Inside: This post talks about choosing the right alphabet keywords when teaching letter sounds to your kids + 47 pg FREE DOWNLOAD: Alphabet Posters with GOOD alphabet keywords + Alphabet Pocket Chart Cards & Write the Room Activities.
If you’re teaching your kids letter sounds then this post will guide you about using the right alphabet keywords, the right way!
First, what are alphabet keywords?
Alphabet keywords are words familiar to a child that have the TRUE sound of a target letter in their BEGINNING.
When teaching letter sounds, we use a keyword to help the child easily remember the letter sound in focus.
For example, see the underlined alphabet keywords in a routine letter sound drill:
A, a, /a/, APPLE
B, b, /b/, BAT
C, c, /c/, CAT
CHOOSING THE RIGHT ALPHABET KEYWORDS WHEN TEACHING LETTER SOUNDS
Here are a few tips for choosing the right alphabet keywords. We apply as many as we can:
- Choose words already familiar to your child or are of their interest. For example, I use animals as keywords where ever I can because I know kids love animals. (cat, dog,…)
- Choose words that have the target sound in the beginning. Except for the /X/ or ks sound which usually appears at the end of a word. (box, fox)
- Choose keywords that use the easiest phonics skills and can be easily decodable once the children have learned their basic letter sounds.
- E.g. Take the case of choosing BALL as your keyword for the letter B. Here’s why I don’t prefer B=BALL as a keyword. Imagine your child has individually learned the a, b and l sounds, and now they are ready to read the written word BALL. Oops! Even now, they can’t sound out each written letter in this word to decode it and read /b/ /a/ /l/ = ball, because the a sound here is not the short a (or even long) sound they learned. (They don’t know that the letter a can also say AW yet). Did the clouds just part or only I felt so when I first learned this?
- Do not change keywords. This means use your keyword consistently so many times that your children will instantly know the beginning letter sound as soon as they see the word picture.
- Avoid confusing keywords. Like ELEPHANT for the letter E is a NO NO keyword! Because when you say /e/ Elephant, what the child hears is, in fact, /L/ Elephant. Remember, they’re not decoding the written letters YET. They are simply associating a letter sound with the sound in the beginning of a word ORALLY using picture words to tie the sound to their memory. However, I bring up the other letter words too in my alphabet resources for building letter vocabulary.
- Have a story or a reason ready for cementing the keywords that can also be called other words: e.g.
- iguana> lizard
- gift> present
- bug> insect (and vice versa)
- nut> peanut
- rat> mouse (and vice versa)
- rabbit> bunny (and vice versa)
- You won’t always find the best keyword for EVERY letter that ticks all of these essentials. You can compensate for one issue by adding strength from another. For example, a keyword like zebra may not be the easiest for future decoding, but it is an animal word. Kids love animals and always know these words. On the same note, I have learned to live with the fact that e, i, o, u don’t have the simplest keywords. Here are some correct short vowel keywords that you CAN use:
- a: apple, or ax
- e: edge or echo. (For me, it was hard to find a picture-word for echo when making my Alphabet Activities Packs, so I added edge as my picture word for E. Plus some little learners may not know what echo means.)
- i: itch (or itchy dog to solidify the abstract)
- o: ox
- u: up
After much study, these are the keywords I use with confidence with my kids and in my alphabet resources.
ALPHABET POSTERS, CHARTS & PICTURE CARDS MEGA BUNDLE
This bundle includes all the printable visual aid for your classroom for the letters – posters, anchor charts, and pocket chart cards to teach key skills for exploring your phonics letter of the week or day!
Your kids will learn about:
- Alphabet order
- Upper and lowercase recognition
- Letter sound
- Letter articulation (sound mouth picture)
- Letter path of motion
- Spatial placement (its positioning on 3 lines)
- Letter vocabulary
There are many fun ways to use these posters, charts, and cards. Make your own games and activities or try my suggestions given inside the pack.
With this pack, learning the letters becomes easy, fun, and hands-on too!
WHAT’S INSIDE EACH LETTER PACK
- 39 Colored Pages
- 39 B/W Pages
1. POSTERS (23 Pages)
- The whole Alphabet Poster with the letter in focus highlighted
- All in one letter poster
- Fun letter poster (letter with eyes)
- 8 Letter-on-lines posters (with one image each)
- 8 Letter-without-lines posters (with one image each)
- 8 Half page posters (with one image each)
2. ANCHOR CHARTS (7 Pages)
- Plain display anchor charts
- Pictures inside letter anchor chart- interactive
- Pictures inside letter anchor chart- interactive
3. FLASH CARDS & POCKET CHART CARDS (9 Pages)
- 4 cards on a page option (total 8 cards)
- 8 cards on one page (with words)
- 8 cards on one page (without words)
- 8 letter words on one page
- 8 upper+ lowercase letter cards on one page
- 8 uppercase letter cards on one page
- 8 lowercase letter cards on one page
- Word wall header for the letter
-Word Wall Headers
-Flash Card Games
-Write the Room Games
-Interactive notebooks or alphabet journal/book (use the b/w versions)
You might also be interested in these Pre-K resources:
- Hands-on Alphabet Activities Growing Bundle.
- Scissor Skills | Scissor Practice Worksheets
- Calming Coloring Calendars for Kids (Differentiated)
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Which of these tips for teaching letter sounds with good keywords did you like? Let me know in the comments below and if you want to save this post for later,, pin the image below on your favorite Pinterest ELA board!