Professional Development

0. Overview of Letter Sound Instruction

0. Overview of Letter Sound Instruction

Connect Consonant Sounds to How They Are Produced
Phonics instruction promotes accurate word reading and spelling. Phonics instruction leads to automatic word recognition that is necessary for fluent reading.

In our research-based approach to phonics instruction we will follow a developmental spelling continuum to teach consonant and vowel sounds. We teach letter sounds by demonstrating how each sound is made in the mouth to reinforce the relationship between spelling and pronunciation, as well as a key word and physical motion to provide tactile-kinesthetic clues for the letter-sound correspondence. Research has shown that connecting a letter-sound to how it is made in the mouth improves student learning of letter-sound relationships for reading and spelling (Ehri, 2014).

Note: Please note that when a letter or letters are written in slash marks below (e.g. /p/), it refers to the sound of the letter.

For consonant sounds we want to teach students to feel how their articulators (tongue and lips) move to make the sounds. We describe for each consonant sound what our lips and/or our tongue is doing and its placement. For example, our lips close and pop open to make both the /p/ and /b/ sounds. In the videos we examine the air stream. Is it stopped completely or is it continuous? Sounds like /s/ and /m/, which are continuant sounds, are easy for students to perceive in isolation because they can be stretched (e.g. /sssss/ and /mmmm/). Stop sounds like /p/ and /b/ cannot be stretched, and are therefore harder to isolate from words. We also explore the differences between sounds that are made in the same place, but differ only in voicing or vibration. So we ask students to check for a vibration by placing their fingers on their voice box in their neck, or covering their ears. We ask, “Is the sound quiet or noisy?” to draw their attention to this aspect.

Which sounds are made in the same place in the mouth, which can cause students confusion?
b-p, t-d, f-v, k-g, ch-j, s-z

Which sounds are continuants and which are stops sounds?
Continuant consonant sounds are best represented by the letters: f-v h, l, m- n, s- z. When the letter c is pronounced like an /s/, it is also a continuant (e.g. In the word “nice”).
Stop consonant sounds are best represented by the letters: b, p, t, d

Connect Letter Sounds to a Key Word and Picture and A Motion
When we are asking students to use alphabet information or make letter-sound connections to words, we will always provide a picture of a key word to reinforce the relationship between spelling, pronunciation, and meaning. This is especially important for English language learners. It locks the links between a word, its spelling, and its meaning, which helps the reader recognize it by sight. We will also suggest a motion to use for the key word.

Connect Pronunciation, Spelling, and Writing of Letters
In the pre-alphabetic stage of phonics instruction, we want students to gain alphabet knowledge: naming and writing the letters of the alphabet producing a sound and/or writing the letter for each of the 26 letters of the English alphabet. We also want them to recognize letter relationships: when letters sounds feel or look the same when they produced because of placement of the articulators (tongue, lips, and teeth) using initial and final sounds to confirm a word in text or spell words using their growing letter-sound knowledge

To transition students to the partial-alphabetic stage of reading development, we want students to gain competence in: using letter-sound knowledge to manipulate the initial and final sounds of words with the vowel held constant, spelling words using at least initial and final sounds, and becoming ‘glued to the print’ (Chall, 1996) as they try to sound out words. Move from predictable text to decodable text for practice of the phonics patterns they are learning in either books or poems.

01. Teaching the Letter F

01. Teaching the Letter F

To make the sound /f/, we put our top teeth on our bottom lip and let air blow over our lips. Watch me make the sound /f/. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my my top teeth on my bottom lip. Explore the sound as a continuant sound, a sound that can be continued until you run out of air. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet, because there is no vibration. Use the motion of a fish flapping its fins.

02. Teaching the Letter V

02. Teaching the Letter V

To make the /v/ sound, we put our top teeth on our bottom lip and let air blow over our lips. Watch me make the sound /v/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my top teeth on my bottom lip. Explore the sound as a continuant sound, a sound that can be continued until you run out of air. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. Use the motion of playing a violin.

03. Teaching the Letter P & B

03. Teaching the Letter P & B

To make the sound /p/, we put our lips together and then pop them open. Watch me make the sound /p/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my lips pop open. I feel a puff of air. Explore the sound as a stop sound, because the air is stopped when the tongue tip touches the roof of the mouth. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use the motion of a puff of air blowing out a candle.

To make the sound /b/, we put our lips together and then pop them open, just like we make the /p/ sound. Watch me make the sound /b/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my lips pop open. I feel a puff of air. Explore the sound as a stop sound, because the air is stopped when the tongue tip touches the roof of the mouth. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. Use the motion of swinging the bat to hit a ball.

04. Teaching the Letter D

04. Teaching the Letter D

To make the sound /d/, we tap the tip roof our tongue on the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Watch me make the sound /d/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue tap behind my top teeth. Explore the sound as a stop sound, because the air is stopped when the tongue tip touches the roof of the mouth. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. This sound is made in the same place as the /t/, but the /t/ sound is quiet and the /d/ sound is noisy. Use a digging motion with a shovel for the letter d.

05. Teaching the Letter T

05. Teaching the Letter T

To make the sound /t/, we tap the tip roof our tongue on the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Watch me make the sound /t/. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue tap behind my top teeth. Explore the sound as a continuant sound, a sound that can be continued until you run out of air. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use a tapping motion for the letter t.

