Articles on: Literacy

Teaching the alphabet: students on the PLD programs are effectively learning the alphabet sounds, but when are letter names taught?

Letter Names & SSP

A Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach to literacy instruction starts with pre-literacy instruction (phonemic awareness, blending and segmenting) and teaching the alphabet sounds.
From a PLD point of view, because it is the letter sounds that allow children to sound out and decode (read) words, the letter sounds are viewed as more important than learning the letter names.
The general rule, is to spend 80% of teaching time devoted to letter sounds and only 20% on letter naming.
Also, never as 'What is the letter name? [first] and the alphabet sound second. Reverse this. 'What is the alphabet sound? [first] .... and the letter name second.

The best time to teach letter names is when a child can draw on their knowledge of letter sounds and decode CVC words, and also when approaching digraph teaching (when alphabet letter names is required)

Once a child has knowledge of the alphabet sounds and is using them to decode simple CVC words, they can be introduced to letter names. With the introduction of digraphs (e.g. sh, ch, th) at Stage 1 Target 2 of the PLD program, letter names need to be established. As digraphs are introduced, children will be taught “see (C) and haych (H) [letter names] make the sound ‘ch’.”

Teaching digraphs (2 letters & one sound)
sh: "esss" (letter name) and "h" (letter name) represent the sound.... "shhhhhhh"

It is imperative in the Foundation year of schooling that students start decoding early in the year.
In the PLD seminars and online training videos we explain that children typically read first, spell second, and write third. Term 1 focuses upon preparation for literacy (alphabet sounds, phonemic awareness, blending and segmenting). Later in the year once children are decoding, introduction to letter names can occur and this prepares the students for the learning of digraphs. Children are taught lowercase letter formation in conjunction with learning the letter sounds.
This is an excerpt from PLD's Foundation Teaching Sequence Manual:

In summary in the junior primary:
Early Years can use letter names in Terms 1 & 2, but then sounds for 80% of the time in semester 2.
Foundation/Year 1 letter names when referring to digraphs 's' and 'h' [letter names] make the sound "shhh"
In general apply the 80% rule - 80% sounds, 20% letter names.

Foundation Term 1 Pre-Literacy Instruction

Teaching the Alphabet Sounds
Designed by Speech Pathologists, the PLD teaching resource Alphabet the Multisensory Way aims to establish strong alphabet and phonic sound ability. You can find this resource here:

Pronouncing the alphabet sounds:

Further Information
Top Tips for Learning the Alphabet:
Are Alphabet Sounds Important to Literacy?
Watch this video: Pronouncing the Alphabet Sounds:
The evidence-base for PLD:

Updated on: 27/03/2023

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