Monday, March 24, 2014

Spotlight on Letter Identification and Letter-Sound Relationship Tasks

... a guest blog post by Erin Sebele

What is it?
Letter Identification instruction includes teaching the name, characteristics, and formation of the 26 uppercase and lowercase symbols used in the English language

Letter-Sound Correspondences are the relationships between sounds (phonemes) and letters (graphemes). This starting point highlights the connections between the sounds in words and the letters that are used to represent these sounds. Knowledge of sound-letter relationships means knowing, for example, that the /f/ sound is represented by the letter f.

Why is it used?
The goal of teaching letter identification is to ensure that students are able to recognize and name letter shapes, as well as discriminate among them before they are faced with the task of learning the letters’ sounds. After having learnt letter identification, students can begin to build their knowledge of letter sounds and their corresponding symbols.

How can it be used?
Explicit instruction in letter recognition, practice printing the letters of the alphabet and exposure to letters in print are all essential practices when teaching letter identification. Teachers need to assess students to see which letters students can name and write and to determine their rate of fluency with letter name.

Planning for instruction requires an understanding of challenges a student faces as they attempt to recognize and name letters. A person’s visual system analyzes each letter based on its horizontal, vertical or diagonal line segments. It is important for teachers to “think aloud” when describing letter shapes and features to students.

For example: Capital F touches the head, belt and foot line. It is made of three straight lines and one that goes up and down and two that go side to side. The vertical line is longer than the horizontal lines. It starts at the headline and goes straight down through the belt line and ends at the foot line. The first horizontal line touches the vertical line at the head, then goes straight out the right. The second horizontal line touches the vertical line at the belt, then goes straight out to the right.

How can it be adapted?
  • Implementation of other phonics programs, such as: Jolly Phonics, Letterland to demonstrate and support letter identification and letter-sound relationships.
  • Complete activities such as: rainbow letters, font sort, pipe cleaner letters, sticks and curves, body letters, fish for letters, alphabet scavenger hunt to support and strengthen letter identification.
How can you apply the information for your Balanced Reading program?
  • See student’s strengths and needs to form needs-based language groups.
  • Be sure to begin the systematic and explicit phonics instruction early, usually in grade one.
  • Help students understand the purpose of phonics by engaging them in reading and writing activities that require them to apply the phonics information they’ve been taught.
How can you use this information to communicate with students?
  • Descriptive feedback
  • Language groups for specific needs, particularly about certain letters
How can you use this information to communicate with parents?
  • Give the appropriate language to use at home to practice printing
  • Encourage their child to write and spell notes, emails, letters using sounds that they know
  • Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonics and emergent literacy skills
A Sample Template
Letter Identification Test

Websites Consulted
50 Incredible Alphabet Activities
Letter Identification Assessment
Letter Identification
Word Decoding and Phonics

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