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Della Palacios

Educational Consultant, Trainer and Teacher, SensAble Learning, LLC

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Should we begin teaching children letter sounds first with lowercase letters instead of letter names with uppercase letters?

What do you see more of when you open a book, capital letters or lowercase letters?

What is more important for reading, letter sounds or letter names?

Shouldn't we teach children the more germane information pertaining to the letter first, its sound, as Montessori schools do? Aa is for apple and it says /a/ is too much information for a child to take in, process and then apply to a complex language code. Why don't we start with lowercase letters and sounds, saving letter names for once a child can read a three-letter consonant-vowel-consonant word?

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  • May 6 2013: I have tried multiple approaches and have favored the sound first approach as it makes the most sense for natural mastery. Just like toddlers begin speaking by imitating sounds they hear spoken around them and to them, so reinforcing learned schema is best achieved by a continuation of this natural learning process. Building on that with images of the letter, (both upper and lowercase together to maximize sight and sound exposure and sometimes a picture of an object that demonstrates the sound) seems the most direct and logical approach to sound acquisition. I sing the "ABC" song with my students and my own children using only the letter sounds. Letter naming is really not significant for mastery until the Emergent Reader begins writing and spelling; processes that the brain computes very differently. This is not to say that we must avoid saying or teaching the names of the letters at all in the early years. No, it just should not be the first and most important concept to begin with. This would also prevent alot of confusion for many Emergent Readers if more emphasis was placed on sound-letter recall first vs Letter Name recall first as many learners struggle with transitioning between letter names and sounds letters make. Also, I favor teaching the letter/sound "q" always paired with the vowel "u" as rarely in the English language will one find the letter "q" alone so why not give learners the upper hand early on?

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