Now before I go any further, I would like to very firmly and clearly state that I understand every child learns differently and will learn at his/her own pace. I am not writing this with the intention of supporting a "right way"; I simply want to share what has worked for us (so far, anyway).
I teach high school, so early literacy is just a little off my radar. I did a ton of research, and although conventionally parents and teachers use the alphabet song, paper worksheets, or sight words to teach early literacy, my research led me in a completely different direction. And I believe it is the right direction (for us). At just 2 1/2 years old, Reed knows 22 of the 26 letter sounds, is able to trace the letters, and is beginning to construct words. I think it is safe to say that this Montessori-style way of teaching letter sounds is working for Reed.
While exploring letter order, I came across sandpaper letters, apparently a very common Montessori resource. The letters are durable and can easily be stored or stacked. I made my own because the wooden ones run about $50 on Amazon. I am so happy with mine, and they have lasted 6 months now and show no signs of wear and tear. Here are a few reasons why I chose to use sandpaper letters:
1. They teach letters by sight. They're like big, wooden flashcards.
2. The child traces the letter with his or her finger, teaching writing at the same time.
3. Because the letters are so durable, they are great for playing games!
4. The letters can be placed next to each other to form words. Reed has just started synthesizing his own words; he likes to pull out 2-3 letters, place them next to each other, and "sound them out." For example, this past week, he found the "r" and the "a", placed them together, sounded it out, and ran around the house yelling "RAAA" like a dinosaur. Little steps!
DIY Sandpaper Letters
Sandpaper Letter Games
How to Teach Letter Sounds Using Sandpaper Letters