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Tried-and-True Method

Unveiling the First Lesson in Phonics: A Tried-and-True Method for Preschoolers

Establishing the Basics

Before diving into specific phonetic elements, it is important to establish the basics of phonics with preschoolers. The first lesson should focus on introducing the concept of letter-sound correspondence and building phonemic awareness. Here’s how to begin:

Introduction to Letters:

  • Start by introducing preschoolers to the alphabet. Display a large chart or individual letter cards and discuss each letter’s name and shape. Encourage active participation by having preschoolers trace the letters with their fingers or create tactile letters using clay or other manipulatives.

Letter-Sound Connection:

  • Once preschoolers are familiar with the letters, introduce the corresponding sounds. Use multisensory techniques, such as associating each letter with a specific motion or sound. For example, for the letter ‘S,’ simulate a snake hissing sound while forming the letter shape in the air.

Phonemic Awareness Activities:

  • Engage preschoolers in phonemic awareness activities to develop their ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in words. Start with simple tasks like identifying the initial sound of words or playing rhyming word games. Encourage them to isolate sounds in spoken words, such as identifying the beginning sound in “cat” or the ending sound in “dog.”

Memory Cue:

  • Utilize visual aids, such as alphabet charts or letter cards with corresponding images, to reinforce the connection between letters and sounds. Display these visual cues in the learning environment to serve as a reminder during the first lesson and subsequent phonics activities.

Introducing CVC Words

CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words are an excellent starting point for teaching phonics as they provide opportunities for blending and segmenting sounds. The first lesson should introduce preschoolers to CVC words, allowing them to practice blending sounds together to form simple words. Here’s how to approach it:

Select Target CVC Words:

Choose a small set of CVC words that follow common phonetic patterns. Examples include words like “cat,” “dog,” “pig,” and “sun.” Ensure that the words contain easily recognizable letters and sounds.

Sound Segmentation:

Break down the selected CVC words into individual sounds, emphasizing the phonetic sequence. For instance, for the word “cat,” segment it into the sounds /k/ – /æ/ – /t/. Encourage preschoolers to repeat the sounds after you.

Blending Sounds:

Once the sounds are segmented, demonstrate how to blend the sounds together to form the whole word. Start by saying the individual sounds slowly, and gradually increase the pace to form the complete word. Invite preschoolers to blend the sounds themselves, providing support and guidance as needed.

Word Identification and Repetition:

Present the CVC words visually, either on flashcards or on a board. Pronounce each word clearly and have preschoolers identify and repeat the word after you. Encourage them to trace the letters of the word, associating the visual representation with the corresponding sounds.

Memory Cue:

Create a CVC word wall or display where preschoolers can see and interact with the words they have learned. Use vibrant visuals and word cards to enhance their memory and recognition of CVC words. Encourage preschoolers to revisit the word wall during subsequent lessons to reinforce their understanding and mastery of CVC words.

Introducing Letter Formation

In addition to learning letter sounds and blending sounds together, it is essential for preschoolers to develop proper letter formation skills. The first lesson in phonics should include activities that allow preschoolers to practice forming letters correctly. Here’s how to approach letter formation:

Model Correct Letter Formation:

Demonstrate the proper formation of each letter using large charts, whiteboards, or interactive writing surfaces. Emphasize the starting point, directionality, and order of strokes. Engage preschoolers in mimicking your movements to reinforce correct formation.

Tactile Letter Practice:

Provide opportunities for preschoolers to practice forming letters using tactile materials. Utilize sand trays, playdough, or sensory writing boards to enhance the sensory experience of letter formation. Encourage them to trace the letters using their fingers or small writing tools.

Letter Writing Practice:

Introduce letter writing practice sheets or activity books that guide preschoolers through the process of writing letters independently. Use a dotted or dashed outline for each letter, indicating where to start and the direction of strokes. Encourage preschoolers to trace the letters and then practice writing them on their own.

Letter-Sound Association:

Reinforce the connection between letter formation and letter sounds. As preschoolers practice forming each letter, emphasize the corresponding sound. For example, while writing the letter ‘B,’ reinforce the sound /b/ and provide examples of words that start with the ‘B’ sound.

Memory Cue:

Create individual letter formation charts or mini writing mats that preschoolers can reference during the lesson and during independent practice. Include arrows or numbered steps to guide them through the correct formation process.

Phonics Book Exploration

Introducing preschoolers to phonics books early on helps foster a love for reading and provides opportunities to apply their phonics knowledge in context. The first lesson can include an exploration of phonics books designed for preschoolers. Here’s how to incorporate phonics books into the first lesson:

Book Selection:

Choose phonics books specifically designed for preschoolers, featuring simple sentences and repetitive phonetic patterns. Look for books that focus on the letter sounds introduced in the first lesson, such as CVC words or words with common phonetic patterns.


