What is the Purpose of a Sound Drill?
The Sound Drill
This is a task that we do in every single lesson. If you aren’t familiar with the sound drill, it is when the clinician shows the student a card with a letter on it, and the students have to immediately say what sound/sounds that letter (or letter combination) makes. We always start our lessons with this.
The sound drill (also known as the phonogram drill) sounds so simple…why is it so important?
This is a crucial part of your lesson. While the task itself appears simple, by having the student practice identifying letters and sounds you are priming their brain for more challenging work. I like to think about it like warming up before a soccer game. An athlete never wants to jump right into a game. Typically, they allow themselves a period of time prior to game-time to stretch and warm up their muscles. The sound drill is warming up the student’s brain.
It is activating the phonologic and orthographic processors.
When you show a student a letter and ask them to immediately tie a sound to it, you are activating the bottom points on our Literacy Processing Triangle and helping to build the connection between orthography and phonology.
We want to make sure that the letter-sound association is automatic and fluent.
This is why we never do the sound drill in alphabetic order, and we switch up the order in which cards are presented each time. We don’t want students relying on having memorized the order of the sounds, but instead, immediately recognize the sound upon seeing the letter.
As the students gain knowledge, differentiate the sound drill to make it more challenging.
As students progress through instruction and learn more phonograms, we will add those cards into the sound deck. We only practice sounds that have been explicitly taught. As students demonstrate knowledge of specific sounds, we will phase them out. For example, if your student has recognized that ‘t’ says /t/ ten times in a row, the next week you do not need to practice that sound. We do recommend pulling all sounds back in for review every few sessions, that way they remain fresh in the student’s brain.
Our students need explicit and repeated practice relating letters to sounds.
In order to decode and build up to higher skills, the sound drill is necessary to solidify a foundation, and warm up the brain. We always start our lessons with the sound drill and never skip it. To watch a video of Mikayla practicing the sound drill with a student, click here.