Literacy: Learning Letters Name and Sounds

Too often children are taught the alphabet song without seeing the letters and matching each to its name. Many children think "elemeno" is one letter. So it is very important that pre-kindergarten children begin with the names of the letters in their first name, then letters in their last name.

As teachers/caregivers/parents help the child learn the letter names, it is wise to next teach letters that occur the most in print. And remember that children often need as many as 10–15 exposures to a concept, such as knowing that letters in words have both names and sounds. The order of letters that most often occur in print is shown below:

  1. Most of the letters can be formed in print by teaching the idea of "sticks and balloons." When children get good at doing these forms, the variation can be added—half sticks and balloons, and the curve needed to form the letters g and j.
  2. Begin with several known letters printed and then teach a new letter with the child having 8–10 practices on the new letter if needed.
  3. Have the child tracing over letters; this fosters the kinesthetic element that is critical to learning. Then have children write each new letter several times.
  4. As the child learns capital (or uppercase) letter names, point out the letters with the same shape but are bigger, such as C S V W X O.
  5. Mastery is when a child can name the 26 letters of the alphabet in random order in one minute. This is called RAN (Rapid Automatic Naming) and is supported by research.
  6. If a parent/tutor decides to teach the letter sound (after the letter name is learned), point out that some letters have the sound at the beginning of the letter name, such as b d j k p t v z, and some have the sound at the end of the letter name, such as f l m n s x. Of course, vowel sounds, both short and long, can vary a lot, and take much practice!