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Tips and Strategies for Teaching the Alphabet Letters and Letter Sounds

Most children learn to recognize the letters in the alphabet between the ages of 3 and 4. By age 5, the majority of children begin to make letter-sound associations.  Children’s reading development is dependent on their understanding of the Alphabetic Principle – which is the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. For some children this life skill does not come naturally or easily and will require some specific teaching strategies. On this post, I will share will you how you can easily teach the alphabet letters and sounds to your child using engaging strategies and activities.

Step 1: Build Phonological Awareness Before You Teach Letters and Sounds

This crucial pre-reading skill is often overlooked as teachers and parents want to rush straight into teaching letters and sounds. I am here to tell you…don’t do it! Teach phonological awareness first.

What is phonological awareness? It means that your child can recognize the sounds, rhythm, and rhyme involving spoken words. You hear it and you speak it. There is no print involved in phonological awareness. This happens way before children are introduced to letters of the alphabet. 

Research has proven that without this crucial skill, a child cannot learn to read well.

Building phonological skills requires these 3 steps: rhyming, syllable division, and phonemic awareness

For more information on rhyming, including teaching tips and specific teaching strategies and activities, please read my previous post:

>>How to Teach Rhyming<<

Step 2: Teach Letters and Sounds

When you are ready to begin teaching the letters and sounds to your child, you will need a set of letter/sound cards. (You can make these by writing each lowercase letter on a separate index card). 

Teach Lowercase Letters First

Children will come across lowercase letters the most when they begin printing and blending words, so they will need a solid knowledge of the lowercase letters.  Uppercase letters are usually easier for children to master and they typically gain proficiency with uppercase letters due to more frequent exposure in environmental print as well as with initial uppercase letters in names. Therefore spending more time teaching the lowercase letters with benefit your child greatly, as these letters tend to be a bit more difficult to learn.

Teach Each Letter in Isolation 

You will want to work on just one letter at a time and not teach a new letter until the previous letter is mastered.  It doesn’t matter what order you teach the letters and sounds  as long as you go slowly and use a lot of repetition. If you are working with a reading program such as the PRIDE Reading Program, you will simply follow the program’s lead and use the program’s sequence.

Review Previously Learned Letters

Each time you add a new letter to the mix, review the previously learned letters. Because children need a lot of repetition, it is really important to Review Review Review. When you hold up the letter flashcard, you will want your child to say the letter sound and the letter name within 3 seconds.

Say, “When I hold up a letter, say the letter’s name and give its sound.”

If your child is not saying the letter and sound in 3 seconds…go back and reteach. It means you went too fast and didn’t give your child enough time and enough practice to master the letter and sound. For some children learning the letters and sounds can take up to a year!  

Take your time and go slowly. There is no rush. It is really important that each letter and sound ‘stick’ and that can only happen slowly over time with practice and repetition.

Use Tactile Materials

Use lots of tactile material when teaching letters and sounds.  Ex: glitter glue, sand, playdough, LEGO or canvas (to write and feel the letters).  You can watch this video here to give you some ideas on how to make your own tactile letter cards:

Use Multisensory Activities

Multisensory means engaging more than one sense at a time.  You see it, you say it, you hear it, you touch it, and you move with it!  Using multisensory activities in your alphabet lessons makes learning fun and memorable.  Here are some multisensory activities you can use when you are teaching your child the letters and sounds of the alphabet:

  • Pair up with your child and write letters on each other’s back with a finger. Guess what the letter is.
  • While sitting on a carpet, write down each letter directly onto the carpet with two fingers.
  • Fill a tray with sand or salt and write the letters in it.
  • Spread shaving cream out on a tray and have your child write out the letters in the cream.

Here are some more alphabet activities and games from my previous posts that you might also be interested in:

Alphabet Q-Tip Letter Activity

Alphabet BINGO and free download

Fly Swatter Alphabet Game

Alphabet Movement Activity: Simon Says

Step 3: Watch Your Pronunciation!

 

When you begin to introduce each letter and sound to your child, make a note of not adding an extra vowel sound at the end, for example if you say /tuh/ instead of /t/.

It is important to pronounce consonants without adding a vowel sound. The word “cat” is not pronounced kuh-ah-tuh

You will want to make sure that your child is learning the appropriate letter sounds right away, or they will become very confused when they are beginning to blend the words.

 

Continuous Sounds

These are the letters that make one continuous or stretched out sound. These are easy sounds. You can elongate these sounds.  

m, s, f, l, r, n, v, z

Clip Sounds

These are the letters that are not as easy to pronounce in isolation without adding an extra vowel sound to the end. The vowel sound should be “clipped” to make it as short as possible.  

A trick that I have learned is to put your hand in front of your mouth. When you say a clip sound, there will be a little puff of air. Stop saying the sound as soon as you feel the puff of air. These are the clip sounds.

b, c, d, g, p, t, k, j

Tricky Sounds

These are the tricky ones to teach. I have to play around with them a bit until I figure out the right way to pronounce the letter without adding the vowel to the end.  

h, w, y, x

(If you have any tricks with these tricky sounds, please SHARE with us in the comments below!)

It is not necessary to teach the continuous sounds before the clip sounds. You can teach the alphabet anyway you choose. Personally, I like to first teach all of the consonants before teaching vowels. I use the vowels to teach beginning blending. I also separate the b and d to avoid reversals.

 

Thank you so much for reading my post today! When you are ready for the next step… blending, make sure to read my post:

>>How to Teach Beginning Blending<<

The PRIDE Reading Program

Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program.  The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

All of the skills mentioned in this post are included in the PRIDE Reading Program. Your child will enjoy learning letters and sounds with an Orton-Gillingham step by step approach in the Beginning Consonants Book. Activities and games are included and a simple to use, 100% scripted Teaching Guide for all parents, teachers and tutors to use.

PRIDE Reading Program

Which of these Alphabet activities are you going to try out first?  Let me know in the comments below.


Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com

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