Letter Knowledge, Formation & Sounds

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

An early step in learning how to read is learning the letters and how they look and sound. This lesson will focus on the importance of letter knowledge, letter formation and letter sounds and will end with a short quiz to see what you have learned.

Learning to Read

Learning to read is a process that is made up of many individual steps. We begin the process of learning to read in the first few months of life. Nursery rhymes and lullabies are repeated and become familiar. These are often paired with images in simple picture books.

Late in our first year of life, we begin to connect these sounds and pictures with meaning. We begin to predict events and visually follow along in simple stories and books. Most of these things occur before we begin to attend school. Once we get to preschool and Kindergarten, everything seems geared toward learning to read. Letter knowledge, letter formation and letter sounds become the focus of early reading instruction.

Letter Knowledge

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P…. we all know the song we used to learn our ABCs, don't we? For most of us, it is our first attempt at letter knowledge. Letter knowledge is a critical first step in learning to read. It is an awareness of the letters of the alphabet. There are many ways to go about learning the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet.

Think back on your first classroom. It was probably adorned with giant letters of the alphabet. These alphabet displays are typically very colorful and usually include the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet along with an image that exemplifies the letter. For example, A is for apple, B is for ball, etc. Alphabet displays help students make associations between the name of the letter and what it looks like, both early steps in learning to read.

Alphabet Displays Are Useful For Teaching Letter Knowledge
alphabet display

Another important step in mastering letter knowledge is to learn the letters in one's name. This helps give personal meaning to the letters. It also helps to demonstrate how letters can be combined to form a word in a way that is identifiable to students. Alphabet displays in classrooms should always include the names of students to take advantage of this powerful method for learning letters!

Letter Formation

Can you remember tracing letters as a first step in learning letter formation? Letter formation is the ability to write letters. Most students begin by learning to trace the letters of the alphabet and follow with learning how to form the letters in their name. Capital letters are typically mastered first in letter formation and then come the lower case letters.

Classrooms should be rich with opportunities for students to practice letter formation. Creating personal name tags and playing simple games that require students to write upper and lower case letters are a good place to start. Students can quickly advance from forming individual letters to combining them into words to form short sentences with continued practice in letter formation.

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