Letter Names Can Cause Confusion and Other Things to Know About Letter–Sound Relationships (2023)

A teacher asks kindergartners to write about what each of them did over the weekend. One child writes the letters HRH on her paper. When the teacher asks her to share what she has written, the child says “church.” Why? Because the pronunciation of the letter name for h ends with the ch sound.
—Donna Scanlon, Professor

Letter names in English can cause confusion for young children. Knowing this and other things about English orthography (the standardized alphabetic spelling system of the English language) can help teachers better support young children’s literacy development (e.g., McCutchen et al. 2009). However, teachers need to know not only about letter names and letter–sound relationships in English words but also about applying this knowledge in their interactions with young children.

In this article, we present 10 essential understandings about English orthography andexamples of how this knowledge can help teachers appropriately support preschool and primary grade children’s literacy development.

1. Letter names can be confusing.

H is one of three letters whose names, when pronounced, do not contain a sound that the letter represents. The other two letters are w and y. Children sometimes write a w for /d/ (/d/ means the d sound: slashes around a letter [or letters] denote its sound or pronunciation) because the pronunciation of the letter name for w (double-u) starts with /d/. And you’ll sometimes see children write a y for /w/, as in YAT for wait. The pronunciation of most letter names includes at least one sound the letter commonly represents, although the position of the letter’s sound in the letter’s name varies. For some letters, the sound comes first and is followed by a vowel sound, as in b, c, d, g, j, k, p, q, t, v, z. In other letters, the letter’s sound comes second, preceded by a vowelsound, as in f, l, m, n, r, s, x. Moreover, the vowel sound is not consistent. Sometimes it is /ee/, as in the letter names for b, c, d, g, p, t, v, z; sometimes it is /ĕ/, as in the letter names for f, l, m, n, s, x; sometimes it is /ay/, as in j and k; in q it is a long u; and in r it is an r-controlled a (more about r-control later).

Rather than teaching children rules, expose them to lists of words that all follow a particular pattern.

We can see why children learning letter–sound associations and trying to apply that knowledge in their reading and writing are sometimes mystified. Some researchers recommend that we not teach letter names at all (e.g., McGuinness 2004). However, other research indicates that instruction in both letter names and letter sounds is best for children (Piasta, Purpura, & Wagner 2010).

What you can do

As a teacher of young children, be sure to devote at least as much attention to helping children learn the sound or sounds associated with each letter as you do the letter name. When interacting with children, look out for the influence of letter names and address this explicitly. For example, if a kindergartner writes YD for wide, you can say, “I understand why you put the letter y there. You hear /w/ at the beginning of the name for y. But the letter y actually makes a /y/ sound. That’s confusing, isn’t it! Do you know what letter makes the /w/ sound?” (If more support is needed, provide a name or other key word children have learned for /w/, such as Waheed, a classmate’s name.)

2. English is more systematic than we may realize.

All too often, the English language is viewed as being highly complicated and irregular—with many exceptions to every rule. George Bernard Shaw suggested that English is so irregular and chaotic that the word ghoti might conceivably be pronounced fish (Venezky 1999). However, Venezky shows that Shaw’s claim is misleading. The letters gh can represent /f/ only when they come at the end of a word, such as in enough. Shaw suggested that ocan represent the short i sound; but according to Venezky, Shaw was referring to the word women, which is the only word in the English language in which o represents short i. Finally, ti can represent /sh/ only when followed by other letters (as in action), never at the end of a word. Venezky’s rebuttal of Shaw’s argument illustrates the systematicity of written English.

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Of course, systematicity does not necessarily mean simplicity. English orthography is indisputably complex, and it is important not to make simple, unwarranted generalizations. Many of the phonics generalizations or phonics rules that elementary grade students learn are too simplistic, having far too many exceptions to be valid (Clymer 1963). For example, regarding the rule stating that “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking,” Clymer found that only 45 percent of English words having two vowels together follow it. Johnston (2001) revisited this analysis with a different database. She also found that this rule often did not apply, nor did any broad phonics generalization she studied.

What you can do

Rather than teaching children rules, expose them to lists of words that all follow a particular pattern. For example, rather than teaching the aforementioned rule for vowels, present children with a list of words such as look, book, took, cook, and help children focus on the sound–letter pattern. Johnston (2001) found that many specific (rather than broad) generalizations were true much of the time (e.g., in her database oi represents the sound in coin 100 percent of the time). In addition, to counter your colleagues who question the value of phonics instruction, share the ghoti example to demonstrate that English is more systematic than we realize.

