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First Year Teacher Program



Teacher Toolbox


 1.  Print awareness
 2.  The sounds of speech
 3.  Phonemic awareness
 4.  Phonics
 5.  Informal classroom-based assessment
 6.  Fluency
 7.  Vocabulary
 8.  Spelling
 9.  Writing
 10.  Text comprehension

Diary of a First Year Teacher

Module 2  –  The sounds of speech

  |   Pre-test  |  Intro  |  In depth  |  In practice  |  Assignments  |  Post-test  |  

In practice

Video Clip

Phonemic Segmentation

At J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Washington, DC, a kindergarten teacher learns a technique for teaching students how to identify the individual sounds within a word.

The Alphabetic Principle

In Houston, the teacher of an advanced kindergarten class connects letters and sounds in a systematic and explicit way.

There are many activities that you can do with your students to help them increase their knowledge of speech sounds and their relationship to letters.

Activity #1: Good Vibrations

Practice differentiating voiced and unvoiced speech sounds with your students. Have them put their hand on their throat to feel the difference between phonemes that make the vocal cords vibrate (voiced) and those that don't (unvoiced).

Voiced Phonemes

Unvoiced Phonemes








Activity #2: Human Phonemes









Make a list of simple rhyming words and a second column of words with a different medial (middle) sound. Some examples are in the box on the left.

Choose students to represent the sounds in the words you've chosen. You'll need one student for each sound. In our example, we would need seven students to represent the /b/, /h/, /s/, /p/, /a/, /t/, and /i/ sounds.

Give each of the students a card with the letter(s) that represent their sound. They should hold the card facing the class.

If you have younger students, you should help them by standing behind the group of phonemes and touching the correct phoneme to step forward as you blend them into words.

If you have older students, as you say the word, the 'phonemes' should assemble themselves in the correct order.

Teaching Tip:

Here are some sample words to use with Activity #3, but it would be better to use words you have instroduced to students as part of your instruction.





















Activity #3: The Alphabetic Principle

Do the same activity that the teacher in the video clip "The Alphabetic Principle" did with her students.

Students should be sitting on the floor in a circle or at tables. Give each student five blocks, chips, or other similar objects.

Tell your students, "Place one chip (block, etc.) in front of you for each sound in the word .

Activity #4: Changing Sounds

Call on students to change the sound at the beginning of a word. Start the first round by using their names, as in the examples below. Go around the room until every student has had a chance. Remember, make the sound, don't say the letter name!

  • Jimmy, can you change the /j/ in Jimmy to the /t/ sound?
  • Lisa, can you change the /l/ in Lisa to the /n/ sound?

To play this clip, you'll need a copy of the free RealOne Player. Most computers already have it installed, or you can download it now.

First Year Teacher was a pilot project of Reading Rockets, which is service of WETA, Washington D.C.'s flagship public television station. Funding for First Year Teacher was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs; The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; and The Overbrook Foundation.

© 2004 WETA