Small objects are used in Montessori schooling to help teach a child phonetic sounds of letter names in a hands-on way. The teacher would have a box for each letter of the alphabet that contains small objects that represent that letter sound. I was going to make my own boxes, but after a few months realized what a tedious and costly adventure it was personally going to take me. Instead, I eventually purchased the Alphabet Sound Teaching Tubs from Lakeshore Learning. While they are a $150 investment, they are fabulous, save a lot of time, and I think cannot be equally done any cheaper!
Seek & Find: Randomly place all of the objects from 2 or 3 boxes onto the mat and ask her to find an object that begins with one of the letter sounds. After she identifies an object correctly, she can line it up under the appropriate letter and continue the game until all objects are with their respective letter.
Please, Bring Me! Place objects from two boxes across the room on a shelf or table. Ask the student to bring you something that begins with one of the letter sounds you’re practicing. When she brings back the correct object, ask her to name it. Confirm the name and make note of the sound. Example: “Yes, that’s a ball. Can you hear the ‘b’ sound in the word ‘ball’?”
I Spy: Put several objects from various containers on the tray and say “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with the ‘t’ (or whatever) sound.” The student may then find that object and name it.
Letter Match: Place the appropriate sandpaper letters out, spaced apart. Have your child trace the letter and make the sound. Mix the objects from 2-3 boxes, and allow the child to sort them by sound, placing the objects on the correct sandpaper letter.
Large Sandpaper Letter Match: Like the above “Letter Match,” but include more letters (10-12 at a time, when the child knows that many). Have the child first trace and say the sound of the letter, then find the objects for that sound.
Story Teller: Use the small objects from one box to create a story. This will reinforce that particular letter sound. As your child grows, you can incorporate more boxes at a time, and cue your child to which object she will need to include in her story next by holding up the sandpaper letter of which the next object should have the sound of.
Memory Game: Place all objects from one box on the tray. Have your child close her eyes and remove one object. Have her open her eyes and identify which object you removed. If she gets it right, give her a token. Take turns doing this until all of the objects are gone. Whomever has the most tokens, wins.