Relevant Research

Thursday, May 12, 2016


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Putting print with sound: Scaffolding letter names to letter-sound correspondence

Phonological awareness, letter knowledge and print, and complex vocabulary development are key predictors of later reading success.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychology, scholars found that phonological awareness is a strong contributor to student’s ability to acquire letter-sound correspondence. This study examined how students connected letter names to letter sounds. The results showed that letter-name knowledge had a large impact on letter-sound acquisition, but that phonological awareness had a greater effect on letter-sound knowledge when the child knew letter names.

Letter knowledge is the ability to distinguish letter shapes and names and further the ability to quickly recall and name each letter. Phonological awareness is understanding the discrete sounds or phonemes in words and being able to identify and manipulates those sounds in spoken words. In pre-kindergarten, teaching instruction on phonological awareness is critical. For more information on Phonological Awareness, check out our January edition of TSR Connect

As children are exposed to letter shapes and begin to form letter recognition, they can make connections with the sounds the letter makes. When children learn letter-sound correspondence, they are seeing the letter in print and can apply the sound the letter makes. This is referred to as phonics.

An article in the online publication "Reading Rockets" states, “Not knowing letter names is related to children's difficulty in learning letter sounds and in recognizing words. Children cannot understand and apply the alphabetic principle (understanding that there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken sounds) until they can recognize and name a number of letters. Children whose alphabetic knowledge is not well developed when they start school need sensibly organized instruction that will help them identify, name, and write letters. Once children are able to identify and name letters with ease, they can begin to learn letter sounds and spellings. Children appear to acquire alphabetic knowledge in a sequence that begins with letter names, then letter shapes, and finally letter sounds. Children learn letter names by singing songs such as the 'Alphabet Song,' and by reciting rhymes. They learn letter shapes as they play with blocks, plastic letters, and alphabetic books. Informal but planned instruction in which children have many opportunities to see, play with, and compare letters leads to efficient letter learning.“

The revised 2015 Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines expect that a child by completion of Prekindergarten will be able to:

  1. Name at least 20 upper and at least 20 lower case letters
  2. Recognize at least 20 letter sounds in the language of instruction
  3. Produce at least 20 distinct letter sound correspondences in the language of instruction

Young learners can form letter-sound correspondence when they learn the phonetic cues the letters provide. For example, many letters have a sound that is similar to the name. For example, recognizing a "d" helps the reader to remember that its sound is /d/.

So what does this look like in actual instruction?

Find a selection of activities in the CIRCLE Activity Collection 8.4 Letter Sounds (Please note, this link will only work if you are logged into CLI Engage). Activities are scripted with modeling to guided practice and include objectives, setting, and materials. Try this playful activity to reinforce letter sound correspondence.

I Know an Old Lady


  • Small Group


  • Old Lady puppet
  • Plastic or foam letters

Define concept in child friendly terms.

Boys and girls, today we are going to play the I Know and Old Lady game.  We are going to think of things that begin with /M/and /T/ for the old lady to swallow.

Model and explain procedure.

Have the children sing the following song to the tune of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” This could be a follow-up activity after reading the book.

Sing: I know an old lady who swallowed an “M.”

What did she say when she swallowed an “M?”

She said /M/.

Have children make the /m/ sound and suggest objects that she could eat that begin with that sound.

Guided practice

Now it’s your turn to choose a letter.

Sing: I know an old lady who swallowed a “T.”

What did she say when she swallowed a “T?”

She said /T/.

Have children make the /T/ sound and suggest objects that she could eat that begin with that sound.

Continue this procedure with additional letters as time allows.


Today we played the Old Lady who swallowed the letters M and T. You brainstormed things for the old lady to eat that began with the letters. We will play this game again later using different letters.



  • Kim, Y. S., Petscher, Y., Foorman, B. R., & Zhou, C. (2010). The contributions of phonological awareness and letter-name knowledge to letter-sound acquisition—a cross-classified multilevel model approach. Journal of educational psychology102(2), 313.
  • Neuman, S. B. (2006). Early Literacy: Making Letter-Sound Correspondence. Early Childhood Today20(6), 20-21.
  • Texas Education Agency. (2002). The Alphabetic Principle. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from 
Teaching Tips

Tips for scaffolding letter names to letter sounds

  •   Engage children in print/letter knowledge activities daily.
  •   Use both large and small group settings to ensure engagement for all children.
  •   Use environmental print to connect meaning to print.
  •   Engage children in letter knowledge activities that teach all aspects of letter knowledge.

Letter-Sound Correspondence Activities

Activity 1

  1. Put each letter on an individual flower card.
  2. Create individual petal-shaped cards that start with the same sound as the letter. Example: For the "B" flower, create petals with photos of birds, basketballs, and books.
  3. Say the letter or sound on the flower.
  4. Have the child select the petals that match the sound of the letter. 

Activity 2 - Use library cards for a letter/sound sort game.

  1. Use picture cards that do not have the word printed beneath them.
  2. Tape or glue the picture to a craft stick.
  3. Have the children sort the cards according to beginning sound of the picture.


Activity 3 - Animal Sort

  1. Sort picture cards of animals according to their beginning letter sound.
  2. Create three letter cards: Bb, Cc, Dd.
  3. Collect picture cards of animals that begin with B, C, or D. For example: Bear, bird, cow, camel, deer, and dog.
  4. Review names of each animal so children are clear about the animal name.
  5. Have the child select a card/picture. 
  6. Have the child identify the name of the animal and beginning sound.
  7. Have the child match the beginning sound to the correct letter card.

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