tuh is for tennis

I was lucky enough a few summers ago to live in London during Wimbledon and since then it has been my favourite summer sport — partially because of the food. Lucky for me, tennis is the perfect unit study for learning the “t” letter sound! Here is what we got up to for our (mini) tennis unit study!

tuh is for tennis | learning "t" letter sound at Sugar, Spice and Glitter

I started off introducing the “t” sound like I usually do, showing the children our lower-case “t” sandpaper letter and having them all trace the letter with their forefinger and middle finger while making the “tuh” noise that the letter creates (do not emphasize the “uh,” but rather make sure you don’t add any additional sounds onto the “naked ‘t'” sound). We sang “Take me out to the ball game” with an emphasis on the “t” for “take.”

Edit: it is really hard to explain what “t” sounds like, “tuh” can be a bit misleading, but “/t/” is a bit technical and I’m guessing many would have no idea what it sounds like, so I’ve added a sound file so you can hear me demonstrating “/t/ for tennis”:


Balloon tennis at Study-at-Home Mama

I showed the kids a tennis racket and showed them how the hatching could look like little “t’s” all intersected together. I put the racket in the middle of the group and they all traced their fingers over the “t’s” that they could find. I then asked if they’d like to make their own rackets, which of course got a great response! Interestingly, two of the children chose to draw “t’s” all over their rackets, while the other two had a couple of t’s but focused mainly on decoration.

tennis bingo

I had a couple of other activities set out on our art shelf, and they quickly were taken up by the kids — a green bingo dabber (making “tennis balls”) and lacing on a tennis racket. These were less about the letter “t” and more about extending the tennis theme to engage fine motor skills; however, children could be encouraged to make letter “t’s” with the bingo dabbers or yarn.

tennis ball painting at Study-at-Home MamaWe later also practiced throwing tennis balls dipped in paint for a big “process art” project. This was such a fun gross motor skills activity, and the children were able to see great visual feedback as to where their throws were landing. One child’s throw dramatically improved as he really focused on hitting the paper “target.” Older (more coordinated) children could practice their tennis serves rather than straight throws.

tennis lunch idea for preschoolersFor lunch, we had leftover white gazpacho soup with a few green peas strewn over top (to look like tennis balls on a field), along with a cold macaroni-and-pea salad, apples, and strawberries. For dessert, we had strawberries and ice cream — a fun twist on the traditional Wimbledon treat of strawberries and cream. Our Strawberry Shortcake would also be great for this unit!

tennis strawberries and ice cream preschool snackAfter lunch, I try to set out a quiet time, sensory activity as I have some children who nap, and others who don’t. I was going to make a “tennis ball slime” with just lime green pom poms, but I thought the full colour version was a lot more fun! If you’ve never made slime, check out Fun at Home with Kid’s tutorial here for the recipe and some troubleshooting (and poke around her site — she has some great messy play ideas).

slime pom pom (2)Our attempts at learning “real” tennis were thwarted by the rain, so we grabbed our paper plate rackets and played “balloon tennis” in the living room. When modeling how to hit the balloon to keep it up in the air, I made “tuh” sounds to encourage the children to also practice the “t” letter sound. The children worked together to keep the balloon up in the air, and loved the chance to have a bit of rambunctious fun in the house. All of the rackets were broken within about 20 minutes.

We really enjoyed learning the “tuh” for “t” letter sound with some tennis activities, and I’m racking my brain for ideas on how to engage in the letter “i” next week — any ideas?

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  1. I am pleased to see that you are focusing on the sounds associated with lowercase letters rather than on letter names. This is a very foundational Montessori principal. I don’t normally respond to posts, but this is something that I am very passionate about! As a Montessori Children’s House teacher, I want to make a suggestion about letters and sounds. When teaching letter sounds, it is very important to carefully isolate the specific individual sound associated with each letter. For example, “t” = |t|, NOT “tuh”. Adding the “uh” sound, is actually attaching the short “u” vowel sound, therefore “tuh” is really “t + u”. This causes difficulty for children to hear and recognize that middle vowel sound when they are making words. If “t” = “tuh”, then spelling the word “tug” only requires a “t” and a “g”. Likewise, if “b” = “buh”, then “bus” = “b + g”: the vowel gets missed. Softly and specifically enunciating just that initial |b| sound without adding “uh”, will help children isolate the vowel sounds: |b| + |u| + |s| = “bus”. This applies to most consonants and phonograms.

    1. Hi Julie – I absolutely agree, I guess I’m not describing the sound effectively in a written form. I’d rather give someone a relatable sound (like “ah” for a) which is why I tried to figure out how “t” sounds. I don’t think that just writing “|t|” is helpful to anyone without an educational background — they’ll just end up saying “tah” or something equivalent. Do you have a suggestion for “t” that would read as it sounds?

  2. How about “i” is for “igloo”!? You could do a whole series of winter activities since it’s so warm outside . . . make igloos with ice cubes, freeze items inside a large block of ice and have the children uncover them using a variety of processes (chipping, heating, eroding, etc.). Or “i” is for “ice”, perhaps do both, since those two words represent both the long and short sounds.

    1. That was my original idea for this week — I think I might still end up doing an ice or igloo unit — but we had some special supplies we had to use up this week…

  3. I can tell that the kids had a blast learning about the letter t and its sound. The tennis ball art was genius and a wonderful idea for gross motor development! 🙂

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