3. English orthography is complex for good reasons.

Written English has a long, rich history. As a result, pronunciation of some words has evolved even while their spelling has not. For example, originally the word gnat was pronounced /gnat/, but over time, the g has become silent. We now pronounce it /nat/; yet, we still spell it with the g at the beginning.

In addition to evolved pronunciations, many words, such as llama or rhyme, have been borrowed from other languages. English is also a language in which morphology (the study of the smallest unit of meaning in words), as well as phonology (the study of speech sounds), drives orthography (Venezky 1967). (For definitions of these words and other related vocubulary, see “Glossary of Terms” at the end of the article.)

In a purely phonological orthographic system we would spell words exactly as they sound. For example, bugs might be spelled bugz, and insects,insex. But in a partially morphological orthographic system such as English, we spell these words bugs and insects to signify with the -s that both are plural. Although admittedly posing challenges for readers and writers in early stages of literacy development, the fact that English orthography conveys morphological relationships can be a big help to readers and writers in later stages of literacy development, when they begin encountering a lot of words in reading that aren’t in their everyday oral vocabulary.

It allows us to see semantic, or meaning-based, relationships between words. For example, even though magic and magician have very different pronunciations (/majic/ and /majishun/), we can see by their spelling that they are related. The morphological nature of English orthography also allows us to figure out the meanings of words we have never seen or heard (e.g., kleptophobia—the fear of stealing or being stolen from). Indeed, a growing body of research suggests that stronger morphological awareness supports literacy development (Carlisle 2010). Recognizing the morphological nature of English orthography offers readers an advantage.

What you can do

Consider teaching some beginning morphology to children in kindergarten or first grade (depending on their readiness for this). For example, you might help them understand that we use -s to make a word mean more than one even if we say it with /z/. Help them understand that we use -ed to make a word indicate that something happened in the past, whether we say it with a /d/ or with a /t/, as in walked. You can use the preceding examples to help parents, colleagues, and others better understand that the language system is based on both phonology and morphology.

4. Some letters represent different sounds in different words.

Ms. Wilson is introducing the letter c to her kindergartners. She explains that c stands for at least two sounds: /k/ as in cat and /s/ as in cereal.

Letter Names Can Cause Confusion and Other Things to Know About Letter–Sound Relationships (1)

Like c, there are a number of letters that commonly represent either of two sounds. Another is g. The two sounds are referred to as hard and soft. The hard sound of c is /k/, as in cat or cookie, and of g is /g/, as in goat or grandma. The soft sound of c is /s/, as in cereal or center, and of g is /j/, as in gym or ginger.

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Hard and soft sounds provide another opportunity to underscore that English orthography is more systematic than we may realize. It is not, in fact, random whether the c or g is pronounced with its hard or soft sound. Try pronouncing these two words: ceilent and gantin. These are made-up words, so you haven’t seen or read them before. Yet most likely you pronounced the c as /s/ (soft) and the g as /g/ (hard). The reason is that c and g typically represent soft sounds when followed by e, i, or y, and hard soundswhen followed by a, o, or u.

We would not teach these generalizations to young children, but they can remind us of the systematicity of English spelling. There are other letters that represent two or more different sounds—the letter s is one, as in sun and was; x is another, as in xylophone and fox (the x in fox represents two sounds, or phonemes, pronounced together: /k/ /s/). Each vowel represents at least three different sounds. One of these, the schwa sound, will be discussed in point number 10. The other two are referred to as long vowels and short vowels.

Typically, a short vowel is the sound the vowel represents in a consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) word. For example, short a is the middle sound in bag (for the other short vowels, it’s /e/ as in bed, /i/ as in bit, /o/ as in hot, /u/ as in cut). Long vowels “say their names”—for example, long i is the sound the vowel represents in bike. The terms long vowel and short vowel are misnomers in that short vowels are not pronounced noticeably faster than long vowels.

What you can do

Be up front with children, as Ms. Wilson was, about cases in which a letter represents different sounds in different words. When a child is reading aloud and is unsure of which sound to use, have the child try both sounds and ultimately decide on one based on the word that sounds right and makes sense (Scanlon, Anderson, & Sweeney 2010). With vowels, this approach is sometimes referred to as vowel flexing.

