The soft g sound is typically more challenging for students to learn than the hard g sound. The hard sound generally is taught first because it is much more commonly found in words. However, it eventually becomes necessary for young children to learn the soft sound as well. If you are preparing to teach the soft g sound to your kindergarten kids, here are some tips and activities that may help!
Tips for Teaching the Soft G Sound
Soft g is easier to learn after learning the soft sound of the letter c. This is because soft g generally follows the same phonics rule as soft c: c makes the soft sound when it comes before the letters i, y, and e.
Before teaching the soft g sound, it is helpful for students to grasp some other phonics skills, such as long and short vowel sounds and closed and vce syllable types.
Students may have difficulty figuring out whether a j or a g makes the /j/ sound in a particular word. However, it is helpful for beginner readers to know that no English words end in a j. Therefore, if the /j/ sound is at the end of the word, it cannot be a j, but is more likely a ge or dge.
There are quite a few exceptions to the soft g rule when the g is at the beginning of a word. Letter g words such as get, give, and girl are all examples of these exceptions. This can get confusing, especially with each of these being a common g word. In addition, adding the suffix -y to the end of a word can confuse the sound the g makes, depending on the spelling of the base word. For example, the word “stringy” is a hard g sound, because the base word is “string.” The word “dingy,” on the other hand, is a soft g sound, because the base word is dinge. Students need to be able to figure out the base word in these situations.
Activities for Teaching Soft G Sounds
The key to helping students master any skill is lots of practice. Practice can quickly get monotonous if you always use the same methods. It’s helpful to switch it up every once in a while! Here are some ideas for different activities to help your students learn the soft G sound.
Hard G/Soft G Sorting
To help students recognize the phonics rules that the different g-letter sounds follow, try using a sorting activity. You will need two letter Gs – one made out of a hard material, like plastic or wood, and another made out of a soft material, like felt or other fabric. Provide students with several different cards, each with a g word. Students will sort the cards under the correct g depending on what g sound the word makes.
You can choose to use actual sight words or nonsense words for the word cards. For early readers with many vocabulary words memorized, using real words may not be beneficial. Some students may not be applying their knowledge but going based on what they have memorized. In this situation, using nonsense words will help you ensure that your students demonstrate the proper comprehension skills needed to figure out what sound the g makes in unfamiliar words.
Reading Decodable Texts
Another great activity to help students recognize the different sounds that the letter g can make is to find some decodable texts that specifically feature words with different g sounds. Have your students read the texts and use two color highlighters to mark the different g words: one color for words with a soft g sound and another for words with a hard g sound. Read the words together as a class and have students check their work.
Phoneme Grapheme Mapping
When introducing new letter sounds, phoneme-grapheme mapping can be a helpful tool. In this activity, students will work with a list of g words and map out the sounds in each word. For the soft g words, students will typically map the g with the vowel that comes after it. This activity is a great way to get students to pay attention to the sounds in each word, and it is also aligned with the Science of Reading.
Another activity idea for helping students differentiate when words are spelled with the hard g versus the small g is word building. Have students build different g words using letter tiles or magnets and spell each word two different ways: with a g and with a ge. Then, have students read each word aloud and see which sounds correct. This way, students can start recognizing how to correctly spell the g words based on the sound the g makes.
Learning letters and their sounds can be challenging for some students, and some letter sounds are incredibly challenging! Students will be far more successful when phonics is taught in the proper order. In the case of soft g, that means first teaching hard g as well as the different vowel sounds, and ideally, the soft c sound as well. If you follow the tips in this post and incorporate fun activities like the ones mentioned here, your students should have no trouble mastering this phonics skill! With lots of practice, your students will be ready to move on to the next letter sound in no time.
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