Teaching letters and sounds can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be! There are a few key things you can do to make the process smoother for both you and your student. In this blog post, I will discuss the importance of phonological awareness before teaching letters and sounds, as well as the best sequence for teaching letters and sounds. I will also provide tips on using tactile materials and multisensory activities in your classroom. Finally, I will give you some helpful hints on watching your students’ pronunciation. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to teaching letters and sounds like a pro!

Step 1: Build Phonological Awareness Before Teaching Letters and Sounds

Building phonological awareness is a crucial step in teaching letters and sounds. What is phonological awareness? It means that your student can recognize sounds, rhythm, and rhyme involving spoken words. You hear it and you speak it. There is no print involved in phonological awareness. Phonological awareness happens long before your students are introduced to letters of the alphabet. There are three main areas of phonological awareness: Rhyming, Syllables, Phonemic Awareness   

Research has shown us that phonological awareness is highly related to later success in reading and spelling. Students therefore need to master these three skills before learning to read.  

Step 2: Teach Letters and Sounds in Isolation 

Once phonological awareness has been established, it’s time to start teaching the letters and sounds of the alphabet. Here are some tips on how to teach this to your student so that they are successful. 

Teach Lowercase Letters First

Lowercase letters should be taught before uppercase letters. Your student 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 to environmental print as well as with initial uppercase letters in names. Therefore spending more time teaching the lowercase letters will benefit your student greatly. 

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 has been mastered. 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 direction and use the program’s scope and sequence.  

Review Previously Learned Letters

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

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

If your student is not saying the letter and sound in three seconds…go back and reteach. It means you went too fast and didn’t give your student enough time and enough practice to master the letter and sound. For some students, learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet 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 materials when teaching letters and sounds.

Ex: glitter glue, sand, play dough, LEGOS or canvas (to write and feel the letters)

You can watch this video with our favorite teacher Ms. Reneé 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 student and write letters on each other’s backs 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 that you might be interested in checking out:

Alphabet Q-Tip Letter Activity

Fly Swatter Alphabet Game

Alphabet Movement Activity: Simon Says

Step 3: Watch Your Student’s Pronunciation!

Once your student is able to identify letters and produce their sounds, it’s important to start monitoring their pronunciation. When you begin to introduce each letter and sound to your student, make a note of not adding an extra vowel sound at the end. For example, if you say /tuh/ instead of /t/

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

It is not necessary to teach the continuous sounds before the clip sounds. You can teach the alphabet any way 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.

If you are interested in learning more about how children learn to read, don’t miss out on our FREE Webinar How Children Learn to Read.  Watch it Here:

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 student will enjoy learning letters and sounds with an Orton-Gillingham step-by-step approach in the Beginning Letters & Sounds Book. Activities and games are included and a simple-to-use, scripted Teaching Guide for all parents, teachers, and tutors to use.

PRIDE Reading Program

How to teach letters and sounds correctly

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