Teaching the wrong sounds can really confuse kids and slow their ability to grasp spelling, phonics rules, and reading. There are many sites that discuss phonics in great, academic detail. As we’ve covered, I’m no expert and I doubt you are, either. So, I’ll try to give my explanations of phonics below and I hope you will give me some latitude if you know what you’re talking about and you object to the way I talk about something. And if you think I’m wrong or have a suggestion? Please comment and I will update as necessary.
Let’s start really basic – every letter makes at least one sound. For vowels (a, e, i, o, u) these are the short sounds (think: cat, net, pin, fox, cut). Consonants are the sound you would think, except that the basic sounds of g and c are the hard sound (think: gap, cut). The soft sound (think: gin, cignet/mice) is a more advanced sound that we will cover in the Letter Sounds – part 2. So that’s it. That’s how you start with your child. One caveat: try not to pronounce the sound as more than it is. Here’s what I mean. H says hhhhh. It does NOT say huh. If you or kiddo have problems with this, start with basic words and break them down. Hat is made of three sounds squished together: hhhh aaaaa tttt (not: huh aaa tuh). Slow down and focus on the sounds as they are part of the words. There are videos at the bottom that demonstrate proper sounds of the letters.
Taking words apart (deconstructing them) to learn the sounds is incredibly important. As you point out short vowel or hard consonant words in the wide world or in a book to your kiddo, try deconstructing them into their basic sounds. This doesn’t work with sight words (the is not ttt hhh eh). Stay simple. Stop is a great one to start with given how many stop signs most of us pass in a given day.
Because he went to a Montessori school from a young age, my son was taught to deconstruct . It can be bizarre. If I ask him to spell cat, he gives me the three sounds associated with cat, not the three letters. He knows the letter names, but when spelling, he reverts to Montessori method, and he identifies the letter by its basic sound. It can seem like he is just parroting back the word in slow motion, but he really is spelling it. If I gave him letter tiles (Scrabble tiles work really well), he would find the three letters and put them in the correct order. This takes some getting used to as a parent, but is extremely important for the child’s understanding of phonics, reading, and spelling. (A somewhat in-depth article on this is here.)
Check out the videos below for info on how to pronounce each letter, and some basic letter combinations. (There are currently a few letters missing because my kiddos and I got distracted. They recited a couple beautiful clips where I forgot to hit record, and then they got very silly on Q and I never got a good clip. I’ll fill in the holes soonish.) Below is a video of all of the phonetic sounds of the alphabet. For individual letters, you can check out my Youtube channel and playlist.