In the past few weeks we’ve been changing up our bedtime routine a little bit because we’ve been doing a Sound School Learning review.
My daughter, aged five, started school last year – I can’t quite believe she’s now in year one!
Even before she started school, she was eager to go for years. She wants to learn EVERYTHING and is always asking questions and wanting to know more.
She learned her words early on and hasn’t stopped yapping since.
My son is also a little chatterbox but is different to her in many ways. He’s three and has never really shown any interested in school.
He loves bedtime stories but has no real interest in the words yet – but his imagination is vast. He’s a story-teller himself and gets lost listening to a book or telling his own stories.
Bedtime is so much fun already, but we’ve been going through the Sound School Learning book with them recently and this post is kindly sponsored by Sound School.
What is Sound School Learning?
The Sound School Learning program is aimed at teaching foundation literacy skills to children aged two and over.
It teaches letter-sounding association by using:
- letter characters (my son LOVES these!)
- auditory awareness of speech sounds
- articulatory cueing
- story narrative
- themes of relevance and interest
The idea is that the characters, stories and activities are so interesting and fun that the child learns – and without really realising that they are learning letter sounds.
It was developed by Romi Levin and Robyn Gamsu – two Speech, Language and Literacy Clinicians.
I had the pleasure of chatting to Romi during our review and she shared with me their passion for wanting to teach language skills to little ones.
Romi and Robyn are both experts in teaching children who struggle with speech, reading, writing and spelling.
Whilst my kids are not showing any difficulties in these areas just yet, I was personally interested to see how the Sound School program could help steer them in the right direction when it came to learning speech skills and having fun with phonics.
I don’t think it’s just for the kids though!
Since my daughter started school, I’ve wondered if there’s anything else I can do to help her.
We help with her home learning and encourage her enthusiasm with reading and writing. I wondered if the Sound School Learning book might give me some more pointers in how I can help the kids learn more though about the sounds of alphabet letters.
About the Sound School Learning Book
The book is both fun and interactive and explores the speech sounds corresponding to 20 consonants, 5 short vowels and 4 diagraphs.
Um, what’s a ‘diagraph’? Tell me it isn’t just me who didn’t know?
It’s defined as the “combination of two letters that make one sound”. Of course, it is! See, I didn’t even know that had a name.
Like ‘s’ and ‘h’ make the ‘sh’ sound.
The book was developed using evidence-based research in the field of early literacy development and is designed to help all kids learn their letters, regardless of their academic aptitude.
Romi and Robyn believe that a strong letter-sound correspondence established in the early years is paramount to future literacy success.
I’m on board with that.
The Sound School Learning Range
In the range is the main Sound School book, Cards or you can buy the kit with both book and cards.
You can find out more about Sound School Learning here.
Sound School Learning Review: Our thoughts on the Sound School Learning Book
The very first thing we noticed was how bright and colourful this beautiful book is.
I had it on my desk for a few days before we started reading it as a family and the kids were itching to get started!
My husband, an artist, loved the illustrations and the kids loved how bright and fun the characters looked.
And, of course, they were fascinated with the attached keyboard and wanted to know what that did.
Inside the book is a short intro to how it works. We’re instructed to read the stories in order and each story is based on a letter-character.
The first character is the letter M – which suited our little family of Ms down to the ground!
Miss Molly, the book’s teacher, introduces us to the matched characters for M, “Muffin Mates”.
If you want to get my kids interested in something from the get-go, muffins are for sure the way to go.
The first thing they wanted to do was find and press the Muffin Mates button, but we followed the instructions and read the story first, then located the right button and pressed it to hear the M sound repeated three times.
Next, we read the “Let’s make the sound” instruction which taught us how to correctly make the M sound.
My three-year-old enjoyed pressing the button and hearing the sound the most, then making the sound himself. It’s such a simple way how to teach letter sounds.
Also, on the page is an additional question – for added discussion and thought. The Muffin Mates story is all about finding friends at school and the question in the speech bubble is “How would you make new friends at school”.
My daughter loved answering this, and other questions, using her own experience at school to chat further.
I think the addition of these questions is great for older kids who are already at school. It gives them something extra to add to the experience and, as the book is set as a school, really relates the extra learning to the storybook too. It just makes it all a bit more ‘real’.
The Sound School Learning Letter Characters
Throughout this letters and sounds book, we enjoyed learning new letter characters such as Granny Smith Apple who represents the letter A and Nosy Nick who helped us to make the sound for N.
Both of my kids are nosy – I think they all are, right? They laughed at Nick being told off my Miss Molly to mind his own business!
Moving on to the diagraphs, we met Mrs Chickenpox who represents the letters ‘ch, Mr Shoosh who represents ‘sh’ and more.
I’m unsure how diagraphs are taught in school but using the characters, whose own names already make the sound, make it easy for me to explain it to my son particularly.
The characters are a lovely mix of foods, animals and people that bring the stories and sounds to life.
They are drawn to represent both the character and the shape of the letter.
Over time, kids begin to recognise the shape more and can move on to identifying how each letter looks on its own, without the character.
This is where the Sound School Learning cards come in and how they help kids learn to read phonics.
The Sound School Character Letter Cards
The box of flash cards is divided into cards showing the characters only, cards showing the characters and letters overlaying the characters and cards showing just the letters.
After reading the Sound School storybook a few times, I introduced the letters.
You start with the character cards, asking your child to tell you what sound the characters make.
Next, using the character and letter cards, you ask them what sound the character and letter makes. This is bringing their focus on to the letter now, as well as the character.
Finally, when they’re ready, you show them only the letter card and, as an example, ask “what sound does ‘M’ make?”.
Our thoughts on the Sound School Book and Cards
If I’d told my kids I was going to teach letter sounds to them, my daughter would have told me she already knew, and my son would have run a mile.
Using the book has definitely made that learning exercise a lot more fun and interactive for both them and me. If you don’t know where to start when teaching kids the alphabet, this could really work for you.
The characters are the reason for this – they’re beautifully drawn and the short story for each is engaging. It made learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet really fun.
We started by reading about one character per day and increased this to two and sometimes three because they were so eager to keep going with the alphabet sounds.
I found it interesting that, following the instructions in the book, the kids could make the correct letters and sounds immediately in most cases. I probably struggled more than them with sounding out letters because I was over-thinking it.
The instructions are easy to follow, and I love that the book guides us through the lessons, because we’re in a classroom environment with Miss Molly.
Of course, the kids loved pressing the buttons most of all – locating the right character and taking it in turns to press the button to make that character’s sound.
I don’t feel like I need to trick them into ‘learning’ but if your child is a bit resistant to it, the interactivity of the book could overcome this.
The cards are helpful for teaching letter recognition.
I’m going to continue to read the book with the kids – they ask for it anyway! I’m really interested to see how my son progresses as we keep reading.
His attention is still focused on the characters, but I can see that he’s slowly starting to notice the letters now and how each character is shaped to form them.
As he’s only three, I don’t feel the need to push him to learn his letters or teaching phonics just yet but when I’m getting him ready for school, this will be great!
If you’re looking for learning letters and sounds resources, you can find out more about how to teach phonics with Sound School here.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sound School Learning review!