Teaching letter sounds is an important piece for children as they learn to read. The 26 letters of the English alphabet make 44 sounds. Vowels give us short and long sounds, some consonants have a hard and soft sound, then you have your digraphs (two letters that make one sound). There’s a lot for the kiddos to learn when they are just starting out, but I caution you to only focus on the most common letter sounds from A-Z. Teach the short vowels (A-E-I-O-U) and hard consonant sound for letters C and G. Over time, you can mention that the letters have another sound, but teaching it in conjunction with the most common sounds in the beginning can overwhelm a child.
Short Vowel Sounds (NOT long)
Hard Consonant Sounds (NOT Soft)
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s chat about the way letter sounds should be taught. I’ve worked with my fair share of 4-6 year olds and more than half of them have entered my classroom saying the letter sounds the wrong way. I’ve heard letter sounds mispronounced from many educational songs and that is where most children are learning about letters and sounds.
Here are the most mispronounced letter sounds:
The above sounds are mispronounced with an extra sound /uh/ at the end. For example:
Adding the extra sound at the end of those consonants will be problematic for decoding. It makes it challenging to hear the word when you ask children to blend all the sounds together. Here is an example of how wrong letter sounds will prevent proper blending:
CAT: the correct way is /c/-/a/-/t/
CAT: the wrong way is /c-uh/-/a/-/t-uh/
The T is a short clip sound that was pronounced with an added /uh/ which doesn't allow for an easy blend.
SUB: the wrong way /s/ /-uh/- /buh/
When the child reads SUB the wrong way, it’s hard for them to figure out what it says because they don’t know a word that says SUBUH. That is why it’s so important to teach letter sounds the correct way.
The thing is, some letters have continuous sounds and some have what we call clip stop sounds.
These letters are great for teaching the continuous sounds (m,n,s,a) and be sure to explain why the sounds are continuous. Try saying it and you’ll hear how the sound continues. Like letter M when we stretch it out (mmmmmmmm). When a child tries to read the word man it will sound like this mmmmmmmaaaaaaannnnnn. This makes learning to read a lot easier for beginners because it creates a blend.
Short Clip Sounds
When you begin to teach letters with short clip sounds, remind children that the other letters they’ve learned are continuous sounds. Explain that they will now learn short clip sounds, meaning that they won’t be able to hold the sound. The word TIGER is a short clip sound. Ask children if they can hold the /t/. They’ll most likely try and what will happen is the added /uh/ at the end when they hold it. You’ll have to explain that the sound has to quickly stop and that is why it is a short clip sound.
To wrap this up, there are great educational videos on the internet, but I recommend previewing the songs prior to sitting your children or students in front of a screen to learn improper letter sounds because it can affect their reading ability. After reading this post and you've come to the realization that you are teaching incorrect letter sounds, don't stress, you can always make a pivot now. What matters is that know the proper way and you can correct it.
Here is an example of how to say the correct letter sounds. WATCH HERE.
Hi, I am Odessa. I'm a mom of two wonderful children and a teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Science in Childhood Education with over 10 years of PreK and Kindergarten experience. I am a lover of all things literacy for children and their curiosity of the world. Get comfy and click around my site. I hope you find something you'll like, and something your kids will love! P.S. Akwaaba means 'welcome' :)
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