Focus on Sounds, not Letter Names

I know I have mentioned this topic in previous tips, but thought, as a new school year approaches for most, it was a good time for a review. I encourage you to set a goal for yourself for this school year to ‘talk sounds’ with your children. It can be tough, as we are so in the habit of referring to letters by their name, but the results will be well worth it! When it comes time to start blending, your children will find it much easier to master this concept if they only have one sound to associate with a letter. (Don’t worry about long vowels, soft c and g and other irregular sounds – these will come later.) If a child has learned to look at the letter ‘a’ and associate only the sound /a/ they will be more successful than if they have to decide – do I use the name here or the sound? Usually we teach the names first and, since typically we remember best what we learned first, it stands to reason that the name will pop into their head. By ‘talking sounds’ we eliminate this potential confusion. Some programs teach children a little rhyme to repeat when they see a letter, eg. A A apple /a/ (name, name, word, sound). If that is what a child has been trained to do, that will be what pops into their brain each time they see a letter. Imagine how confusing that must be when you are trying to blend the word ‘can’.

If you haven’t done this with me in a workshop, take a few minutes and do it now:

  • Fold a piece of paper in half
  • Label one side ‘name’ and one side ‘sound’
  • Under each, list what we use letter names for and what we use letter sounds for
  • Keep this paper as a reminder of how important it is to ‘talk sounds’

Good luck with this one, and please let me know if you see it making a difference for your children!