Consonants

Order of Presentation:

The order in which one presents consonants to children is often a matter of personal preference -- there are many different studies available that suggest one method is superior to another.  Just keep in mind that you do not have to present the letters in alphabetical order.

Every child is an individual -- what works perfectly for 85% of the kids out there, may not be the correct approach for your child.  If he is having a tough time with the approach being used, try a different one.

How did I do it with my girls?  I ended up combining approaches.  We did the letters m, r and v (based on reliability) to give Tasha (and myself!) some comfort with learning our letters using letters that only make one sound.  Then we hopped to s, t, r and n (based on frequency) to give us a good start on sounding out words.  The rest of the consonants we tackled alphabetically.

With Kaitlyn, I used an even more unusual approach.  We tackled the consonants in her name first (k, t, l, y, n) because that seemed to be the most motivational for her.  Then we did the rest the same way I did with Tasha.

APPROACH 1:  RELIABILITY

Some teachers like to deal with the letters based on their reliability (in other words, how many different sounds might that letter make...  For example, although "s" is a common letter in the English language, it is not as reliable as the letter "v".

This is because in a word like "shark" the s does not make the same sound as in a word like "sat" and makes yet another sound in a word like "does" -- the letter V (though less frequently used when spelling words) always makes the same sound.

This makes "v" a much easier letter to teach than "s".  However, "v" isn't as useful in reading as it is rarely found in words (to illustrate that point, compare the number of v's used in words in this sentence to the number of s's).

See below for a reliability chart.

Consonant Reliability Chart:

m --> man

r --> run

q*

v --> van

b --> bat

h --> he

k --> kid

l --> let

p --> pan

d --> doll

f --> far

j --> jam

n --> not

z --> zoo

c*

g --> goat

w --> we

y --> yes

Very Unreliable:

s --> sat

t --> tan

x*

* these letters are "unnecessary" or redundant.  They do not make a unique sound.

• q --> kw
• c --> k or s
• x --> ks, gs or z

APPROACH 2:  FREQUENCY

Another method some use is to introduce the most common sounds first  (s, t and r).  This allows the children to quickly begin forming words.  Using this approach and ignoring consonants vs vowls: o, s, t, a, r, e appear in 50% of the words in the English language.  Adding the next six letters: n, i, l, u, c, p  -- gives 80% of the letters.  When working on letter sounds, these can be presented "in concert" -- so, for example, one would present "AT" as in rat, hat, cat, mat.

In our household, we call these word families and have gone beyond the list below.  We often play a game where we try to figure out how many words are in every family.  We often have to pull out the dictionary to determine if a word exists and what it means.  For example, we did the "ike" word family the other day (we allow names & common abbreviations):  bike, like, spike, trike, Mike , pike, etc.  We had to look up "pike" which turned out to be both a spear-like weapon and a northern fish

Use your judgment when looking up words as it does slow things down a fair bit...  Sometimes dad and I tell the girls what the words mean, but at least once per session, we have them look up a word on their own to help build their comfort using a dictionary.

Word Families:

 single letter sounds multi-consonant families consonant/vowel families s, t r, n c, l m, p  b, f  d, g h, v  k, j  z, w  y, q , x ch, th  sh, wh  sp, sl  sc, sm  st, sk  sn, sq  sw, tw  br, tr  gr, fr  dr, cr  pr, wr  cl, bl  fl, pl  str, scr ap, an, at  en, are, all  ub, ate, ail ay, ain, aw ake, ave eat, ear, eep  ide, ice, ine, ike ow, oke, old  ook, oop, ore  ack, ash, ank  ent, ell, est, edge ip, in, it  ick, ill, ing  ot, op, ock  uck, ump, ush  um, ug

Consonant Digraphs

ch - chair
sh - ship
th - thumb (voiceless phoneme - th) **
th - the (voiced phoneme) **
wh - why
zh - pleasure
ng - sing

** voiced vs voiceless:  put your fingers on your vocal cords...  Now say "the" out loud.  Notice the vibration you can feel with your fingers when you make the "th" sound?  Now say, "thumb" out loud.  This time there is no vibration.  Letters that cause a vibration in your vocal cords are called voiced.  Letters that do not are called voiceless.

Pay attention to the way your mouth makes the sound of the letter "D" and the letter "T";  the letter "B" and the letter "P";  the letter "G" and the letter "C"

D is voiced, T is voiceless -- your mouth moves the same for both

B is voiced, P is voiceless -- your mouth moves the same for both

G is voiced, C is voiceless -- your mouth moves the same for both.

If your children are having difficulty distinguishing these sounds, have them use the finger on the vocal cords trick ...  It may help them out a bit.

Consonant Blends

bl - black
cl - clown
fl - flying
dr and ft - draft
sk - desk
fr - fry
spr - spray
spl - splash
tr - tree
tw - twin
gr - great
sl - slow
pr - pretty
gr - grasp
sp - grasp
st - rest
str - straits
ngth - strength
nd - bland