5. Sometimes sounds can be represented in more than one way.

Jelani, a first-grader, brings his writing to a conference with his teacher, Mr. Acker. He has written uv for the word of. Mr. Acker points to the word and tells Jelani that the letters he wrote do make the sounds we hear in of, but we spell this word “of.

Jelani actually has written appropriate letters for the sounds he heard. Mr. Acker does the right thing to validate that. We have seen teachers who will not recognize this and suggest that the child listen harder or try again. Listening harder would not help him spell of correctly becausethe two phonemes, or small sound units, in the word can reasonably be represented by the letters u and v. As with many words, the only way for Jelani to know how to spell of correctly is through experience with the correct spelling of the word.

What you can do

Don’t insist on correct spelling early on; research strongly suggests that engaging children in listening for sounds in words and inventing/estimating/approximating their spelling supports their literacy development (e.g., Ouellette & Sénéchal 2008). Over time, following the guidelines of standards documents with specific expectations for spelling at each grade level, encourage children to learn to spell a growing number of words correctly—for example, the words listed on a classroom word wall or in their personal dictionaries or word journals.

6. Sometimes pairs or groups of letters represent a single sound.

In Mr. Acker’s classroom, the first-graders engage in a guided reading lesson. They are reading a text about fish. Some students try to figure out the word by pronouncing /f/ /i/ /s/ /h/. Mr. Acker stops and explains to them that when s and h are together, they don’t make /s/ and /h/; together they make the /sh/ sound. This teacher recognizes the difference between digraphs and blends. A digraph is two letters that stand for a single phoneme. Unlike a blend, a digraph is not a combination ofthe sounds that the two letters represent. Sh is a digraph representing the single phoneme /sh/—it is not formed by pronouncing /s/ and /h/ consecutively.

Letter Names Can Cause Confusion and Other Things to Know About Letter–Sound Relationships (2)Three other important consonant digraphs are ch as in chin, th as in thin or that, and ng as in sing. No single letter can represent the sound represented by any of these digraphs. There are many other consonant digraphs that represent a sound already represented by another letter: ph, wh, wr, kn, gn, ck, ff, gh, ll, mb, ss (Dow & Baer 2012).

There are also vowel digraphs. One is oa, as in boat. Other combinations of vowel digraphs (e.g., Dow & Baer 2012), which others call simply vowel pairs (e.g., Fox 2009) or vowel teams (NGA & CCSSO 2010), include ea (as in head or as in bead), ai, ay, ee, oe, au, aw, ew, oo (as in spook or as in book), and ow (as in slow—please see point number 7 for a discussion of ow as in cow). In some cases, we even have trigraphs in English—three letters representing a single sound.

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Examples of trigraphsare sch, as in the word schwa; dge, as in judge; igh, as in high; and tch, as in watch. And there are at least two quadgraphs we can think of. We’ll put them at the end of the article to give you some time to come up with them. Digraphs are frequently confused with blends. Blends are pairs or groups of letters in which each letter is sounded, one right after the other. Unlike a digraph, the sound of each individual letter in the blend is maintained. For example, the gr in the word grape is a blend. When you say the word, you pronounce both /g/ and /r/ but in immediate succession such that they sound blended together. (See “Keeping in Mind a Word’s Sound Structure.”)

What you can do

We recommend teaching digraphs explicitly (but without using the term digraph). Some teachers take a digital photo of children showing thumbs up for th, making the quiet sign for sh, and pointing to their cheeks for ch, and they post those along with the digraphs as a reminder of the sound associated with each of these digraphs.

7. Sometimes pairs of letters represent a special kind of sound.

Another kind of letter pair to be aware of are diphthongs. We sometimes say that diphthongs make a sound-and-ahalf or that they glide—the two letters represent a single phoneme, but saying the phoneme involves substantial movement of the mouth. Try putting your fingers around your mouth as you say boy and cow. You will feel substantial movement in the second part of the words. The oi/oy, ow/ ou (as in mouse), and au/aw (caught, raw) are diphthongs. You may also notice that when writing, young children who are not yet aware of the spellings for these sounds may use any number of vowels to represent them. Sometimes they use a long string of vowels such as caoy for cow, probably because they sense considerable movement in their mouths.

