100 Gentle Lessons in Letters & Sounds: Level 0 teaches letter and sound recognition through hearing, seeing, saying, games, hands-on activities, and rhymes. You might begin this course with pre-kindergartners, but it is probably best for kindergarten.
The kit includes the book 100 Gentle Lessons in Letters & Sounds: Level 0, alphabet letter cards, a cardstock page of shapes to make letters (these need to be cut out), a cardstock page that serves as both a mat and guide for forming letters, and optional recipe cards.
Influenced by Charlotte Mason, each lesson in the book has a nursery rhyme and a lovely illustration from an out-of-print Mother Goose book. The layout and design of the book have an “old-fashioned” look that pleasingly complements the full-color illustrations.
Mason’s methodology is implemented in several ways besides the use of nursery rhymes and illustrations. For instance, students work on learning the sounds rather than the names of the letters; they learn to form letters, but they don’t begin handwriting; and lessons are brief and enjoyable.
The cardstock page I mentioned above has several curved and straight pieces from which children will practice forming letters. The pieces are color-coded, and the guide on the other cardstock page shows how each letter is formed with them. The reverse of the guide page is used as a mat for forming the letters. Children will also practice writing letters in the air and in a sand tray.
The letter flashcards show the letter and an image for a keyword on one side and a rhyme on the reverse that uses the letter sound.
The book is the centerpiece of the course. It provides step-by-step lessons for ten- to fifteen-minute sessions, four days per week. Each letter is studied for four days, following the brief lesson plan for each day.
On each day, you will read the nursery rhyme featured that week and work with the flashcard for the letter being taught. Children will do at least one other activity each day, such as constructing the letter from the cardstock pieces, looking for items in your pantry that start with the letter of the week, or completing an activity using pages from the book.
The book includes one or two activity pages for most lessons, such as one with multiple scattered letters A, B, and C for children to circle with different colored crayons, and another where children cut out images from one page and paste them next to their corresponding words on the following page. Other pages are used for phonetic awareness activities such as identifying individual sounds within words, orally identifying rhyming words, removing sounds from words to create new words (e.g., tree minus /r/ leaves the word tea), and playing a bingo game by identifying letters and their sounds. At the end of the course, children should be able to read at least a few words, such as cat, mat, and men.
In addition to basic school supplies, some activities require items like a toy car, flashlights, a slinky, an umbrella, and Q-tips®. A list of required resources at the front of the book makes it easy to plan ahead.
Each week’s lesson plan includes a recommended, optional, read-aloud book for each letter (e.g., Ella the Elegant Elephant for the letter e) and an optional cooking activity using one of the recipe cards.
100 Gentle Lessons in Letters & Sounds: Level 0 is a developmentally appropriate way to teach beginning reading skills to children that applies Charlotte Mason’s methodology in an easy-to-use fashion. You can follow up this course with 100 Gentle Lessons in Sight & Sound: Level 1 and Level 2.