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phonemic awareness

Years ago, when my children were in their preschool and kindergarten years, we discovered that the ABC Action Chant is a multi-sensory way to teach young children letters and their corresponding sounds.

Letters and sounds are introduced using a chant that incorporates the letters, key words that begin with them and associated actions.

Printable picture cue cards with letters and corresponding words can also be used by preschool and early primary school teachers to create a multi-sensory approach.

The ABC Action Chant is particularly effective for kids on the spectrum as Kimberly A. Henry points out in her book, [easyazon-link asin=”1935274147″ locale=”us”]How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?: Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism, from Phonics to Fluency[/easyazon-link], because the established rhythm and pattern of the chant keeps kids tuned in.

Also, the activity appeals to children on a variety of levels since it provides actions which provide kinesthetic input, such as making cat whiskers while chanting “C-cat”, and also includes optional picture cue cards that add a visual element.

I found that the ABC Action Chant worked as an effective review for my then five-year-old son with Sensory Processing Isms, who already knew his letters and sounds. He enjoyed calling out the names of the key words that go along with the letters, as well as making the words come to life through their associated actions. Participating in the activity, with or without picture cue cards, provided a focused sensory break for him when he needed some movement in order to keep him “tuned in” to learning.

With my typically developing then three-year-old, the ABC Action chant was a hit, too. She began connecting letter names to sounds, and enjoyed learning through rhythm and song.  Thus, this activity is a perfect way to introduce and reinforce greater phonemic awareness.  Plus, she thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic element of acting out each of the words.

Extension Ideas

As with any activity that provides picture-letter cards, a simple extension for this one can be to create Montessori-inspired three-part cards.

Simply print out two copies of the picture cue cards that are included on the CD that accompanies How Do I Teach This Kid to Read.  Sample provided below.

Keep one set “as is” to be used as control cards. Cut the letter portion from the picture portion on the other set.

Then, have children work to match the letters and pictures on that set with the ones on the control cards.

In doing this, you can work concepts of letter recognition, one-to-one correspondence, memory and concentration.

Encourage Fine Motor Skills

Since the CD in this resource also includes blank templates, as indicated below, for the picture cue cards, you can easily encourage fine motor skills with reluctant writers who still like to draw.
Simply print out a set of blank cards and, then, have your child draw the target key words on them. Or, extend the activity further, by having your child make collages. Find pictures of items beginning with the letters to cut and paste on the cards.

Play a Variety of Games

And, of course, play games! The ABC Action Chant lends itself to a number of them, including:


Have one child perform an associated action and the other child guess the letter and key word. For example, one child pretends to bounce a ball, and the other chants, “B-Ball!”

Go Fish

Print two sets of picture cue cards, and have children play “Go Fish” using the framework of, “Do you have M-mix?” while pretending to mix something in a bowl with one hand, to ask other players for specific cards.

The Not-So-Silent Slap Game

Make a room border using all the picture cue cards.

Then, silently perform the associated action for a particular letter, such as pretending your hands are a fish and “swimming” them.

Have the child then shout out the corresponding letter and key word, such as “F-fish!” before running to slap the F-fish picture cue card.

These extensions can be used in combination with other useful activities for phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency from How Do I Teach This Kid to Read.

Excerpts with permission from Future Horizons 2011.
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Martianne is a homeschooling mom with over 20 years of experience in education, youth work and dramatic arts both in the United States and abroad. With certifications as a Middle School Generalist and English 8-12 teacher, plus a drawer full of certificates from a wide variety of professional development workshops and graduate courses, she brings a comprehensive "traditional" background to her present-day creative pursuits. Visit Martianne at Training Happy Hearts.