Letter-Sound Correspondence

It an be very challenging to help students master sound-letter correspondence. This skill is the corner stone of everything we do as readers and writers. When I'm asked by teachers how I build this skill, this is the lesson format I use to teach letter-sound correspondence while building their skills as readers and writers.

What are letter-sound correspondences?
Letter-sound correspondences involve knowledge of:
  • the sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet 
  • the letters used to represent the sounds

Why is knowledge of letter-sound correspondences important?
Knowledge of letter-sound correspondences is essential in reading and writing
  • In order to read a word:
    • the student must recognize the letters in the word and associate each letter with its sound
  • In order the student must break the word into its component sounds and know the letters that represent these sounds.
Knowledge of letter-sound correspondences and phonological awareness skills are the basic building blocks of literacy learning. These skills are strong predictors of how well students learn to read.

What sequence should be used to teach letter-sound correspondence?
Letter-sound correspondences should be taught one at a time.  As soon as the student acquires one letter sound correspondence, introduce a new one.
I tend to teaching the letters and sounds in this sequence
  • a, m, t, p, o, n, c, d, u, s, g, h, i, f, b, l, e, r, w, k, x, v, y, z, j, q
This sequence was designed to help learners start reading as soon as possible
  • Letters that occur frequently in simple words (e.g., a, m, t) are taught first.
  • Letters that look similar and have similar sounds (b and d) are separated in the instructional sequence to avoid confusion.
  • Short vowels are taught before long vowels.
  • I tend to teach lower case letters first before upper case letters. Pick one and stick to it.
The sequence is intended as a guideline. Modify the sequence as required to accommodate student's:
  • prior knowledge 
  • interests 
  • hearing
Is it appropriate to teach letter names as well as letter sounds?
Start by teaching the sounds of the letters, not their names.  Knowing the names of letters is not necessary to read or write.  Knowledge of letter names can interfere with successful decoding.
  • For example, the student looks at a word and thinks of the names of the letters instead of the sounds.
Sample goal for instruction in letter-sound correspondences
The student will:
  • listen to a target sound presented orally
  • identify the letter that represents the sound
  • select the appropriate letter from a group of letter cards, an alphabet board, or a keyboard with at least 80% accuracy

Instructional Task
Here is an example of instruction to teach letter-sound correspondences

  • introduces the new letter and its sound
  • shows a card with the letter m and says the sound “mmmm”

After practice with this letter sound, the instructor provides review

  • says a letter sound
  • listens to the sound
  • looks at each of the letters provided as response options
  • selects the correct letter
    • from a group of letter cards,
    • from an alphabet board, or
    • from a keyboard.

Instructional Materials
Various materials can be used to teach letter-sound correspondences
  • cards with lower case letters
  • an alphabet board that includes lower case letters
  • a keyboard adapted to include lower case letters
The student must
  • listen to the target sound – “mmmm”
  • select the letter – m – from the keyboard

Instructional Procedure
The teacher teaches letter-sound correspondences using these procedures:
  • Model
    • The teacher demonstrates the letter-sound correspondence for the student.
  • Guided practice
    • The teacher provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the student match the letter and sound correctly.
  • Independent practice
    • The student listens to the target sound and selects the letter independently.
    • The teacher monitors the student’s responses and provides appropriate feedback.

There are a wide range of fonts. These fonts use different forms of letters, especially the letter a.
  • Initially use a consistent font in all instructional materials (I use one that have the capital I and lower case q-I want.)
  • Later, I introduce variations in font.


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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