Strategy

Ask Questions: Word Sounds

UDL 2.3

Ask Questions: Word Sounds is a phonological awareness strategy in which students identify which word begins with a specific sound. First, the teacher identifies the target sound and prepares a small set of 3-7 words, one of which begins with the target sound. Next the teacher prompts students to determine which word in the set begins with the sound. For example, “Which word begins with the /s/ sound? Seal, toes or bear?” Once the class identifies the correct word, the teacher engages students in chanting the word and beginning sound (e.g. “seal, /s/, /s/, /s/.”). The teacher may lead the class through identifying the remaining beginning sounds in the word set (e.g. toes and bear). Chanting and repetition make this strategy engaging and effective in helping students listen for, and identify, beginning word sounds.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Flash Cards

Illustrated Letter Cards: Lowercase

A set of illustrated lowercase letter cards paired with real-life animals and objects. Letters are grouped in the order in which they can be taught to reduce confusion between similar looking and sounding letters. Included are blank cards to individualize or personalize letter cards.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · English Language Arts, Reading · 5 pages


Flash Cards

Illustrated Letter Cards: Uppercase

A set of illustrated uppercase letter cards paired with real-life animals and objects. Letters are grouped in the order in which they can be taught to reduce confusion between similar looking and sounding letters. Included are blank cards to individualize or personalize letter cards.

Grade K, 1, 2 · English Language Arts, Reading · 5 pages


Implementation Tips

Pre-Assessing
Assess students before introducing the strategy to provide a baseline of their starting points. Prepare an assessment or obtain one from your school (e.g. "Listen to the following words: go, hat, see; Which word begins with the /s/ sound?"). Briefly test each student. Date the test and save it in the student’s portfolio. Reassess the class again after they’ve had time to practice the skill to measure growth.
Pre-Planning
Prepare lists of target sounds, word sets and questions prior to using the strategy. Consult your reading curriculum or pacing guide for a list of the beginning sounds and when to introduce them. Once you’ve identified which beginning sound(s) to teach, prepare your word set and questions. Follow the format: Which word begins with the /__/ sound? Option 1, option 2 or option 3. It’s important to plan and write the questions ahead of time so that the lesson will be purposeful and students will master the concepts.
Ongoing Implementation
Practice beginning word sounds during circle time, calendar, reading, or when you have any flexible time. When students use the strategy frequently, they’re more likely to learn and retain the skill. Use the strategy during circle time or calendar after reviewing the alphabet letter names and sounds. Use the strategy during a transition, while standing in line or whenever you have a few extra minutes. It’s fun for students and easy to implement anytime.
Engaging Students
Introduce the strategy as a listening game. Have students put on their “listening ears” by touching them. Say one word at a time and have students repeat it and chant the beginning sound (e.g. top, /t/, /t/, /t/). Do this several times and then “quiz” students on the beginning sounds they heard (e.g. Which word began with the /r/ sound?). If students have trouble hearing the beginning sound, try elongating it and “stretching” it out (e.g., rrrrrrrrat).
Practicing in Groups
Play a beginning sound game with small groups of students. Show the group a picture flashcard and have students identify the word and chant it’s beginning sound (e.g. bat, /b/ /b/ /b/). Then, turn the card over on the table to hide the picture. After all of the cards are on the table, each student takes a turn choosing a card and saying the name of the picture and it’s beginning sound.
Engaging Multiple Modalities
Make identifying beginning word sounds even more engaging by having students stand and move. Students can make different movements each time they identify the beginning sound of a word (e.g. clap, wiggle their ears, jump, hop, touch their toes, etc.). Adding movement can make the strategy fun and help kinesthetic learners.
Establishing Rules
Establish class rules at the beginning of the school year and follow through with any consequences. Once most of the class can listen and follow directions, you can introduce the strategy. As identifying word sounds is interactive, students need to be able to listen and follow directions for it to be effective.

Examples

Listening Game
After practicing letter names and sounds during circle time, the teacher tells students that they will play a listening game. The teacher asks students to put on their “listening ears” by touching them. Then, teacher says, “Today we will be listening to see which words begins with the /b/ sound. I have prepared several words. We will say each word and chant the beginning sound together.” The teacher then guides the class through the process of saying a word and chanting the beginning sound. After repeating each word and chanting the beginning sounds, the teacher asks, “Which word begins with the /b/ sound? Car, dog or bat?” The teacher then repeats the process with two more word sets.
Practicing Multiple Sounds
After significant practice identifying beginning word sounds, the teacher creates a beginning sound sorting game to use with small groups. The teacher sets up three columns at the top of a pocket chart. Each column is labeled with a letter sound (e.g. /d/) and a picture card to represent the letter sound (e.g. A picture of a “dog” to represent the /d/ sound.) The group practices saying the beggining sounds from each column together. Next, the teacher shows the class a stack of picture cards and tells students that each picture begins with one of the three sounds. Students then take turns drawing a picture card, saying the name of the picture and the beginning sound aloud, and then placing it in the corresponding column in the pocket chart. After all of the pictures have been sorted, use the strategy and ask students follow up questions (e.g. “Which picture begins with the /d/ sound? Cat , dog or snake.”). As students engage in the activity they employ their audio, visual, and kinesthetic modalities to listen to the beginning sounds, see visual cues and manipulate and sort the picture cards.

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