Teaching Print & Letter-Sound Correspondence

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  • 0:04 Print Concepts
  • 1:47 The Alphabetic Principle
  • 2:26 Letter-Sound Correspondence
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

In this lesson, you will learn the basics of print concepts and letter-sound correspondence, which a student needs to understand to make sense of books and text.

Print Concepts

Nick is a curious eight-month-old baby. He sees a book on the floor and crawls over to it. He picks it up and opens it backwards and upside down. He looks at the pictures and the letters in the book and has no understanding yet that the letters carry messages.

In this lesson, you'll find out what it takes to move from babyhood understanding of text to learning print concepts and letter-sound correspondence, which serve as a foundation for reading and writing.

It might seem obvious how to pick up a book with the front cover facing you and the letters of the title right-side up. This is just one of many print concepts that children learn as they begin to interact with books and text. A child will ultimately learn the print concepts that are fundamental to reading text, including:

  • Identify the front and back cover of a book and to pinpoint the title
  • Recognize that the print makes up a message to the reader
  • Know where to begin reading (from left to right, if the text is in English)
  • Use the the return sweep. The return sweep involves moving from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line
  • And, finally, move from the bottom of one page to the top of the next page to continue reading

In addition to learning print concepts about navigating in a book and on a page of text, a child will learn print concepts specific to words and letters, such as:

  • Understand the difference between letters, words, and sentences
  • Point to an individual word and know that this is what a word is
  • Indicate the first and last letter of a word, along with other first and last parts (such as the first and last word in a sentence)
  • See the difference between upper and lowercase letters
  • Name and point out the different punctuation marks
  • Know that letter and word order, uppercase and lowercase letters, and punctuation matter to the message of the text

The Alphabetic Principle

Baby Nick would open a book and just gloss over the letters. Yet as he grows, he will learn that those letters have something to say. The alphabetic principle is the understanding that letters represent sounds, and those sounds make up entire words. Understanding that letters within a word represent sounds is also described as alphabetic understanding. It's like a child realizing, oh, those letters aren't just pictures. When someone is reading, they are putting words together by looking at those letters. It's like realizing that there's a magic code in those letters! Actually working with this ''magic code'' to pronounce words and spell them is known as phonological recoding.

Letter-Sound Correspondence

This ability to read as lightning fast as you probably do now took a lot of practice in grasping letter-sound correspondence, or knowing which letter matches which sound and vice versa. At first this might sound simple, like knowing that the letter ''G'' and the sound /g/ start off the word ''goose.''

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