands-on sight word activities, spelling activities, story sequencing, and comprehension activities! Oh and did I mention that I also made a digital version of these too?! It has been amazing to watch my son pick up reading over the past year. He has become confident and excited to read! My hope is that these activities will inspire and encourage you, whether you are a teacher in a classroom setting, a teacher trying to navigate through distance learning, or a parent considering homeschooling your prekindergarten or kindergarten student!


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