Begin the lesson by reading a phonics book aloud to the preschoolers. Use expressive and engaging intonation to capture their attention. Point to the words as you read, highlighting the connection between spoken words and written text.

Word Recognition:

Encourage preschoolers to identify familiar letters or words in the book. Point out instances where the CVC words or other phonetic patterns they have learned are present. Have them repeat the words or read them aloud to reinforce their understanding of phonetic decoding.

Shared Reading:

Engage preschoolers in shared reading activities, where they participate actively by chiming in during repetitive parts or completing sentences that follow predictable phonetic patterns. Encourage them to point to the words as they read along with you.

Memory Cue:

Create a designated reading corner or phonics bookshelf where preschoolers can access and explore phonics books independently. Display the books with their corresponding letter sounds or phonetic patterns to help preschoolers make connections between their phonics learning and the books they choose.

Interactive Phonics Games and Activities

Incorporating interactive phonics games and activities into the first lesson adds an element of fun and engagement, making the learning experience more enjoyable for preschoolers. Here are some ideas for interactive phonics games and activities to include:

Phonics Bingo:

Create bingo cards with pictures or words that represent different letter sounds or phonetic patterns. Call out the sounds or patterns, and preschoolers can cover the corresponding pictures or words on their bingo cards. This game reinforces letter-sound recognition and phonetic decoding skills.

Phonics Treasure Hunt:

Hide letter cards or objects representing specific sounds around the classroom or outdoor area. Provide preschoolers with clue cards that describe the sounds they need to find. Encourage them to search for the hidden letters and match them to the corresponding sounds.

Phonics Scavenger Hunt:

Give preschoolers a list of objects or pictures that start with different letter sounds. Allow them to explore the classroom or a designated area to find the objects and match them to the correct sound. This activity strengthens letter-sound association and vocabulary development.

Phonics Charades:

Write words or phrases on individual cards that represent different letter sounds or phonetic patterns. Have preschoolers act out the words or phrases without speaking, while the rest of the class tries to guess the sound or pattern being represented. This game enhances phonemic awareness and expressive language skills.

Memory Cue:

Create a phonics game corner or station where preschoolers can find all the necessary materials for interactive phonics games and activities. Display visual cues or posters that provide prompts and reminders for the games, fostering independent play and learning.

Multisensory Phonics Exploration

Integrating multisensory elements into the first phonics lesson helps cater to different learning styles and enhances the overall learning experience for preschoolers. Here are some ideas for incorporating multisensory phonics exploration:

Sensory Letter Tracing:

Set up tactile trays with sand, salt, or textured materials. Provide letter cards or templates, and encourage preschoolers to trace the letters in the sensory materials. This activity engages their sense of touch and reinforces letter formation.

Phonics Songs and Chants:

Teach phonics songs or chants that emphasize letter sounds or phonetic patterns. Include movements or actions that correspond to the sounds or patterns. Preschoolers can sing or chant along while performing the actions, strengthening their auditory and kinesthetic learning.

Sensory Sound Boxes:

Create sound boxes filled with small objects that produce specific sounds. For example, a box filled with items like a bell, a zipper, or a ticking clock can represent the ‘b,’ ‘z,’ and ‘t’ sounds, respectively. Encourage preschoolers to explore the boxes and identify the corresponding sounds.

Sensory Word Building:

Provide materials such as magnetic letters, foam letters, or letter tiles that preschoolers can manipulate to build words. As they form the words, they can say the sounds aloud, reinforcing letter-sound connections and phonetic decoding.

Memory Cue:

Set up a multisensory phonics station or corner where preschoolers can engage with various materials and activities. Display charts or visual aids that connect each sense with the corresponding phonetic element, reinforcing the multisensory approach to phonics learning.

Phonics Integration in Daily Activities

To reinforce phonics learning and make it a seamless part of preschoolers’ daily routines, it is important to integrate phonics into various activities throughout the day. Here are some ideas for incorporating phonics into daily activities:

Morning Message:

Begin the day with a phonics-focused morning message. Write a short message on the board, emphasizing words or phrases that contain the letter sounds or phonetic patterns being taught. Encourage preschoolers to identify and read the phonetic elements in the message.

Word of the Day:

Select a “Word of the Day” that aligns with the phonics lesson. Introduce the word, discuss its meaning, and emphasize the specific phonetic pattern or sound it represents. Throughout the day, encourage preschoolers to use the word in sentences or find objects that relate to the word.

