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{Early Literacy Stage 5} Lowercase phonetic sounds

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The development of early literacy skills progresses in stages.  Beginning concepts should be taught before introducing more difficult ones.  By following a proper developmental progression, we assist the child’s natural learning capabilities.   This is why I have written the series {Early Literacy Stages}.  These stages will all inter-mingle with one another, but it is important to define them, and I recommend introducing them in the order given.

{Early Literacy Stage 5} Lowercase phonetic sounds - Wildflower Ramblings #reading #phonics #preschool

Here are the Early Literacy Stages for childhood learning:

  1. Uppercase letter recognition
  2. Tactile uppercase letter writing
  3. Utensil prewriting and uppercase letter writing
  4. Lowercase letter recognition (and matching uppercase with lowercase letters)
  5. Lowercase phonetic sounds
  6. Lowercase letter writing

The entire scope of literacy includes the following: reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and representing.  I am focusing on reading letters and writing letters for this series.  However, the other components are very important in developing the whole child towards literacy and becoming a lifelong learner.

Please note: I do not label these stages by age — I have met 18-month-olds who have learned all of their upper and lowercase letters and I have taught 5-year-olds who were still struggling to learn both.  It is important to meet the learner where they are and embrace the child’s pace!

While teaching both upper and lowercase letters, it’s important to teach the letter sound and the letter name.  This is a process and you should not expect your child to know all of the letter sounds at once.  All of the previous stages should be preparing your child with knowing that letters makes sounds that make words that are read!

{This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure policy.} 

How do we teach our children how to sound out their letters?  

1.   Read, read, read!

Books teach your child letters and sounds far better than any other tool or manipulative ever could.  The world of literary print exposes your child to the understanding that letters create words which create sentences and thoughts and stories.  Help your child create a love of books by reading morning, nap and night with your child.

  • Have a book bin or basket available in his/her room, so they can have a special area to read.
  • With every letter you learn, print out a special book for that letter (we like to use the free, easy printables from Kidzone) and have a special area for these special little books.
  • When reading to my children, I will often slow down my reading to sounds out the words to begin to learn phonetic sounds and to develop phonemic awareness.  For example:

“Ggggossssieeee wears bright rrrreeeedddd boots. Ggggertie wears bright bbbblue boots.”

(From Olivier Dunrea’s Gossie & Gertie.)

2.  Letter order and learning curriculums.

There are many educated opinions on what order a child should learn his/her letters to make the slow progression towards reading.  There are so many curriculums and workbooks to choose from and it is best to understand the primary difference between them:

  • there are those that teach consonants first — as they slowly add vowels to build words,
  • and there are those that teach all of the vowels first — and then add consonants to the vowels.

I prefer teaching children different sounding consonants at first.  Aaa, Eee, Iii, Ooo, and Uuu can sound very similar when you are first learning them.  However, if you learn three letters that are different in sound (and shape), you are setting your child up for success!  Here is a short list of letters that many of the below curriculums teach first.  It is much easier to learn these, and to begin making short words, than to learn all of the vowels first!:

s, m, a, t

You can make many words with the above: Sam, mat, sat, am!

Here is an example of a letter sequence that I may follow, and most of what I am recommending below follows this type of order:

s, m, a, t, l, n, u, d, o, w, i, g, c, h, e, p, k, z, r, j, b, f, x, v, q, y

The following curriculums teach consonants and only one vowel at a time.  I am recommending many programs because they are all slightly different (and there are cost differences too!) and every parent and child has different wants and needs.

  • Alpha-Phonics is the program my mom used to help me learn to read.   Sometimes sticking with time-tested materials is best!  I love this program — I will be having a review and givaway of their materials soon — and they recently added a cd-rom version for their no spiral-bound phonics book (for using with an iPad, etc.) as well as a workbook and small books set.  I am looking forward to seeing their new materials!


  • Blue Manor Education provides a wonderfully-sequenced phonics curriculum and I love that they begin phonics learning with uppercase letters.  This is an ebook program, so you would need to teach on an iPad or computer, but you could easily print all of the materials out and put them in a binder! After teaching through the Level 1 Phonics Reading book, your child will have learned the majority of his sounds — as well as a few carefully thought-out sight words — the program acknowledges that phonics reading benefits a child’s learning before memorizing. Your child will begin with sounds to create words within the first three lessons. For example, the first three lessons include the sounds: “U(h)”, “P”, and “UP”.

Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 9.10.19 PM

  • Explode the Code (Workbooks A, B, C) are very repetitive and include penmanship lessons along with matching letters to corresponding beginning-sound pictures.  I love these little books, they are simple and designed with the child in mind!


  • First Start Reading from Memoria Press (Books A, B, C, D) are all excellent workbook choices.  I don’t have this series, personally, but my aunt uses these with her son and she absolutely loves their classical approach to education.
  • How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons is a great little book, which does not include workbook pages, but is an effective way to teach your child, especially for the parent or educator who likes to take the lead a bit more.  You can use blank lined paper for you child for writing, and you could couple this with many of the free resources from so many blogs that make handwriting sheets.

Check out 1plus1plus1equals1’s list of printable packs from A to Z to find {free} supplemental materials for these inexpensive curriculum choices!  Homeschooling does not have to mean high cost!

