Reading Bear: First Learn the Letter Sounds

Dear Teachers and Parents,

Reading Bear assumes that your child knows the letter sounds (when shown a letter like "b", your child should be able to reproduce the sound it makes). Before you start, make sure your child has really learned the letter sounds. This makes it so much easier!

To help develop these basic skills, which you can teach using many different free resources, we have put together ten steps, below, which you might follow.

We also prepared a "Letter Sound Progress Sheet" that you can use to track your student's progress through these steps: pdf docx (right click to download) You could put a sticker in a box on the left, after they have achieved each step.

Finally, we at Reading Bear feel that students learn best when they are not pressured. Keep things light and encouraging.

More alphabet videos are available here.

Step 1: listen to the alphabet song!

Can your students sing the alphabet song and say their ABCs? If yes, skip ahead to Step 5. If not, it's a great first step to have them learn these.

Just show these fun videos so students can get familiar with the song. Don't ask them to sing along yet, but they can if they want to.

When they're ready to start learning the song, go to Step 2!

Step 2: practice the alphabet song!

Here is the song just once through, sung slowly and clearly. Play it over and over. After repetition, it will become possible for your students to sing along with it. Just keep repeating until they have it.

The next one has the song sung with uppercase letters and then again with lowercase letters. Be sure to point out the difference to your students. This version is a little faster, so they'll have to know the song pretty well if they want to sing along with it.

If you are teaching a group, then at this point, have the whole class sing the song without the video.

At this point, teachers might encourage students to sing the alphabet song at home to their parents, and ask parents to sing it to their children.

Once students can sing along with a video confidently, they can go on to Step 3.

Step 3: sing the alphabet song!

Have each student sing the song individually with you. Correct any mistakes at that point. The goal here is simply to be able to sing the song clearly, nothing more.

Step 4: say the alphabet (the ABCs)

Next, work on having the students say the alphabet to you. If they can sing it, they can probably say it. If there are any problems in saying the names of the letters, work those out.

Congratulate your students on being able to sing the ABC song and say their ABCs! That's a big milestone. Rewards are in order!

Step 5: learn about the letter sounds!

The next step is simply to expose your students to the letter sounds. You want them to understand that when we read, different letters make different sounds.

The following video will help a lot. Just have students watch it and encourage them to practice saying the sounds along with it. It is long, as YouTube videos go (nine minutes). If that's a problem, you could break it up into parts (practice with the first half, then later with the second half).

Watching this video a few times should be enough to get students ready for Step 6. Do not require them to know the letter sounds yet. They're just getting exposed.

Step 6: practice the letter sound song!

The previous step showed your students that different letters make different sounds. If they learn "Phonics Song 2," the next video, they'll learn all the letter sounds at once! As with the classic Alphabet Song, first just have them watch it over and over.

Watching, not just listening, is important because you want them to associate the written letter with the letter sound. After a few times watching the video, you can encourage them try to sing along, until they can sing along confidently!

As always, take it easy! Let them watch and practice for as many times as they need to. There is a lot of information in this song!

Once the students are singing the song confidently with the video, they're ready for Step 7.

Step 7: sing the letter song!

Have each student sing "Phonics Song 2" individually with you. Correct any mistakes at that point. The goal here is to be able to make the letter sounds (not say the letter names!) clearly, like "ff, ff, fish" and "mm, mm, monkey."

Immediately go on to Step 8!

Step 8: say the letter sounds!

After students have sung "Phonics Song 2" by themselves, they should be ready to say the letter sounds. Simply have the students speak these bits from the song with the letter sounds, not the letter names:

a, a, apple
b, b, ball
c, c, cat
d, d, dog

And so on to Z. Correct any mistakes in the letter sounds at this point. If they forget an item in the list, you can prompt them with the letter name and then, if necessary, the example word. For example, if they got through "C" and didn't know what to say next, you would say, "Letter D…" and if they still didn't know it, you could say, "The word is 'dog'."

When students know their letter sounds in order, they're ready for Step 9.

Step 9: practice reading the letter sounds!

Almost done. The only thing your student has left to do is to say the sounds when shown the written letters. The students could practice this in pairs or threes, or with you. Give them the following instructions:

  • 1. Get or make a full set of 26 cards, blocks, or magnetic letters, that have only the letters written on them. (No pictures!)
  • 2. Mix them up!
  • 3. Pick a letter, a letter like M.
  • 4. You have to say the sound that M makes. You say the "mmmm" sound.
  • 5. Then say a word that starts with that sound. You say "m, m, monkey."
  • 6. Repeat with all the other letters.
  • 7. Put all the letters you didn't know in a pile. Watch a video from Step 5 or 6 again, or ask someone the sound those letters make.
  • 8. Play the game until you and your partner(s) know all the letter sounds very well!

When students are sure they know all the letters, it's time for the last step.

Step 10: Show you know the letter sounds

The last step is for each student individually to play the game with the teacher, showing that he or she knows all the letter sounds very well.

By the way, for Steps 9 & 10, particularly if you are teaching writing as well, you should do the game in reverse: someone makes a sound, then the student finds the letter that makes that sound. For reading only, this is not necessary.

Once students have shown you that they know their letter sounds, they're ready for the first Reading Bear presentation, "short a"! Make sure they have their own login (so you can track their progress), and start learning to read!

Have fun with Reading Bear!

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