Friday, October 21, 2011

Language Preparation - Sound Games

I wanted to elaborate a bit on the "Sound Games" portion that was a part of the Step 1: Preparation of my Dwyer Approach Post.  As mentioned in that post, the preparation activities are the most important.  Whether you follow the Dwyer Approach or not, still these activities will tremendously improve language skills in your little ones.

Sound Games are "I Spy" games played using only the Sounds of the alphabets, in the Dwyer approach using all the 40 key sounds for English (25 single and 15 double).  For example, you say - "I spy with my little eye something beginning with /b/ (sound not name)" and the item could be a "box" or a "button" or a "ball".  In the case of double letter sounds - "I spy with my little eye something beginning with /sh/ (sound not name)" and the item could be a "ship" or a "shirt" or a "shoe".

Muriel Dwyer and David Gettman talk about six stages to this game.  The first three stages, gradually help the child isolate the beginning sound in any word.  The fourth stage works on the beginning, middle and ending sounds in simple three and four letter words.  The fifth stage is where the child can segment words of any length into their individual sounds.  The last stage is where the child should be able to give you words that have all the 40 key sounds in any position in a word.  As mentioned in this post, if you are working with the Dwyer scheme the child does these games without any reference to the written symbols for these sounds.

Stage 1: One object that is extremely obvious.  For example "I spy with my little eye something that begins with '/ch/' on which you are sitting" if the child is sitting on a chair.  The object should be extremely obvious that the child cannot help but guess it correctly.  This stage might take a while until the child understands what you are asking.

Stage 2: Slightly harder than Stage 1 with a choice of two objects.  For example, have a "ball" and "ship" on a tray and say "I spy with my little eye something on the tray that begins with '/b/'".

** Edited to add: In the example above, "ship" can also be referred to as "boat", so can be picked for '/b/' and can be confusing, so take care to use objects that can be explicitly identified using only one beginning sound.  In our home we did not have this issue with "ship" as we always referred to that as "ship".  The idea here is to focus on the beginning sound and see if the child can differentiate between two sounds and identify the right object.  So in your case please take care and use objects that do not have this kind of ambiguity.**

Stage 3: Make the choice even harder until the child can find the object you want anywhere in the room.

Stage 4: This is the step where you ask the child - "I spy with my little eye something that begins with '/sh/' and ends with '/p/'", if the object were a ship.  Once the child can identify the object you say "'Ship', '/sh/', '/i/', '/p/'", slowly and ask "So what was the sound in the middle?".  You do this and work with easy three and four letter words where the child can isolate the middle sound easily.

Stage 5: This the stage where the child works on words any length to break it down into individual sounds.  As mentioned in this post, we had to do something additional in some cases of segmenting.  Here is what I had written - "While we were doing the sound games with D, she had difficulty isolating the sounds when there were initial blends like "fl", "br", etc.  So she would segment "flip" into "fl", "i" and "p".  What helped us was to use tokens for segmenting.  So for "flip", I would give her 4 tokens and make her move one token to each individual sound that she segments.  Another way we tried was to simply draw 4 boxes on paper and give her an object like a frog and make it jump one box for every sound she says.  For children that learn best using physical activities the same could be done on the floor and have the child jump into a box for every sound.  These and many more ideas are available online through a search on Google!"

Stage 6: Now we ask the child to think of as many words as he/she can that begin with or contain any of the 40 sounds and continue working until the child can easily do this for all 40 sounds.

When to begin?
You can begin the sound games as soon as the child is able to talk well and can respond easily to asked questions, usually by 2 or 2.5 years old.  Each child is different and only you would able to figure out what is best for your child.  If your child is older and you haven't covered all these steps before, you can take a break and play these games as this will strengthen their reading and spelling skills tremendously.  You can play all these stages for as long as you want till your child can comfortably segment and identify all the 40 key sounds in any kind of word.

Montessori Monday


  1. Great Job! These are such fun games to play but are so important in providing a good foundation for children to discover words are made up of sounds.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Barbara, I'm honored! Yes and the good thing is that kids love to play these games, so it is a natural way to get them to learn the sounds and art of segmenting.

  3. thanks for explaining this in more detail. We do I spy for actual objects now while out walking to get them ready for the concept. Now I'd like to move onto this.
    The only thing I'd say is that in your example of a ball and a ship and picking someting that starts with /b/ - for many people, boat is another word for ship and they could easily (and correctly) pick this.

  4. Yes salmada, you are right, I did not think of this because in our home we referred to the object I used as ship! I see what you mean though, I will edit the post to be more clear. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know!

  5. Wonderful ideas! I'm really enjoying your Dwyer Approach posts! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:


I would love to know what you think, so please take a moment and leave a comment! Thank you for reading!