Monday, October 8, 2012

Hands-On Sorting Activities for Letters and Sounds

Bring your students to a higher level of thinking in your letter sound work with hands-on sound sorting activities! The idea I'd like to share today is not original, but I hope this post might give you a few hints to make it a bit easier for you to create your own.  

This Sound Sort Box project starts with a divided plastic box with a lid. I found mine in the scrapbooking department at Michaels (think 40% coupon, people!), but I've also seen them in needlework departments. My box has 20 sections,  so when I labeled them with alphabet stickers,  I doubled up on c/d, i/j, o/p, u/v, and y/z. It's not a problem to do that, since the items you'll be putting in the sections are all small.

Now it's time to start collecting lots of little items that begin with each of the letters. The most fun for your little guys (and the most memorable for learning) is the realia. Scout around your classroom and home for some really cool hands-on stuff, like shells, coins, rocks, band-aids, ribbon, yarn, buttons, pasta and candles. The light blue thing at the far right in the picture below is a piece of velcro - v is one of those tricky-to-find letters! 

In case you're wondering, the gum package is empty, but the object of much happy sniffing by the little ones! :)I worked diligently at convincing the kiddos that the mini-marshmallows in the plastic bag were old and icky, so nobody even thought about eating them (well, I'm sure some of them thought about it...)

Looks kind of like a page in an I Spy book, doesn't it?

After you've wracked your brain and still have some empty letter boxes, head back to Michaels, this time to the wood department. Now it's time for the "20% off your whole purchase" coupon, since each of these little trinkets is really inexpensive, but lots of them can mount up. If you're not a craft person, you'll be happy to know that these are pre-painted. I'm crazy, but not that crazy.

Your alphabet box should be really filling up by now!  The goal is to get at least 2 or 3 items per letter.

Mini-erasers from Target or Oriental Trading are a good possibility, too.

If you're totally stuck, you can always print up some clipart or cut apart an alphabet chart, but only when you have no alternative, because paper is just not as much fun as STUFF!

So, how can your students use the Sound Box?  Oh-so-many ways!!

* Focus on one letter at a time. Take out all of the objects for that letter and say the names aloud, almost like reading an alphabet chart: "B, button. B, butterfly. B, book."

* Empty the letters out of about 5 or 6 sections. Mix up the items and put them back into the correct sections. (Warning: If your little guys empty out all of the sections, they'll probably still be putting objects back in while the rest of the class is headed for lunch.)

* Work with a partner. Take turns switching items in 2 sections while the partner is hiding eyes. Then the partner tries to "fix up the mix-up"! Then switch roles.

* Use the items in the box to complete a unique alphabet book or alphabet chart. It's a snap to make an alphabet book. Stack 14 blank pages on top of each other, hold sideways, and fold in half. Staple together on the fold, and that's that! Illustrate the pages with items from the box. 

Have your students use the ideas in the box to create their own alphabet chart, using the items in the box for ideas to draw on their own chart.  Click here to print a free blank alphabet chart like the one in the picture at the top of this post. 

How else would you use the Sound Sorting Box with your class?

Happy Teaching!


  1. Ooohhh!! This is exactly what I need! Thanks for the super detailed description. My little kinder kids need TONS of hands-on stuff to keep them busy. Perhaps this will be my project next weekend :)

    The Lower Elementary Cottage

    1. It really is a lot of fun to put together, Lisa - stretches the brain! I think there are some companies that sell this (Lakeshore,maybe?), but it's crazy expensive and, hey... it's Made-It Monday, after all! :)
      Thanks for commenting!



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