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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 had thought that reading pedagogy typically begins with sounding out from lower case letters, as that is what I saw in my children's schools.

    Now I will look it up. I believe we have among our very active participants a very experienced reading teacher. I hope she will soon jump in with a broad view of this area.
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      May 6 2013: Hi Fritzie,

      Typically, what is done in kindergarten, is to introduce letter names.....A-Z
      Perhaps, if the majority of kids mastered the letter recognition, a teacher might want to start to introduce consonant sounds, and work on phonics. Although, this in primarily done in First grade.
      But it really depends on the kids, and their rate of mastery.

      However, many of the alphabet songs out there....on youtube and such, showcase the letters and their sounds, which is ok. It is good to expose kids to information, even though they might not be ready to make it their own.

      I just hope, that they don't start to change the way reading is taught.....again!......just to come to find out that the old way works best for most children.

      I remember a time when someone decided that phonics was not important and they used a whole language approach to reading. That did not work very well.

      Some children learn to be a fluent readers by the end of kindergarten. By the time they reach 4th grade, they might be reading at an 8th grade level........other children, not so much.

      I am not familiar with Montessori, but I am fascinated by what I am learning.
      • May 6 2013: Hi Mary,
        in case someone hasn't already provided the link:
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          May 7 2013: Thanks a whole lot Lizanne!!
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        May 6 2013: Mary, I think I know why. With older struggling readers, I check their letter sound knowledge and then listen to them read while doing a running record. I have learned more than ANY reading assessment I ever administered during my time in the classroom, and I administered a lot. I WISH I could go back to the classroom with the knowledge I have now. Check letter sounds. Listen to the child read. Teach them the missing sounds. Watch a notable improvement in accuracy. It's like magic! However, this lack of letter sound knowledge is disguised by a heavy memorization of sight words. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but I'm pretty convinced right now, letter sounds trump names and sight words should never be memorized out of the context of reading.
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        May 6 2013: Mary, I'm so glad you mentioned changing the way reading is taught again. I ordered a McGuffey Reader because I wanted to know what they used in a one room schoolhouse when everyone read better than they do today, or so they say. It uses lowercase letter, sounds, consonant-vowel-consonant words and simple phonetic passages. It does not say to teach them the letter names first. Google it and you can check out the first few pages.
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          May 7 2013: Della, thank you for the link, and also for both replies.

          Let me ask you, what kind of children have you had the above experience?
          Were they native speakers, or were they esol children, or perhaps low achievers?

          What was the population of the school?
      • May 7 2013: Hi Dear Mary M.Any more detail information about phonics?is there any website about it?Because I am chinese,sometimes I heard some foreigners spoke chinese,the speaking and words pronunciation are really funny,so I doubt if I speak in english as funny as they did in chinese?So I think I should learn to speak english from very basic phonics too.Thanks:)
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          May 7 2013: Hi edulover learner, wow, there are so many free sites to play phonics games.
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          May 7 2013: Mary,
          I taught 8 years in a Title One Public School. That was before I learned what has changed the way I approach literacy. Since, I have worked with ages 0- adult, second-language learners, children in intermediate grades starting to slip, affluent children attending public school, orphans, children living in poverty, teenagers, etc. All have benefited from letter sounds in different ways. I have even worked with some special children with significant special needs with hopeful results. But, I am only one person.

          . “Phonemic awareness instruction helped all types of children improve their reading, including normally developing readers, children at risk for future reading problems, disabled readers, preschoolers, kindergartners, 1st graders, children in 2nd through 6th grades (most of whom were disabled readers), children across various SES levels, and children learning to read in English as well as other languages.” p. 2-5
          Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction
          by: The National Reading Panel
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          May 10 2013: Edulover,
          Here is a good place to start learning the letter sound pronunciation. You could start as simply as sitting with your daughter and saying the sound while pointing to a written letter. The video can help you practice saying the sounds together since I believe our languages have a few different sounds. http://m.youtube.com/virtualmontessori?uid=lJVM4CQqI_e7LitkB5kOCw&desktop_uri=%2Fvirtualmontessori You are a wonderful mother. Bart is absolutely right about interest, though.
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          May 11 2013: I am searching for online resources since you are a world away, but most are too colorful and combine letter names and sounds, say the sound multiple times, and have too many pictures taking away from the reading of the words etc.

          Remember, the simpler the better.

          There are a few samples here that are nice. http://www.learntoreadfree.com/index.php
          Search Montessori reading and that is where I would suggest you start.
      • May 8 2013: Hi,Dear Mary M.thanks a lot:).I had a look about starfall.com.It is great.lots of games and vedios in english learning are very vivid,I plan to advocate some of my school's teachers donate their old computers to a countryside primary school,and I try to collect some of chinese and english learning videos and games to install in those old computers and send to countryside priamry school freely.Just let those kids click keyboard to play for fun.
        if you have any english learning vedios for children's english learning?please share with me.now I sent my email to u.thanks.
        Those countryside primary schools haven't internet yet.So I guess the way will help them a lot.

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