As a personal note, we plan on utilizing My Father’s World for Kindergarten, along with many of the listed materials as supplements.  However, I will follow my son’s lead and base our work on his needs!  I appreciate the letter order used in MFW K, as they coincide each letter lesson with a biblical/science element.

2.    Invest in a book set that teaches your child their sounds in a studied progression that is phonics-based.

  • My favorite phonics-based book set is from Primary Phonics.  (The first ones are the Storybooks Starter Set 1.)  Primary Phonics also has consumable workbooks (beginning with Workbook 1), but they start with knowledge of all sounds and beginning to create three-letter words.  This is a program my mom loves to use while tutoring.

Here is the site description: Storybooks 1 includes 10 decodable storybooks that feature the phonetic concepts introduced in Workbook 1 and only contain previously taught phonetic concepts. The first book is Mac and Tab, a story about a rat named Mac and his friend Tab the cat, who are recurring characters in the series. All books feature engaging black and white illustrations; lively contemporary themes; and inside covers which clearly list phonetic concepts and sight words. Books in Set 1 include: Mac and Tab, The Tin Man, Al, Tim, The Jet, Ben Bug, Ed, Meg, Ted, and The Wig.


  • Blue Manor Education makes some wonderful phonics books that I just had the opportunity to review.  I love that these start with reading uppercase letters, rather than lowercase.  These are ebooks, so they can be printed any number of times to suit you and your child’s needs.


  • I also have the phonics books from Sonlight.  Fun Tales are the first readers, followed by their I Can Read It! series.  I love the fun pictures in the first set, and the very thorough second set is an excellent reference for what and when to teach consonant digraphs and long vowels.


  • Abeka uses program that learns vowels first, which I do not prefer, but it may work for some children, especially for a review after all of the vowels have been introduced.  They have a lot of books, which I love for variety for the child — they are, in order of difficulty: Little Books, the Owl Books, and Basic Phonics Readers Set.


  • When your child is first starting to learn sounds, you may like to use books that focus on one letter at a time, such as AlphaTales.  These are fun, silly books that can help your child be excited about each new letter  that you are learning.

Please note: though many of the above listed are biblical companies, none of these books are religious.  Also, please do not confuse the above phonetic readers with their Sight Word readers, or Guided Reading readers, which I do not think are helpful to beginning learners and should be avoided at the beginning stages.  Memorizing does not equal reading!

3.   Vowels.

These hand motions really help children learn these vital, and sometimes difficult to distinguish between, sounds.  Children love this hands on element to learning vowels:

Aa: say “aaa – apple” as you pretend to bite an apple

Ee: say “eee – elephant” as you hold your hand to your ear

Ii: say “iii – icky” as you dot your nose with your finger

Oo: say “ooo – octopus” – as you circle your open mouth with your finger

Uu: say “uuu – umbrella” as you pump your stomach with a fist 

4.   Tools to help learn letter sounds.

  • LeapFrog Letter Factory:  I have mentioned this wonderful dvd before (it is only $8 on Amazon right now!).  The story is about a family of frogs as they visit the “Letter Factory” — each room in the factory is devoted to a letter and objects corresponding to that letter — it is filled with humor and an all-around great learning time.
  • The Lauri A to Z Lowercase Crepe Rubber Puzzle is a great learning tool.  It is a puzzle with soft, squishy letters for little hands to remember the feel of the letter — and its little picture behind the letters help children correlate a beginning sound to the lowercase letter.


  • You can also look into investing in a moveable alphabet.  I plan on purchasing this down the road — here is an amazing post from Living Montessori Now to further explain this amazing learning tool.


5.   Make an alphabet box.

We have an alphabet box at home to aid in learning the letters’ sounds.  Each letter has a drawer, and each drawer contains several objects that begin with that sound.  Check out my post on our Montessori Alphabet Box to learn more about how you can make your own and what to put in each box!

Children can learn the sounds that letters make from the beginning.  If you are working on the letter Aa — you may focus on an apple or alligator for the week.  And for Bb — you may focus on a ball or a bear.  You may not notice at first, but slowly, these objects will become correlated with the letters in your little one’s mind, and the sounds will come!


6.  Have fun with learning!

Learning can go as slow or as quickly as needed for your child — I recommend doing other fun activities based on the letter (or letters) that you are working on.  There are countless activities to couple the above listed curriculums for fun hands-on learning!  I plan to do these two specific, yet easy activities with my child:

  • Do alphabet scavenger hunts: Have a small box and put items that begin with your focused letter in the box!  Confessions of a Homeschooler has a printable for the scavenger hunts, and ideas for what could go in the box.  This is similar to my Montessori alphabet boxes above, but is lifesize for the child to search for around your house or outdoors.  For example, for letter m, your child could find a stuffed mouse, mitten, marble, magnifying glass, or for letter p, a stuffed pig, pizza, popcorn, pen, pencil, pillow, etc.

How have you taught your child his/her lowercase letter sounds?  What curriculums or phonics programs or manipulatives have been most helpful to you?  



Check out all of the Early Literacy posts! 


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  1. Teaching my children to read is one of the of the most daunting things to undertake. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful tips and suggestions with your readers.

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    Daniele Wren

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