Letter Names Can Cause Confusion and Other Things to Know About Letter–Sound Relationships (3)

What you can do

As with digraphs, we recommend providing explicit instruction in diphthongs (although that teaching needn’t— and shouldn’t—include the term diphthong). Again key words or anchor words can be very helpful for children. The high frequency word boy, for example, might serve as a key word to remind children of the oy letter–sound relationship (Ehri, Satlow, & Gaskins 2009).

Keeping in Mind a Word’s Sound Structure
Literate adults are so influenced by orthography that they sometimes lose touch with the actual sound, or phoneme, structure of words. Count the phonemes in these words and see how close you come: sheep, bright, six, each, choose (3, 4, 4, 2, 3, respectively). It is important for teachers of young children to be aware of the phoneme structure in words as they respond to children’s writing. A child who represents the word bright as BIT may at first glance seem way off, but in fact she has represented three of the four phonemes in the word, and the one she has missed is the second sound in a blend—and they are notoriously hard for young children to hear. (Also hard to hear are n and m before consonants, so you’ll see spelling such as dot for don’t and cap for camp.)

8. The letter or letters that immediately follow or precede a letter matter.

Mrs. Chan, a first-grade teacher, is eliciting words that begin with the ă sound. James offers art. Mrs. Chan explains that the word art does begin with the letter a, but in that word, it doesn’t represent the /ă/ or /ā/. Because it’s before the letter r, it makes a different sound (which she then pronounces with the children).

In this context, a is known as an r-controlled vowel—the a sound is lost to the r sound. R-control affects not only a, but any vowel that precedes the r. We pronounce neither the long nor the short sound of e in er, i in ir, o in or, or u in ur. Rather, each of these letter pairs has a special pronunciation (or pronunciations) that is not the sum of their individual sounds. In spelling, determining which r-controlled vowel represents a sound in a word can be quite difficult (Venezky 1999). For example, the words her and girl contain the same r sound but are represented by different r-controlled vowels.

R-control is just one example of a larger phenomenon in English orthography—the fact that the letters around a letter matters. We also see this with vowels preceding l versus another letter (e.g., ball versus bat) and with some letters that are unsounded when in certain contexts (e.g., b before t, as in doubt; b after m, as in comb).

What you can do

The fact that the sound made by the letter(s) that follow or precede another letter matters is one of the reasons we recommend teaching phonograms beginning in kindergarten.

Phonograms are common groups of letters that represent the same sounds, such as –ight in bright, light, sight, and soon. Teaching children phonograms, such as –er, -all, and – tch, helps avoid the problem of children trying to read these letter groups using the individual sounds associated with these letters. It also explains why word chunking is widely suggested for multisyllabic words. To explain chunking, Gaskins (Center for the Study of Reading 1991) offers the example of the word bandiferous. Although not a real word, we read this word quickly and easily. We do not do so by sounding out each individual letter—/b/ /a/ /n/ /d/ /i/ /f/ /e/ /r/ /o/ /u/ /s/. Instead, we read the word in chunks (e.g., /band/ /if/ /er/ /ous/), recognizing the chunks from words we already know. The longer and more orthographically complex words are, the more important chunking is. For example, to support a second grader who is struggling to read the word rereading, a teacher would show the child the chunks /re/ /read/ /ing/.

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9. A letter’s position in a word matters.

Mrs. Chan listens as Francine, a first-grader, tries to read the word funny. When Francine gets to the y, she pronounces the sound /y/, as in yellow. The teacher who knows about English orthography recognizes this as a sign that the child has limited understanding of the letter–sound relationships of y. Although y does represent the sound /y/ at the beginning of a word, elsewhere in a word it typically represents the long i or long e sound. Indeed, this is why we say y is sometimes a vowel—when y comes at the beginning of a word, it is often a consonant,whereas if it is in the middle or end of a syllable or word, it typically acts as a vowel. Y illustrates that a letter’s position in a word and syllable matters.

What you can do

Once children have some basic letter-by-letter decoding skills, help them use knowledge of known words to solve unknown words. Sometimes called “decoding by analogy,” this strategy helps children take into account the position of letters within a word and supports word-reading development (White 2005). For example, children might use knowledge of happy to decode the end of funny or their knowledge of celebrate to decode celery (see point number 4).

