For students, hearing the initial sound is always something they 1) like to do, and 2) need to be trained to hear. So, we need to be sure to allow them experiences with listening for beginning sounds. This way, we can train their ears immediately. After all, when our students' ears are trained to hear the first sound, they will listen for the following sounds. This is akin to "getting your mouth ready" in reading. In this activity, you get your ears ready!
HOOK (Student Intro):
"Let's play a game. This game is easy. All you have to do is LISTEN. What do you have to do?"
(Students will say, "You have to listen.")
"Great! That's it! So, I want you to listen to a word that I say. Once I say it, I will use it in a sentence. Then, I will say the word again. What I want you to do, is to subtract the FIRST sound you hear and take it off the word... Then, you are going to add a new FIRST sound to the same word. Once you have that new word, which you just created, you will use it in a sentence. Then, you will say that word again. Then, you will subtract and add the FIRST sound, and so on and so forth! It sounds a little tricky, but it's lots of fun! Listen to my example!
"My word is man. He is a man. Man. Subtract the /m/... I have an... Add a /c/... I now have can! Did everyone hear that?" (Students will nod or say yes or no.)
"Let me do another one. We have the word can. I drink from a can. Can. Subtract the /c/... I have an... add a /t/... I now have tan. Tan. I got a tan at the beach. Tan. Subtract the /t/... I have an... Add a /f/... I now have fan! Do you see how it works?" (Students will not, etc.)
"Do one with me. We have fan. I have a fan on my ceiling. Fan. Subtract the /f/... What do we have?" (Students will say, "an.") "Now, add a /p/. What do we have?" (Students will say, "pan.") "GREAT WORK!"
I do one more example here as well.
Students can start with one easy word, such as cat. They will work in groups of two to add and subtract the initial sound one time each.
*It is important here to use these CVC words in sentences. Students need to make meaningful connections with a word in order to use it properly.
"You guys did a great job! It is really important that we know how to add and subtract sounds in words. I heard you guys working hard to hear the sounds and then to change them. That's fabulous. We are going to continue doing this until we have our ears really trained to hear the beginning sounds!"
After I teach this portion, I can hang up my subtract and add initial sounds reference poster as a reminder for students!
Here is a video of a subtract and add a sound mini-lesson that I did later on in the year with medial vowels. It's a little hard to see (as I put my camera in my lap), but it will help you understand how quick, easy and useful this lesson can be, at any time through the year!
I like to have students play this game at least once per week for the first few months of school.
Also, this process is perfect for word family practice. Students love to play this game with each other; they also love that they can use (cross-curricular) math vocabulary terms in language and reading time!
Finally, this practice can be transferred into phonics tasks where students write one word down and change it, through orthography, into another word. Later in the year, this is a fun game to play with pencils in hand!
I love to use word ladders for my students where they can change one initial word into many words! I love these two resources for this! I have blank word ladders that the teacher can design as well as word ladders with short vowels that students can create!