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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 8 2013: Let me try to answer edulover's inquiry here, but also comment on the posted topic.
    First I was born in Shanghai, and start with instructions in Chinese . But the schools at that time were all oriented toward English as a secondary language. So by the age of eleven I had at least 2 English courses in the school under my belt. But due to my own interest, I also started to read some English books borrowed from the landlady who was a graduate from an English church high school. The important point here is that if one is extremely interested in any field, it needs very few formal instructions to be good at it. By the time when I was in 7th grade, I already mastered the rules of pronunciation and spelling in English, I was the best in the English class. I quit school and went to work because of the financial problems in my family, but when one learned the relationship of the phonetic connection, one would never forget and always stay with you all your life. For example, when my younger sister decided to participate in a spelling bee contest. I gave her a few advices on phonics in English language, she eventually got the first place in the contest.
    So I I would suggest is that you could easily give her some lessons yourself based on some children's book on phonetics with graphic interpretations. That's it. If she develops further interest, she will ask for more. If not, you could always wait for several years of when she goes to college where English is needed for many fields in science and technology anyway.
    My comment on the relationship of letters and sound is very clear, However, the usual method of teaching the pronunciation is by reciting similar words with the same vowel or consonant without explaining the rules of phonics is a very inefficient way of teaching. If a student realizes these rules, then s/he could easily link the pronunciation with the spelling of the word, except when the word was derived from a foreign language carrying its original pronunciation.
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      May 8 2013: Bart, your explanation is very valuable.

      It is nice to hear from a foreign student who acquired English as a second language how valuable phonics is. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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