10. Any vowel can be a schwa.

Tyrice, a second-grader, asks his teacher for help spelling the word envelope. Mr. Allen begins pronouncing the word as en (pronouncing the e as a short e), ve (pronouncing a short u), lope (pronouncing a long o). This teacher avoided a pitfall we have repeatedly observed both teachers and parents caught in—inaccurately pronouncing a word to help children with its spelling. Mr. Allen correctly pronounces the second e sound as short u, which is how it is pronounced naturally in this word, rather than pronouncing it with a short e sound in a misguided attempt to assist the child with the spelling.

In envelope, the second e does not represent the short (or long) e sound. Rather, it represents a sound known as schwa—the uh or short u sound common in many English words. A schwa is the sound a vowel often represents in the unstressed or unaccented syllable of a multisyllabic word, such as the o in computer, the i in pencil and the first e in select (to remember how accented syllables work, we enjoy the phrase that misplaces the accented syllables as follows: put your emphásis on the right sylláble).

The schwa is “the most difficult sound to predict in the entire orthographic system” (Venezky 1999, 62). Because the schwa sound canbe represented by any vowel, it is difficult for children to know which vowel represents the sound until they have had experiences with the correct spelling of the word. We help children by showing them the correct spelling of the word rather than altering the pronunciation of the word to try to reveal that spelling. (See “Identifying Unstressed Syllables and the Schwa Sound.”)

What you can do

Directing children to similar words they already know can help them with their spelling, as it does with their word reading. For example, a child could be encouraged to use her knowledge of the spelling of invite to help determine the vowel that represents the schwa sound in the word invitation. We also suggest cautioning parents and colleagues not to mispronounce a word to help children with its spelling. For example, when helping a child spell the word amaze, refrain from pronouncing the initial a as /ā/. Rather, explain that knowing which vowel represents the schwa sound requires familiarity with the correct spelling of the word.

Identifying Unstressed Syllables and the Schwa Sound
Try identifying the unstressed syllable with schwa in these words: aware, orthography, pedagogy, syllable, consonant (first, third, second, second, second, respectively). Being aware of which syllables in words are unstressed and contain schwa can help teachers identify parts of words that may be especially difficult for children to spell, and to understand why children may be struggling with spelling a particular word. For example, if second-graders are writing about animals, the teacher might anticipate that the children will struggle with representing the two schwa sounds in animal (represented by the i and the second a) and would go ahead and teach children how to spell this word.

Glossary of Terms

  • blend: two or three consecutive consonants, each sounded, within a syllable. Examples: cl in the word class or spr in the word spring
  • chunking: breaking a word into smaller, more manageable parts in order to figure out how to read or write the word. Example: Reading rain and then bow to figure out rainbow
  • digraph: two consecutive letters that produce a single phoneme (sound). Examples: ch in child, th in this, sh in shell
  • diphthong: a vowel phoneme with a glide from one sound to the other. Examples: the sound represented by oi or oy as in noise or boy
  • orthography: the spelling system of a language
  • morphology: the study of meaningful parts of words. Example: in reusable, the three meaningful parts are re, us(e), and able
  • phonogram: a letter or combination of letters that represent a sound or series of sounds in a syllable. Examples: -er, kn-, -all
  • phonology: the study of sounds in language
  • r-controlled vowel: vowels that make a special sound when followed by the letter r. Examples: a in art, u in fur
  • semantic: relating to meaning in language
  • vowel flexing: trying the different sounds of a vowel to determine which one results in the correct word. Example: A child who is trying to figure out the word leak may try both the short e sound (as in head) and the long e sound (as in leap)


In this article we have argued that there is some fundamental knowledge about English orthography that may aid early childhood educators in responding to young children’s reading and writing in informed and effective ways. Specifically, we identified 10 understandings of English orthography that we believe are important for teachers. With this knowledge, teachers can support children in developing proficiency in reading and writing the complex and rich language we call English.

Photographs: © Getty Images; Children’s illustrations courtesy of the authors

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Why are letter names and sounds important? ›

Learning that there are predictable relationships between sounds and letters allows children to apply these relationships to both familiar and unfamiliar words, and to begin to read with fluency. The goal of phonics instruction is to help children to learn and be able to use the Alphabetic Principle.

What is the relationship between letters and sounds? ›

Letter-sound correspondence, or the relationship of the letters in the alphabet to the sounds they produce, is a key component of the alphabetic principle and learning to read. To teach letter sound correspondence, work with a few sounds at a time by teaching each letter of the alphabet and its corresponding sound.

