Learning Letter Sounds - Tt
Why is Nathaniel in a tent pushing a train on the track toward a tunnel? We are learning about the phoneme /t/ this week. Most people would title this post Letter of the Week - Tt. They probably wouldn't discuss phonemes. But with Nathaniel's expressive language difficulties, I want to streamline and simplify his learning as much as possible. I want him to read as soon as possible. Truth is, you don't need to know that T or t is called T to read. You don't need to know where T, or any letter, is in the alphabet or to even say the alphabet in order to read. You do need to know the sound, or phoneme, that letters represent.
We have worked through most of the alphabet sounds over the last year in a similar way to what I show here. I haven't taken time to share our explorations letter by letter because I have no intention of this blog becoming a preschool how-to site. There are PLENTY of those online already. But with a new school year approaching and an increasing number of speech therapists and people interested in alternative augmentative communication following my blog, I thought the peek into what Nathaniel and I do might be of interest.
Before I share more photos and list our favorite resources for letter sound learning, I have a confession: my highest priority currently is not letter sounds. It is to make a personal connection with Nathaniel. As a homeschool mom, I have come face to face with my own limitations over and over again. Just like a classroom teacher can not meet every student's needs exactly, I can not give my children everything they need. Even working one-on-one with Nathaniel and gearing all of our activities to his skills and abilities, I will miss the mark in some way. Which is why making a daily personal connection while learning is so important. It is the seed that will grow into a love of learning. If Nathaniel does not know all twenty-six letters sounds when we finish with Zz, (he won't), but he wants to come back to the table or into the tent or cuddle in beside me on the sofa again and again for more... I have achieved a goal. I know from experiences in my own life and from teaching our older children that the interpersonal connections developed while learning yields a love of learning. A love of learning is the most life-changing take away from childhood.
It is well researched and commonly understood that reading to a child encourages learning to read, so our letter learning is based primarily on sharing some specific books.
I start every phoneme week off by reading the appropriate title from Jane Belk Moncure's Sound Box series. ( Example: My "t" Sound Box) I stumbled on this series years ago at our local library. I am thankful that they have maintained their set. The stories center on a little boy or girl, appropriately named "Little ___ (letter sound)" who collects things that begin with the same sound in his or her box and enjoys an adventure of some sort with the items. I pre-read the title personally and gather some of items in our sound box prior to a first reading with Nathaniel. It was from this book that I got the idea of putting up the tent Nathaniel received for Christmas again. Little T takes his tiger, turtle, truck, train, tamborine... into a tent to play.
Another book I share each with Nathaniel is Big Thoughts for Little People. We have read this book slowly, doing only the two page spread for each letter as we learn the sound. This book adds some Christian morals and bible verses to our study. The picture page includes a number of items that start with the letter. We search for those items and for multiple little ladybugs hidden in each scene.
Next, we look at the page from a picture dictionary. Nathaniel is using My First ABC Board Book currently. We find all the words in the dictionary on his AAC device. This exercise allows us time to discuss categories of words and how his system is organized.
For example, tomato was a new word for Nathaniel this week. Using the babble feature on his device, I quickly turned on all the words. While on the home screen, I said, "A tomato is a food. Where are your food words?" This time also allows some simple discussion of alphabetical order as words on second screen in Speak for Yourself are organized in alphabetical order. "Look next to tiger for turtle... they both start with our sound /t/."
Frequently we end up opening new words as a result of this experience. If the word is not on the talker we discuss adding it, and I give Nathaniel the final say whether we do or not. When discussing whether to add "toucan" this week, Nathaniel said, "bird." I replied, "Do you just want to use the word bird for this photo?" He nodded. We flipped back to the Bb page in the book and talked about the fact that "bird" starts with /b/.
This exercise gives me a chance to model searching for words and programing Nathaniel's device. We spend a lot of time on this activity initially; we revisit finding all the dictionary words one or two additional times during the week of sound learning. Nathaniel rarely needs reminded where to find a noun on his device once he's seen its location once. He often reads the picture labels to me with his device by the end of the week.
We do hands on letter formation multiple days. Play dough is always a huge hit. Nathaniel enjoys kinetic sand and letter molds, letter stamps, and letter cookie cutters too. We use Do-a-Dot Markers to identify the letter on a worksheet.
Other items shown in these photos:
Letter Printables - both the play dough mat and the letter find came from this site. FREE!
Individual Mini Letter Books - Similar to the picture dictionary, but Nathaniel loves having a book per letter and often carries it around all week. Again, we find all the photos on his AAC device. FREE!
Alphabet Coloring Book
None of these resources are magical. Time, enthusiasm, touching, smiling, exploring, talking, playing... those are the important tools that provide opportunity for connection.