How to Teach Children to Write Words Like They Sound

Teaching kids to write words just as they sound can be a little tricky, but if you follow some basic steps, it is certainly do-able!  In this post, I share my best tips for making this happen as painlessly as possible, including a "directed lesson" lesson plan for those that would like to have it.

How to Teach Children to Write Words Like They Sound

As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post that detailed how the teachers at my school were supposed to use a new "directed lesson plan" format that included step by step directions to teach children new skills.  You can see one of these lessons here for teaching kids to read three letter CVC words.

This week's lesson is based on that same directed lesson, step-by-step format that we are being expected to use in my school district these days.  And I confess that for me, forcing myself to stick to this format is like trying to teach in a straight jacket!  I have always loved the creativity of teaching, but teaching like this feels like I just wrote myself a script that I am not allowed to deviate from!

HOWEVER... I can see the benefits of teaching children the steps to certain skills in this way.  And I have noticed that since I started trying out this type of lesson, some of my lower children have been catching on to some of the trickier skills more quickly than I would have expected, based on my previous experience.

I really think that the reason that they are catching on so quickly is probably based on the use of the visual aid, combined with the motions that I add into it, and the fact that I am leaving the posters up on the wall for the skills that I know take a long time to master, such as sounding out CVC words and now writing words like they sound.  That way, the children (and I) can refer to them when they get stuck.

In our training, we were told that this is too many steps for a kindergartner. But I don't know which steps to remove, or how to shorten it, other than to use shorter, two letter words. We did fine with the seven steps, though!

Here are the steps:
Step 1.  Say the word.
Step 2.  Stretch out it.
Step 3.  Write the first sound.
Step 4.  Stretch out it.
Step 5.  Write the middle sound.
Step 6.  Stretch out it.
Step 7.  Write the ending sound.

Below are the most important elements of the lesson.

(You can also download the entire lesson plan with the steps HERE and the pictures that go with it HERE.)

1.  Children are told the “Big Idea” of the lesson, (AKA the main idea of the lesson,) and are expected to be able to repeat it back.  The Big Idea of this lesson is:
Writing words the way they sound is saying the words out loud and writing down the sounds that you hear.

2.  The teacher models writing one of the words, and then introduces the steps, and then models writing one more word.  When I modeled the steps, I also taught them a motion for the words, “Stretch it out.”  So when they were supposed to stretch out the sounds of a word, they were supposed to pull their hands apart.

3.  Then there is a guided practice time, when the children practice writing some words as they sound on white boards with dry erase markers.  I let the children generate the words that they wanted to write, but I did ask them to tell me words about what Santa’s elves could do, because we had started talking about elves the day before and made our elf project!  (See my last year’s blog entry on how to make that super cute elf!)

4.  I waited until the next day to do the independent practice portion of the lesson, which is having the children write a sentence or two using sight words that they already know how to spell and also some new words that they have to sound out.

5.  Of course, closing the lesson with the usual questions such as “What did we learn today?”  “What’s the Big Idea?  “Who can tell me the steps?” is always a good thing, but somehow I seem to always run out of time for that sort of thing!  But I know that it is good for their language development, and it is my lowest children that really need this the most, unfortunately.  They really need just as much language as I can possibly “feed” them on a continual basis.  And so for that reason, I am willing to try to remember to do it- but I will admit that I don’t feel so bad if I forget and leave it out of the high kids’ lessons!

This is my ball box!  I roll or throw kids a ball when I'm having trouble motivating them through the usual methods during lessons.

One problem that I encountered with the lesson was trying to get my students to cooperate and really try to stretch out the sounds, rather than just try to guess at the sounds that they thought were there once I said the word.  Some of them were a little over-confident and just tried to write the whole word immediately, guessing at many of the sounds and making all kinds of mistakes.

SO..... as I have done in the past, I got out my trusty ball box!  I cleared the things off of the table that were not needed for the lesson right away, and started rolling the ball to the children that were following my directions.  “I like the way So-and-So is stretching out the sounds like I asked, and ONLY writing the first sound, just like I asked him to!”  I just kept rolling the ball back and forth to the children that were staying right with me, and NOT rolling it to the ones that were ignoring my directions and writing whatever they pleased, and drawing pictures on the white boards.