What letters name sound effects? ›

Phonograms are common groups of letters that represent the same sounds, such as –ight in bright, light, sight, and so on. Teaching children phonograms, such as –er, -all, and – tch, helps avoid the problem of children trying to read these letter groups using the individual sounds associated with these letters.

Should letter names and sounds be taught together? ›

One instructional study with preschoolers found that teaching letter names together with letter sounds led to improved letter sound learning when compared to just teaching the sounds alone (Piasta, Purpura, & Wagner, 2010) – and this benefit was clearly due to the combination and not to any differences in print ...

Are letter names important? ›

When a student understands the way in which the alphabetic code works, letter names become important. Many letters have more than one possible sound, and many sounds can be produced by a variety of different letters, so it is important to be able to reference each letter independently of the sound it makes.

Is letter naming important? ›

It is important for kindergarten teachers to assess letter naming because it is a foundational pre-literacy skill that research has shown to be related to children's success in reading (National Early Literacy Panel, 2009).

What is the difference between letter names and sounds? ›

The letter name is what we use to 'call' it, such as when we are spelling out a word. For example the name of the letter 'a' is 'ay'. On the other hand, the sound of a letter is the sound we make when we read them in a word. For example in the word 'apple', the letter 'a' has the sound 'ah'.

How do you help students with letters and sounds? ›

Teaching letter sounds should be a fun experience for the child. That positivity helps encourage comprehension and encourages further development of these skills. Try playing games, singing catchy alphabet songs, or even assigning alphabet-based art assignments to help make learning the alphabet a fun experience.

How do you teach letter sound relationships? ›

You simply ask the children to say the name of each letter (in upper case), one sound each letter makes (in lower case), and a word which begins with this sound. Based on the results of this, you would identify what elements of letter-sound relationships are to be taught.

Why is it important to teach letter names for irregular words? ›

The most common irregular words should be taught early in reading development so that students will be able to read more expanded and interesting texts that are otherwise highly decodable.

Do students need to know letter names? ›

Alphabetical knowledge is multifaceted and involves names, sounds, and physical formations of letters. All are important to early reading development. Students can learn either letter names or sounds first, but learning how to write the letters facilitates being able to distinguish and remember them.

Why is it important for children to learn letter names? ›

Many letter names also provide clues to the most common sound that the letter makes. For instance, the letter name “B” includes the sound /b/ within the name of this letter. In these instances, the letter name provides important background information for children to learn letter-sound correspondences more rapidly.

What might you do to help students who are confusing similar sounding letter names? ›

Rather than teaching children rules, expose them to lists of words that all follow a particular pattern. For example, rather than teaching the aforementioned rule for vowels, present children with a list of words such as look, book, took, cook, and help children focus on the sound–letter pattern.

Why letters are important in our life? ›

For documentation: Letters are a good way to document and record important events, and information. They may also act as proof, which can hold good in a court of law. For getting instant attention: A handwritten letter is guaranteed to get instant attention rather than the numerous mails that keep popping in our inbox.

How do we teach letter names? ›

Tips to Help Your Child Learn Letter Names and Sounds
  1. Create fun experiences with letter names and sounds. ...
  2. "Show me the letter" is easier than "tell me the letter." Ask your child to point to or touch a letter instead of trying to tell you the letter name. ...
  3. Use your child's name to practice letter recognition.

What are the letter names? ›

The English alphabet has 26 letters and these are the following: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

Why proper naming is important? ›

It is a means of self-identification, so it goes both ways: Inform others of the correct pronunciation of your name, and • Respect someone's own pronunciation of their name. Oftentimes, people with non-Anglicized names will encounter mispronunciations of their names. Be aware of these discrepancies and be proactive.

Which letter is most used in names? ›

The bar charts show that J, M, S, D, and C are the most common initials for first names, whereas S, B, H, M, and C are the most common initials for last names. In contrast, U, Q, and X are initials that do not appear often for either first or last names.

What are letter sounds examples? ›


Letters making these sounds are: B, C, D, G, H, J, K, P, and T. They have a sharp ending, with the sound stopping abruptly. Continuant sounds are also called “long and loud” sounds. Letters making these sounds are: F, L, M, N, Q, R, S, V, W, X, Y, and Z.

