TSR! Coaching Counts

Coaching Counts is a monthly newsletter for TSR coaches and coordinators that offers information on coaching best practices. Throughout the year, the newsletter will focus on important aspects of coaching to continue to help you support early childhood teachers enrolled in TSR.

April Crawford, Ph.D.
April Crawford, Ph.D.
Director, Texas School
Ready! Project

This Month's Playbook

Making the Most of Letter-Sound Association

Remote Control

Use the feedback video to help teachers understand why some letter-sound associations are difficult for the children.  Point out the error that is occurring in the video.  Then add a voice over to explain why this is a common error and suggest a way to simplify the activity.  On the feedback call, you can then help the teacher plan another activity and recommend CLUES that can be used to help the children remember letter-sound associations.

This month’s coaching call will focus on letter-sound association and how we can support teachers in effective letter-sound instruction. Generally, children are ready to learn the sound a letter makes when they can readily identify the letter’s name. For several letters, the name of the letter provides clues to the phoneme (a distinct unit of sound) the letter produces when used in a spoken word. The word “bee,” for instance, begins with the same phoneme as the saying aloud the letter “B.” This association is incredibly useful for children learning to speak and read new vocabulary.

However there are many letters, especially short vowels, for which this is not the case (e.g. the word pet actually suggests a spelling using “A” [pat] because the letter “A” shares an initial phoneme with the short-e sound). It is especially confusing for teachers when children incorrectly spell words using these associations yet teachers don’t recognize that the child’s mistake stems from a correct phonemic analysis (something to be celebrated!) but an incorrect understanding of spelling (in this instance, spelling of the vowel sound). In the above example, a child may spell the word pet as “pat” because of the associated phoneme with the letter “A,” or spell “kat” for cat. The second instance of successful phonemic analysis is fairly obvious, but the first is more difficult for teachers to identify. As coaches, it’s important to make this connection for teachers when implementing letter knowledge activities so that they don’t focus on isolating sounds (phonemes) that the children are already successfully identifying.

Teachers can provide CLUES to facilitate children remembering letter-sound associations: 

Associations - teach the child to associate the letter-sound with a picture, key word, and gesture.

Kinesthetic and tactile - for some children, tracing letters while naming or giving the sound is effective. Focusing the student’s attention on how the sounds are produced can help with recall.

Mnemonic devices - rhymes, songs and stories about the letter-sound associations can provide effective cues. When the child is asked to produce a name or sound, provide clues by giving part of the song, rhyme, or story to the child.

Color - make the distinction between vowels and consonants more noticeable by presenting vowels in one color and consonants in another color.

Additional Tips:

1. Use key words that are clear and familiar to children to illustrate letter-sound associations. Accompanying images of the key word make this illustration stronger. Some examples include A = apple, F = fish, and M = monkey.
2. Avoid words that confuse the letter-sound association (for example, elephant sounds like it begins with the letter “L”, iguana sounds like it begins with “E”).
3. Use the same keywords repeatedly to assist the child’s memory. Learning new keywords can slow the process of making letter-sound associations.
4. Focus on sounds of letters that occur at the beginning of words at first, then as children become comfortable, shift to sounds in different parts of the words.
5. In shared reading exercises, encourage children to try to guess the beginning sound in a new word by using letter-sound associations they’ve practiced.


We’ll cover these more in depth in this month’s coaching call, so don’t forget to tune in!



  • Join us tomorrow, November 20, for the Brunch & Learn call from 10:30 - 12:30pm. Please download the training "Let's Make a Mess," now available on Blackboard, in preparation for the call. 
  • The next Collaborative Coaching assignment will be side-by-side coaching. Please complete the assignment by Friday, December 19.
  • The CIRCLE Activity Collection (formerly known as the CIRCLE Preschool Manual) is now available online! Feel free to peruse the new system here
  • There will no be Brunch & Learn calls in December -- enjoy your holiday season!

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