Identifying Letters and Sounds in the Early Grades

When students come to kindergarten, one of the most important skills they need to master to become strong readers is identifying letters and the sounds that letters make.

Children’s foundational reading development is related to their understanding of the alphabetic principle – the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language.

Research shows that children who know their letters and sounds have a much easier time learning to read than children who have not mastered letter identification and sound relationships (Clayton, West, Sears, Hulme & Lervåg, 2020)

Cartoon primary children holding hands and smiling
The ability to identify letters and sounds is essential to becoming good readers.

How to Determine When Students can Identify Letters and Sounds

When students understand that there are predictable relationships between sounds and letters they can apply these understandings to familiar as well as unfamiliar words. This helps them become proficient decoders of what they are reading.

A quick way to tell who needs additional work with letters and sounds is to ask children to identify letter names and give a sound that the letter makes.

You can find simple assessment forms for checking student letter skill mastery online.

You can also find alphabet flash cards that you can give to parents or classroom tutors. This will help students practice identifying the letters in both upper as well as lower case form.

Periodic rechecks can help you track the progress of your students to make sure they develop a strong foundation in letter-sound relationships. This will help you identify who needs additional work with letters and sounds.

Learn more about helping students become strong readers in The Threads of Reading: Strategies of Literacy Development.

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