Pre-sound games language learning
You’ve probably heard the phrase “sound games come first” before. Technically, in a Montessori primary learning environment, this is true. But kids don’t start out in a formal learning environment. They start out in our arms and on our laps, with books and conversation.
Your child’s very first introduction to language is from listening to you talk. She gleens quite a lot from your conversations with her and your conversations with others. Practical Life Activities provide plenty of opportunities for language acquisition, as well.
These words she hears will give her important communication tools! So, don’t rush into sound games, even.
Trust that your children are getting the foundation of literacy from everyday activities.
But what about written language and reading? What are the first steps in guiding a child into this next sphere?
The Montessori way of introducing letters is much different than traditional education. Montessori bypasses recitation of the alphabet and goes straight to the sounds the letters make.
This is first done through sound games. Sounds games are fun and, like all other Montessori activities, they involve multiple senses.
Montessori sound games
What are some Montessori sound games?
Letter Sound Hunting
Letter Sound Hunting is a super fun sound game. It’s a bit of a hide-and-seek game, but using small objects instead. Here’s how to play:
- Find 3 or 4 small objects that begin with the same letter sound.
- Sit with your child and show them the objects.
- Ask him what the objects are called to make sure he knows their names. If he is unsure what the object is called, simply tell him and have him repeat the word back to you.
- Tell him to cover his eyes or turn around so that you can hide the items. (Hide them in relatively easy-to-find places, so the fun game doesn’t turn to frustration. If he still has trouble locating the items, give him a hint as to the location.)
- When the objects are hidden, have him uncover his eyes and hunt for the objects. (As he is looking for them, take opportunities to emphasize the beginning letter sounds.)
- When all the items have been found, sit with your child and talk about the initial letter sound of each item.
It will be helpful to have the corresponding Sandpaper Letter, Movable Alphabet letter, or even just the letter written on a slip of paper. This is to help him make the connection between the letter sound and the letter symbol.
Think of an Animal
Young kids love animals! So, naturally any sound game involving animals is going to be a hit. Here’s how to play:
- Tell your child that you’re going to play a game called “Think of an Animal”.
- Ask your child if he can think of an animal that starts with the letter “buh” (b). (Or any other letter sound.)
- Take turns naming animals that begin with the chosen letter sound.
The great thing about this game is you can play it in the car, at the park, while tucking them into bed, at the dinner table…anywhere! No special materials or objects needed!
There are many ways to play I Spy. In a Montessori environment, I Spy is often played using sound pouches. We will go into this game and all its presentations and extensions in a separate article, as the explanations can be quite lengthy and I want to focus on simple and fun Montessori sound games in this post.
This is another game that can be played anywhere and requires no materials to be purchased or crafted.
All you have to do is say, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /a/.” Then encourage your child to point to, or bring you, an item that begins with that letter sound.
If you want a slightly more formal presentation, here’s how to play:
- From a basket of animals or small objects, remove several of them, one by one.
- Sound out the initial letter sound and name the object as you place it on the mat. Have your child repeat the name of the object.
- Say, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /a/.”
- Encourage your child to hand you an object that begins with that letter sound.
- Thank him and return the object to the mat.
- If he hands you an object that starts with a different letter sound, thank him for the object, name it, and tell him what letter sound the object begins with. Ask him to put the object back on the mat and make your request for something that begins with the letter sound /a/ again.
- Repeat these steps until all of the objects have been found.
Sound pouches are small pouches with a letter on the outside.
In a Montessori classroom, sound pouches for each letter are available. For most of us homeschooling parents, this may not be practical.
Velcro letters could be purchased or fashioned, then stuck to a single pouch as needed. What we do in our Montessori home is use letters from our Small Movable Alphabet. Here’s how you play the game:
- Stock a pouch with several small objects with the same initial letter sound.
- Choose a letter from your Small Movable Alphabet and the sound pouch. Place them on the table or mat in front of the child.
- Say the letter sound of the alphabet piece and have your child repeat it.
- Remove an object from the pouch and say its name slowly and with emphasis on the beginning sound. (Ex: t-t-t-t-tiger) Have your child repeat the name of the object.
- Continue removing objects, naming them, and having your child repeat the name until the pouch is empty.
- Replace the items to the pouch and invite your child to do the activity himself. If he does not want to do the activity immediately, have him bring the letter and the pouch to its place on the shelf and let him know he can do the activity when he feels like it.
Observe your child for his interest in the sound pouch (or pouches, if you choose to make more than one or purchase a full set), and offer more letter-sound pouches as he is interested.
Letter Symbol Matching
This is one of the simple Montessori sound games that not only aid your child in mastering letter sounds, but it helps their classification skills, and visual discrimination (very important for reading and writing), as well! Here’s how to play:
- Remove 3 or 4 pairs of letters from your Small Movable Alphabet and place them in a basket.
- Sit with your child and remove the letters from the basket and place them in a row randomly on the table or mat.
- Pick a single letter from the row and place it in front of your child.
- Say the letter sound and have your child say it, as well.
- Ask your child to find the matching letter from the row and have them place it to the right of the first letter, then move the pair to the side.
- Repeat these steps until all the letters have been matched.
Show your child how he can check his own work by stacking the two letters on top of one another to see if they match up! This way, you can rotate out the letters in the basket and he can work on his own after he has a grasp on the letter sounds.
The Montessori path to literacy in the primary years starts with sound games.
I hope you found this article informative and I hope you enjoy these games with your child!
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