What is the meaning of letter sound? ›

Teachers often talk about children knowing their letter sounds. This literally means that when a child sees a letter, they are able to say what sound it makes. By the end of Reception, children should be able to make the correct sound for each letter of the alphabet.

When should a child know letter sounds? ›

A: Most children learn to recognize letters between ages 3 and 4. Typically, children will recognize the letters in their name first. By age 5, most kindergarteners begin to make sound-letter associations, such as knowing that “book” starts with the letter B.

How do you help a child who struggles with letter sounds? ›

Activities to teach letter sounds
  1. Play the alphabet sound game. ...
  2. Go on a letter sound scavenger hunt! ...
  3. Find good apps that help children practice their letter sounds, like Reading Eggs, ABCmouse, or Hooked on Phonics.
  4. Sing songs that start with the letter sound you are working on.

Why is it important to teach sounds before letters? ›

Learning letters limits children because some important sounds in the English language are not represented by single letters (for example, /ch/, /sh/, /ow/ and /au/). Also, alternate spellings get confusing when one sound is pegged to one letter.

What are 3 techniques for teaching letter knowledge? ›

So, here we go!
  • Strategy 1 – Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! Having a consistent alphabet routine to start your literacy time is an amazing strategy that can help your students learn their alphabet quickly and effortlessly. ...
  • Strategy 2 – Get Moving. ...
  • Strategy 3 – Sing it Out. ...
  • Strategy 4 – Make It Fun and Creative.
19 Mar 2019

Why do letters have different sounds? ›

Consonants differ from vowels by the associated movements of the speech organs - e.g., by sudden release of air (plosive consonants), by rythmic vibrations of tongue (such as versions of r in different langauges), etc.

How are letters and sounds important for reading? ›

Letters in words tell us how to correctly “sound out” (i.e., read) and write words. To master the alphabetic principle, readers must have phonological awareness skills and be able to recognize individual sounds in spoken words.

Why do children need to learn letter sounds? ›

As the stepping stones of language, learning the alphabet is one of the first ways we develop the skills necessary to read and write. In fact, studies show that the ability to name the letters of the alphabet during Pre-K and kindergarten is a well-established predictor of children's literacy skills later in life.

Why are letters important for kids? ›

Without it, children struggle learning letter sounds and recognizing words. Children who cannot recognize letter and name them with their sounds have difficult learning how to read. Learn more about what letter recognition is and how to develop letter recognition skills in preschoolers.

What is the best way to teach letters and sounds? ›

5 Fun And Easy Ways To Teach Letter Sounds
  1. 1) Touch And Feel Letters. Humans are tactile creatures, and we depend on touch to tell us a lot about the world around us. ...
  2. 2) Connect Letter Sounds To Familiar Symbols. ...
  3. 3) Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. ...
  4. 4) Digital Letters In The 21st Century. ...
  5. 5) Bingo.

How do you teach letter sounds to struggling readers? ›

Teaching tips: Reading words

Develop explicit awareness of the connection between sounds and letters and sounds and words: Teach letter-sound correspondence by presenting the letter and modeling the sound. Model the sounds of the word, then blend the sounds together and say the word.

Should kids learn letter names or sounds first? ›

The best evidence seems to support the teaching letter names early on (Ehri, 1983; Foulin, 2005).

What is the importance of letter in your life? ›

Writing letters can be extremely therapeutic and can help to relieve anxiety. The motion of putting pen on paper provides clarity and peace. Research also suggests writing letters to your nearest and dearest to share your love and show your appreciation can help you to feel happier and more satisfied.

What is the importance of lettering to the lives of people before and now? ›

It's important we do activities that simulate the brain and this is particularly important in our later years. Writing letters is a fantastic way to keep the mind active as it helps to improve memory, concentration and communication skills. Imagine the feeling of opening an unexpected letter from a loved one.

What is the importance of knowing sounds? ›

Phonemic Awareness is important ...

It gives readers a way to approach sounding out and reading new words. It helps readers understand the alphabetic principle (that the letters in words are systematically represented by sounds).

When should a child know the sounds of letters? ›

A: Most children learn to recognize letters between ages 3 and 4. Typically, children will recognize the letters in their name first. By age 5, most kindergarteners begin to make sound-letter associations, such as knowing that “book” starts with the letter B.


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