The children stretched out the sound of each word, and wrote each letter one sound at a time.

I soon had everyone following my directions except for one little boy, who was clearly upset that he was not getting a ball, but still not wanting to change his behavior to get it.  I just kept repeating what he had to do to get it, and finally he started to comply!  Soon, the entire group was happily cooperating and doing their best to stretch out and then write each of the individual sounds.  Hooray!  This was my lowest group, so this was no small accomplishment.  :)

The biggest obstacle for these children was not the writing of the letters, it really was stretching out and identifying all of the sounds in these longer words, such as “Santa,” “make,” “toys,” and “help,”and “check.”  (They needed the word “check” because in the Elf on the Shelf story, the elf checks to see if the children are naughty or nice each day, and then flies back to the North Pole to tell Santa each night.)

I was glad for the Sounds Fun cards when we came to the words like “check” and “toys” because most of the children easily found the sounds on the poster and then were able to write the letters needed to make those sounds. It’s also great having that poster right there in view without anybody needing to search for a card.  I stapled mine to a tri-fold presentation board so that I can get it out and set it on a counter right next to my language arts table right at eye level.

I videotaped this lesson and added a short clip of it to my HeidiSongs Facebook page, so if you would like to see how it looked, be sure to check it out!

This is my Sounds Fun poster mounted on a Trifold poster board so that I can move around the room wherever I need it.


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Karen M. said…
Hi Heidi! Thanks as always for all of your help!! The lessons on sounding out words comes at a very good time for my class!! I do have another question totally unrelated to this entry though. For your first quarter, you had an awesome progress report! Do you have anything similar for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters??
Anonymous said…
Thank you for always sharing such wonderful ideas. I love your strategy for rolling the ball to those students who are listening and following your instructions.
Erlyne said…
Love your awesome ideas as always, Heidi!

I followed your link to last year's blog to get the directions for the elf....but couldn't find them. Am I missing something? I can be technologically challenged...LOL!

Thanks, Heidi!
Teresa said…
Thanks for teaching this old dog! You have set this up in such a great way- think i can do this.
michelle said…
I was just informed that our kiln at school is broken. The art teacher suggested using air dry clay. Have you ever used it? I really want to do this project!!
kay said…
Do you have the directions posted for the cute elf the kids are holding?

HeidiSongs said…
To Karen M.
I have sent home progress reports like the one I did for the first trimester in the past, but I usually don't think about it until the end of January! Usually, I only do it if my class has a bunch of kids that really need the help so that I can get their parent's attention, if you know what I mean!
But I will look and see what I have!
HeidiSongs said…
To Erlyne:
I'm sorry about that! I fixed the link to the elf project so that it landed on the correct blog, LOL! :)
It's here:
HeidiSongs said…
To Michelle:
I have never used air dry clay, but I would imagine that it would work. Maybe your art teacher would know more about it?
HeidiSongs said…
To Kay:
Yes, the directions for the cute elf that the kids are holding are at this blog entry:
Look under section 2 where it says "Bulletin Boards."
Good luck!
Joan said…
I thought I saw on one of your blogs this year a free download for a "responsibility pyramid". I went back to look for it and I can't seem to find it. Would you be willing to share the link for that again?

HeidiSongs said…
To Joanie,
All I had shared was the idea and a link to the Accountability Concepts website. Their pyramid is copyrighted and I can't make one of my own and give it away. They don't like that sort of thing, even if it looks slightly different and has my name on it. The presenter that came to our school to tell us about it made that perfectly clear when he inserviced us on it! It's not something I can do, unfortunately. But here is the link to the post:
Kristin said…
I thought the first time that you left a comment on my blog, it must have been a mistake. And then you left another one and said you loved my blog. I can't believe it!!!
I am such a huge fan of yours and I LOVE your songs and use them every single day. I can't wait to try this lesson of writing words as they sound.
Seriously, I can't believe you read my blog!!!!!!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!! A Teeny Tiny Teacher
HeidiSongs said…
To Kristin,
Your blog is SO CLEVERLY written, it makes me laugh out loud! I just found it because you are a TBA author. I love it! I love your ideas, also!
If anyone else is out there, be sure to check out Kristin's blog! This is it:


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