Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Shape and Sound of Letters

Phonics is back!

In the 60s, when my parents learned to read, they used the “Dick and Jane” basal readers. These focused less on teaching the individual sounds in a word, and more on teaching sight words to be memorized. Just like fashion, this method of teaching reading went out of style, and Phonics has made a comeback.  


Phonics is making the connection between the letters on a page, and the sounds that are heard. Even though there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are 44 sounds! This is because each letter may make more than one sound. 

Around the age of 4, most children have mastered the alphabet song. However, many children need up to 2 years to learn the shapes of all the letters. Here are some tips for teaching your child how to write their letters, and learn the sounds that go with them. 
  • If your child is in preschool, teach an uppercase set of letters first. They are easier to distinguish than lower case letters.
  • By kindergarten, your child should start to focus on learning the lower case letters.
  • Start with simple letters. For instance, t, s, a (short sound, as in tap), m, i (short sound as in pig), r, and d are good to start with.
  • As you’re reading with your child, have them point out words that start with the same letters or end with the same letters.  
  • Research has shown that it is also helpful to show your child a corresponding picture to go with each letter (Ehri, 1992). If they are practicing the letter /s/, have them draw a snake, or a sun – whatever they associate that letter with.

A Time Line of Alphabet Recognition 


- Exposure to letter names 
- Recognizes his or her own name 


- Recites most letter names 
- Labels most letter shapes (uppercase and lower case)

Grade 1 

- Knows all letter names and shapes 

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