Have you ever felt stuck on what to teach your child after the alphabet? Your child knows the letters and sounds, but what comes next? How do they go from the ABCs to reading? I get asked this question frequently, so today, I’m sharing 8 things to teach after your child knows the alphabet.
To know if your child is ready to move on from the alphabet, you can do a quick assessment. Mix up alphabet letters and point to one. Have your child recite the letter name sound. It’s one thing for a child to know the alphabet letters in order, and another thing when all the letters are mixed around. One thing to be careful of is when you teach children the letter sounds, make sure you don’t add the sound ‘-uh’ to the end! For example, ‘d’ shouldn’t sound like ‘duh.’ 🙂
When you feel like your child is ready to move on from the alphabet, I suggest working on these 8 skills.
1. Uppercase and Lowercase Letters
Does your child know there are uppercase AND lowercase letters? If not, spend time helping the child recognize the differences. You can also look at your child’s name and explain how the first letter is capitalized, but the rest of the letters are lowercase. Go through books and point out capital letters. They may start to catch on that capital letters are the first letter of each sentence. Playing games to match the uppercase letter to the lowercase letter is a fun way to practice this.
A good thing to work on is distinguishing the short and long sounds of each vowel. It can get confusing to some, so it’s a great skill to work on! You can practice this with a picture sort, like you can find here. For example, with the letter I, you can show pictures of ice, igloo, iguana, inch worm, island, and iron. Then have them sort them by short vowel and long vowel sounds. This can be a tricky concept to understand, so have patience and keep working on it!
3. Rhyming Words
Rhyming is a very important skill for reading. It’s a phonemic awareness skill that help kids hear sounds within words. It’s also a lot of fun! We love to play a game where we say a word and try to come up with as many words as we can to rhyme with it. You can read about other ways we practice rhyming here. Rhyming can be fun and silly, but it’s a great way for kids to practice hearing the sounds in words.
Counting the number of syllables in words is another important skill to work on. This breaks up words into sections and shows their parts. It’s fun to clap out the syllables in words with kids. You can also play games to count syllables, like the ones on this post.
Alright, I admit ‘phonemes’ is a fancy teacher word. To put it simply, phonemes means knowing the individual sounds that make up a word. For example, if we are listening to the word ‘can’, we hear /k/-/a/-/n/. This is a tough skill, especially when words have more letters than phonemes (example: ‘car’ sounds like /k/-/r/ because of the r-controlled vowel.)
6. Making Words
Making words with just a few letters is a great way to work with letter sounds. Start with two or three letters your child knows really well and show how you can rearrange them to make words. You can even use made-up words! For example, if you use the letters S-A-M, you can make the words ‘sam’ ‘mas’ ‘ams’. Or keep the ‘-at’ together and put new consonants in front of it to create new words like ‘bat’, ‘hat’, ‘rat’, and more! (Here’s another -at word activity we did!)
One other way to practice making words is with your child’s name. Give the child letter cards for the letters in their name and have them arrange the letters to spell their name.
7. Sight Words
If your child has mastered all of these skills, then I would begin to introduce sight words. If they haven’t mastered the above skills, they may become easily frustrated. Start with easy sight words, such as ‘a’, ‘at’, and ‘the’. Make sure to talk about the sounds of each letter and what it sounds like when you put the letters together. One way I like to teach sight words is with This Reading Mama’s Reading the Alphabet curriculum.
8. Concepts of Print
Knowing all the above skills are important for beginning readers, but we can’t forget about concepts of print. Children should understand how to hold a book and that text is read from left to right. Most of this is learned from reading lots of books with your child. When they see you holding books the correct way, they will pick up on this. You can also put your finger under the text to show how the text is read. Reading frequently with your child is the absolute best way to prepare them to become readers.
All kids learn at different paces. There’s no magic formula to learn how to read, but the best way to create a reader is to keep reading to them!
Is there anything you would add to this list?