The letter g can sometimes be tricky for beginner readers since it is one of the consonants that makes two different sounds. The hard sound, or /g/, is heard in words like girl, bag, or groggy. The soft sound, or /j/, is heard in words like Germany, mangy, and edge. These letter sounds may initially be challenging for young children to master, but there are many steps the teacher can take to help ensure students’ success. Here are some tips and activities for teaching the hard and soft g sounds and a list of sight words to help get you started.
Teaching the Hard G Sound
Hard g is the more familiar sound that g makes and should be taught first. The general phonics rule for the letter g is that it makes the /g/ sound when followed by any letter other than e, i, or y. It may still make the /g/ sound when followed by these letters; however, these are exceptions. If a word ends in g, it will always make the hard sound.
Teaching the Soft G Sound
Soft g is more challenging for students to master and should be taught after hard g. However, the rule for g has more exceptions than the rule for c, so it can be a little more complicated. It is also beneficial to wait until after teaching the soft sound of the letter c before starting on soft g, as they follow the same rule.
As stated above, the general rule is that g makes the /j/ sound when it comes before the letter e, i, or y. This rule is seen in words like gem, contagious, and edgy. Exceptions include words like get, girl, and tangy. At the end of a word, the /j/ sound will typically consist of the digraph ge or the trigraph dge. No English words end in a j, so the /j/ sound at the end of a word will always be a ge or dge.
List of G Words
Here is a list of simple words with the letter g that your kindergarten kids can work with as they learn the different letter sounds. You can use these words with some of the activity ideas at the end of this post.
Hard G Words
Soft G Words
Activities for Teaching Letter G
One great way to sharpen the phonics skills of your early readers is by using some engaging and hands-on activities. Here are a few activity ideas you can use when teaching the letter g.
Hard and Soft Sound Sorting
One great activity you can do to help your students differentiate between the two different g sounds is sorting. This activity could be a hands-on activity using cards with vocabulary words for students to sort or something like a cut-and-paste printable worksheet. Students will cut out the g words from the bottom of the page and glue them in the correct spot according to the sound they make.
There are some great, hands-on letter g worksheets you can find online that would be a beneficial practice for your students learning the letter g sounds. One example is a worksheet that shows a picture of a g word, then offers two different spellings of the word – one that would make the /g/ sound and one that would make the /j/ sound. Students will circle the correct spelling of the word.
For example, one image could be of a pig with the two spellings “pig” and “pige.” Students would use the image to determine what the word should be, then use their knowledge of phonics and the rule for g sounds to figure out the correct spelling.
Practice phonics and sharpen writing skills simultaneously with some simple writing activities. Students can work on writing letter g words and using the phonics rule to determine the correct spelling of each word. Have students practice writing words with the hard or soft g. Mix it up by offering different writing methods – such as using fun writing utensils, letter tiles, or magnetic letters.
Students can search decodable texts for different words with the letter g. They can highlight, circle, or underline each word using the correct color depending on the sound the g makes in that word. Give students two color highlighters or pens and assign each color to one of the g sounds. When students have completed the task, read the words they found together as a class and have them check their work.
Another great way for students to practice the soft and hard g sounds is with a dictation exercise. Have students spell out each sound (“g” and “ge” or “dge”). Then ask students to write a few words they learned from the list above. If your students are up for the challenge, you can also try dictating a few simple sentences using g words to them. Repeat each sentence several times and allow them plenty of time for them to write.
While learning the sounds that the letter g makes can be tricky, your students will master the skill in no time using these tips and activities. It is important to remember that all students learn at different paces, so allowing time for them to get it down is important. With a bit of time and incorporating some rich and meaningful activities, they will soon be ready to move on to the next letter in your phonics lessons.