Working with Letters and Sounds

Teaching an emergent student the letters and sounds in the alphabet is an important part of their learning.  It is important that we realise that some students will be learning the alphabet for a while and we need to have enough different activities to keep engaging them.

We want to focus on alphabet instruction with a minimum of 2 letters per week.  A single letter of the week approach, while common, is not evidence based for any group of students.  Students need to experience multiple letters to be able to compare and contrast between them – it is actually easier to learn about A when you can compare it to B.  If you give them nothing to compare it to, then you are making the task harder.

Students who are at the very beginning of their journey towards learning the alphabet may do best with a focus on 2 – 6 letters of the week.  We want to do a mixture of incidental and explicit teaching in alphabet instruction.  This means that we will do some specific activities where we talk very explicitly about the focus letters. Then we talk about the letter any time possible as we come across it – this is the incidental component.

In your weekly activities include some alphabet sorts – letter sorts sorts are a really valuable activity because they require students to think and discriminate but they are only one example of activities we should do with the alphabet.

You can get lots of ideas for alphabet activities online – plus using the resources you already have.  You can find some suggestions for alphabet activities at:

Students who know more than 50% of the alphabet should be doing onset rime activities to help improve their phonemic awareness. Onset rime has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies we can use to build phonemic awareness. Children with CCN may have difficulties developing phonemic awareness so we usually start tackling this once a student knows about half the alphabet.

Targeting Onset Rime with Emergent Literacy Learners is a blog post which will give you more information about this topic.

Blog Posts from Jane Farrall Consulting related to Letters and Sounds (additional to the ones above):