Story Time:

During story time, choose books that highlight the phonics concepts being taught. Pause at key points in the story to emphasize words or phrases that contain the targeted sounds or patterns. Encourage preschoolers to participate by identifying the phonetic elements in the text.

Phonics Centers:

Create dedicated phonics centers where preschoolers can engage in hands-on activities related to the phonics lesson. For example, a letter-sound matching center, a word building center, or a sensory bin center with objects representing different sounds. Rotate the activities to keep them fresh and engaging.

Memory Cue:

Display phonics posters, word walls, or anchor charts in various areas of the classroom to serve as constant reminders of the phonics concepts being taught. Encourage preschoolers to interact with these visual aids during daily activities to reinforce their phonics knowledge.

Ongoing Assessment and Individualized Instruction

To ensure effective phonics instruction, ongoing assessment and individualized instruction are essential. Regularly assessing preschoolers’ progress helps identify areas of strength and areas that require additional support. Here are some strategies for ongoing assessment and individualized instruction:

Informal Observations:

Continuously observe preschoolers during phonics activities and note their level of engagement, letter-sound recognition, blending skills, and application of phonics knowledge. Document observations and use them as a basis for individualized instruction.

Progress Monitoring:

Implement periodic assessments, such as phonics quizzes or informal assessments, to gauge preschoolers’ understanding of letter sounds, word decoding, and phonetic patterns. Use the results to track progress and identify areas that need reinforcement or additional instruction.

Small Group Instruction:

Group preschoolers based on their phonics needs and provide targeted instruction to address specific areas of difficulty. Offer additional practice activities, guided reading sessions, or word work tasks that focus on their individual needs.

Individualized Support:

For preschoolers who require extra support, provide one-on-one instruction or targeted intervention sessions. Use differentiated materials, multisensory strategies, and personalized activities to address their specific phonics challenges.

Memory Cue:

Maintain a record of each preschooler’s progress, including their strengths, areas for improvement, and specific strategies or interventions implemented. Use this information to inform instructional decisions and adjust teaching strategies as needed.

Home-School Connection for Phonics Reinforcement

To maximize the impact of phonics instruction, it is important to establish a strong home-school connection. Involving parents and caregivers in the phonics learning process helps reinforce concepts and provides opportunities for consistent practice. Here are some strategies for fostering a home-school connection for phonics reinforcement:

Phonics Communication:

Regularly communicate with parents about the phonics concepts being taught in the classroom. Share information about the letter sounds, phonetic patterns, and activities that preschoolers are engaged in. Provide resources, such as newsletters or websites, that parents can refer to for additional support.

Phonics Toolkits:

Create phonics toolkits that preschoolers can take home. These toolkits can include letter sound cards, sight word lists, and simple phonics books. Encourage parents to use these materials for daily practice and reinforcement of phonics skills.

Family Phonics Activities:

Provide suggestions for phonics activities that families can do together at home. This could include playing phonics games, going on letter-sound scavenger hunts around the house, or reading phonics books together. Encourage parents to make phonics learning a fun and interactive experience for preschoolers.

Parent Workshops:

Organize workshops or information sessions for parents to learn about phonics instruction and strategies they can use at home to support their preschoolers’ learning. Offer demonstrations of phonics activities and provide opportunities for parents to ask questions and seek guidance.

Memory Cue:

Create a phonics resource board or folder that parents can access to find information, activities, and suggestions for supporting phonics learning at home. Update the resources regularly and encourage parents to utilize them as a tool for reinforcement.

Continuous Professional Development for Teachers

To ensure effective phonics instruction, teachers should engage in continuous professional development to enhance their knowledge and teaching strategies. Ongoing professional development keeps teachers informed about the latest research and best practices in phonics instruction. Here are some strategies for continuous professional development:

Phonics Workshops and Courses:

Attend workshops or professional development courses focused specifically on phonics instruction. These sessions provide opportunities to learn new teaching techniques, gain insights from experts in the field, and collaborate with fellow educators.

Peer Collaboration:

Foster a culture of collaboration among teachers within the school or district. Encourage regular meetings or professional learning communities where teachers can share ideas, resources, and success stories related to phonics instruction.

Online Resources:

Explore online resources such as webinars, podcasts, and educational blogs that focus on phonics instruction. These resources often offer practical tips, lesson plans, and research-based strategies that can be incorporated into classroom practice.

Reflective Practice:

Engage in self-reflection and evaluate the effectiveness of phonics instruction in the classroom. Regularly assess student progress, analyze instructional methods, and make adjustments based on the needs of the preschoolers.

Memory Cue:

Create a professional development library or online resource hub specifically for phonics instruction. Stock it with books, articles, and digital resources that teachers can access for self-study and professional growth.