The foundation of reading and spelling is knowing the most common sound represented by each of the letters of the alphabet – /a/-apple, /b/-ball, /k/-cat.
With this knowledge you can spell words by breaking the words into their individual sounds (bat – /b/ /a/ /t/) and then writing the letter that represents each of these sounds.
Similarly, if you want to read a word you say the sound represented by each of the letters m-a-n and then blend them together – man.
In contrast, knowing the letter names /ay/, /bee/, /see/ is not a particular useful skill for learning to read or spell, because for example, saying “/em/-/ay/-/en/ … /emayen/” will not help you to decode and read the word ‘man’.
There are several key elements to consider when teaching the alphabet sounds:
- Use a multisensory approach and providing plenty of opportunities for practice
- Initially, the key focus should be on the lower case letters as these are the most commonly occurring form of the letter.
- Introduce the letters so that letters that are similar in sound (e.g., ‘a’ and ‘u’) or similar in appearance (e.g., ‘b’ and ‘d’) are not taught consecutively.
- Link each letter to a key word that begins with the sound of the letter and that can easily be represented by a picture (e.g., a- apple).
- Choose pictures that look like the shape of the letter (e.g., i can be made to look like an insect)
- Teach an action song for each letter which requires hand movements and the reproduction of the letter.
- Do phonological awareness activities which include the child identifying the location of the sound at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of a word.
- Ensure a level of awareness of other types of letter fonts.
- Promote over learning to ensure completely automatic responses both in terms of reading and writing the letter.
- Link knowledge of letter sounds to the reading and spelling of 3 and 4 letter words which have a direct sound/symbol correlation (e.g., cat -/c/-/a/-/t/, run – /r/-/u/-/n/, peg- /p/-/e/-/g/).
The research indicates that each of these factors will assist in learning and long term memory retention.
For more information and resources go to: Reading Level 1
Cook, S., Yip, T., & Goldin-Meadow, S., (2010). Gesturing makes memories that last, Journal of Memory and Language, 63 (4), 465-475
Shmidman, A., & Ehri, L. (2010). Embedded picture mnemonics to learn letters Scientific Studies of Reading, 14 (2), 159
Treiman, R. Stothard, S. E., & Snowling, M. J. (2013). Instruction matters: Spelling of vowels by children in England and the US. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Jo The US and England have taken different positions on