Friday, September 4, 2009

You want me to do what?

I received a four year college degree in Elementary Education (169 hours because I was a NURSING major until my Junior year - when I discovered I would never get over my dislike of blood and people hurting) and I had never been told what I am about to tell you until I went through my Primary Montessori training (for ages 3-6). We were all amazed at what our trainers taught us and immediately realized it made perfect sense!

Are you ready for this? You teach sounds of letters way before you teach the "names" of letters. Of course, I am simplifying this A LOT, and preschools and kindergartens are (hopefully) focusing on sounds more than when I went through my college training. As I was reading Carolina one of her alphabet books and playing with this puzzle the other day, I thought I might share this insight with you as well. Even though I have known this since oh, say, 2002, it is still hard for me sometimes to call the "sound" of a letter before the "name" in a book or something. Of course, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom must be read with the names of the letters or it just wouldn't be the same!

Here's what you need: Any time you see a letter anywhere, you can do this. Puzzles, books, signs, etc.

Here's why you should do it: If you think about it, the main goal of children learning letters is to understand that letters make up words, words make up sentences, and sentences make up stories - therefore READING and communicating with others. If a child knows the name, but not the sound, they will not be able to learn to read. If the sound is learned and known, then the reading "mystery" will be unlocked and decoded more easily. The name is an afterthought that they will definitely learn soon enough. Did I confuse you? No offense to all the children that can sing their ABC's, but does singing that song really contribute to their sounds, recognition of letters and eventual reading? (But you should be proud of their singing abilities and memorization of a song and tune! :)

Here's how you do it: Okay, I have included this video, not because I think you can't figure out what sounds letters make, but because there is some confusion sometimes on the correct sound. For example, "L" is not "luh", but "lllll". I have (in my southern accent) shared with you the "correct sounds".

Side note: One of my biggest pet peeves is when alphabet books are published with pictures that have the incorrect sounds. (Owl was for O in a book I just got - which is not correct . . . octopus would be though. . . I think about weird things, okay? ;)

It will be hard to retrain your brain to say sounds instead of the names, but in the long run your children will be rewarded, promise!


  1. I couldn't agree more with you and yes, I'm an educator and schools are begining to focus more on the sounds of the letters.

  2. Thanks for this! It occured to me the other day that we're going to have to learn our ABC's all over again if we want Joshua to be able to sound out words!

  3. I'd heard this before...I've just never tried it. Now the real question, can an "old" mom do new tricks? Hmm... :)

    Thanks for the reminder! I've love to try it on my 2 year old.

    Another resource I've loved is the Leap Frog DVD series. We take it in the car on long trips...or when one of my younger ones are needing something educational to do while I school the older ones. They are REALLY worth every dime. Especially the "Letter Factory" one where they drill the letter sound via catchy phrases or songs.

  4. totally agree with christin- my almost 2 year old daughter picked up on sounds while we were learning letters thanks to the leap frog dvd. now we are working on lowercase letters- my question for you-
    should i teach her big A, little a or capital A, lowercase a???

  5. Smart to include the video. This all makes a lot of sense, but would never have occured to me. Glad you shared!!

  6. amen sister! thanks for the reminder!
    ps- met your soon-to-be sister-in-law this weekend. such a doll!

  7. Definitely, what you said is true. I'm a teacher and agree with you.

    Your blog is wonderful.

    Have a nice week.

  8. The other thing about this is that EVERYONE ELSE in the child's life will be teaching them letter names. So it's not really something you have to worry about.

  9. This is for Keri . . . as far as lowercase a/little a etc., I would just use them interchangably (sp?). I don't know if that's the correct answer, but I used both terms while teaching and still do.

    And yes, Jana Green, good point. EVERYONE ELSE will teach them the names - they will learn them soon enough. :)

    I'm glad you guys agree with the sounds! :)

  10. I agree totally! And what is up with the books using elephant for e? It is so confusing to kids and makes them think e says l!! Thanks for all of your great ideas! We are thinking of putting Murphy in a Montessori school at 4. (He's just turned 2) What have you heard about the ones in Knoxville? My brother did Montessori Center in Nashville on GW Pike and it was a perfect fit! (He's 23 now!:) Thanks for the input!
    Meghan Diddle

  11. I don't think it's too late to start teaching the letter sounds, even if they already know the names. I learned about this aspect of Montessori when my son was almost 4, and he definitely knew his letter names (and only recognized capitals). I started teaching him the sounds, and got some lowercase magnet letters for our fridge. He picked everything up quickly, and was reading proficiently by 4.5. So, don't worry about a 2 year old!

  12. Yes, teach sounds first with lower-case letters, because you need sounds and lower-case letters to read books!

  13. I like this approach, but how do you handle the long sounds? For example, "I" by itself, as in "I go" will sound very different to them than the I sound pronounced here... (And for that matter, the "o" in "go" would throw them off, too, if they didn't also know the letter name sound.)

  14. Sorry for this very late comment.. but I have a B.A. degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. I wanted to point out the the letter Rr does not make the /er/ sound unless it is preceded by the letter Ee, Ii, or Uu. Alone its more like the "ruh" sound. Rake is not pronounced erake, and robot is not pronounced erobot. A lot of teachers make this mistake, but my six year old daughter was taught that Rr makes the /er/ sound in kindergarten and is misspelling all words that end in Rr (weather=weathr, future is spelled futr) because she thinks it makes the /er/ sound and no vowel is necessary.

  15. Is this video this available?

    1. Never mind. As soon as I asked the video appeared and works fine. Thanks