06. Teaching the Letter K

06. Teaching the Letter K

To make the sound /k/, we open our mouth and pull our tongue to the back of our mouth. Watch me make the sound /k/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue pulling way back in my mouth. Explore the sound as a stop sound, because the air is stopped when the tongue touches the roof of the mouth. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use a motion of inserting a key into a lock and turning the key for the letter k.

07. Teaching the Letter G

07. Teaching the Letter G

To make the sound /g/, we open our mouth and pull our tongue to the back of our mouth. Watch me make the sound /g/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue pulling way back in my mouth. Explore the sound as a stop sound, because the air is stopped when the tongue touches the roof of the mouth. For this reason, the sound can only be tapped and not stretched. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. This sound is made in the same place as the /k/ sound, but the /k/ sound is quiet and the /g/ sound is noisy. Use a pointing motion, like telling someone to go for the letter g.

08. Teaching the Letter M

08. Teaching the Letter M

To make the sound /m/, we put our lips together and hum. Watch me make the sound /m/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my lips together, and I wonder how is the sound coming out. I feel a vibration in my nose. Put your finger along the side of your nose and say the sound /m/ for a long time. Do you feel the vibration? This sound comes out of your nose.
Use a rubbing your tummy motion because something is delicious and saying, “mmmm” for the letter m.

09. Teaching the Letter N

09. Teaching the Letter N

To make the sound /n/, we put the tip of our tongue on the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Watch me make the sound /n/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my lips open, and the tip of my tongue behind my top teeth. I feel a vibration in my nose. Put your finger along the side of your nose and say the sound /n/ for a long time. Do you feel the vibration? This sound comes out of your nose. Use a finger on the side of your nose motion and say the sound /n/ for nose for the letter n.

10. Teaching the Letter S

10. Teaching the Letter S

To make the sound /s/, we move our lips into a smile, and almost close our teeth all the way, but they are just a little open to let the air get out. Our tongue is touching right behind our teeth. Watch me make the sound /s/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel a hissing sound as the air slowly comes out of my mouth. Put the palm of your hand up to feel the air slowly come out. Can you feel your tongue behind your teeth? Explore the sound as a continuant sound, a sound that can be continued until you run out of air. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use a wiggling motion to make a snake movement with your arm for the letter s.

11. Teaching the Letter Z

11. Teaching the Letter Z

To make the sound /z/, we move our lips into a smile, and almost close our teeth all the way, but they are just a little open to let the air get out. Our tongue is touching right behind our teeth. Watch me make the sound /z/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel a buzzing sound as the air slowly comes out of my mouth. Put the palm of your hand up to feel the air slowly come out. Can you feel your tongue behind your teeth? Explore the sound as a continuant sound, a sound that can be continued until you run out of air. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. This sound is made in the same place as the /s/ sound, but the /s/ sound is quiet and the /s/ sound is noisy. Also the with /s/ sound you feel more air coming out. Use a motion like zipping up your coat for the letter z.

12. Teaching the Digraph Ch

12. Teaching the Digraph Ch

To make the sound /ch/ we put our teeth together and push our our lips. The tip of our tongue goes up to the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Then we push out the air in on big push.
Watch me make the sound /ch/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: If I put the palm of my hand in front of my mouth I feel a quick burst of air. I feel my lips push out when I push out the air. I feel my tongue on the roof of my mouth. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use a motion like chopping down a tree for the digraph ch.

13. Teaching the Letter J

13. Teaching the Letter J

To make the sound /j/, we put our teeth together and push our our lips. The tip of our tongue goes up to the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Then we push out the air in on big push.
Watch me make the sound /j/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: If I put the palm of my hand in front of my mouth I feel a quick burst of air. I feel my lips push out when I push out the air. I feel my tongue on the roof of my mouth. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is noisy because there is a vibration. This sound is made in the same place as the /ch/ sound, but the /ch/ sound is quiet and the /j/ sound is noisy. Use a jumping motion for the letter j.

14. Teaching the Letter L

14. Teaching the Letter L

To make the /l/ sound, we lift our tongue up to the roof of our mouth to the bumpy ridge, but we can also feel the side of our tongue touch the sides of our mouth. Watch me make the sound /l/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue on the sides of my mouth and the the tip of my tongue on the roof of my mouth. Explore the /l/ sound as a continuant sound, because it can be stretched since the air and sound escapes out of the side of our mouth. Compare the feel of the /l/ sound with the /r/ sound. Use a fierce clawing lion motion for the letter l.

15. Teaching the Letter R

15. Teaching the Letter R

To make the /r/ sound, we lift our tongue up so it touches the bumpy ridge on the roof or out mouth. Watch me make the /r/ sound. Your turn. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: I feel my tongue bunched up on the roof of my mouth. Explore the sound as one that can be stretched a little. Compare the difference in feeling for the sound /r/ as compared with the sound /l/. Use a motion like running in place for the letter r.

16. Teaching the Digraph SH Sound

16. Teaching the Digraph SH Sound

To make the sound /sh/ we put our teeth together and push our our lips. The tip of our tongue goes up to the roof of our mouth behind our top teeth. Then we push out the air slowly as if we are telling someone to be quiet: /sh/. Watch me make the sound /sh/. You try it. Ask students: What do you feel? Say: If I put the palm of my hand in front of my mouth I feel a thick stream of air coming out. I feel my lips push out as I push out the air. I feel my tongue on the roof of my mouth. Ask: Is it quiet or noisy? Say: It is quiet because there is no vibration. Use a finger-to-your-mouth motion for be quiet for the digraph sh.