Letter sounds picture

How to Teach Letter Sounds

Letter sounds are used for reading and speaking. These letters are often represented by special symbols. In this article, we will learn how to teach these letter sounds.

How to Teach Letter Sounds

As we have already learnt, the English alphabet is made up of 26 letters. The letters are used for Spelling and writing. The English language is also different from our Nigerian languages because while in our native languages, the sound of the letter equals the name of the letter, in the English language, we use a different set of letters for writing and reading The letters are referred to the letters of the English sound system.

Methods of Teaching Letter Sounds

  1. Simple: We can teach the letter names with their corresponding sounds restricting ourselves to the soft and hard sounds (where applicable) for each consonant and the long and short sounds for the vowels.
  2. Complex: This involves providing an exhaustive list of all the sounds that each letter can produce. For example, teaching the letter names and then following with the sound of each letter will mean that you will repeat the same sound several times as you teach.

In the English language, a sound can be produced by different letters. For instance, the letter ‘a’ says /ɒ/ in watch, the letter ‘o’ can also say /ɒ/ as we see in pot. Therefore, for younger learners, you may choose to start with the simple method and then move to the more complex as they get older.

So, the method you choose to use will ultimately depend on two factors:

  1. The age of the learners
  2. The previous knowledge of the learners.

Teaching Letter Sounds in the Early Years

When teaching letter sounds to pupils in the early years, it is recommended that you take one sound at a time. Since the simpler words, (two and three letter words) take on the syllabic form VC and CVC, it is best to start with the short sounds.  You can simple go from one vowel to the other, teaching the short sounds and after the pupils have mastered the short sounds of all the vowels, you move on to the long sounds.  Restrict your examples to words that are spelt with the target letter.  For example,  letter ‘e’ says /e/ but “ea” spells /e/ in bread. But although ‘bread’ is a good example of a word spelt with the /e/ sound, it could be visually confusing to a beginning learner. Such examples are best left for later years.

Lesson Content

Let us focus on how to teach letter sounds to beginning learners. For this reason, we will be using the first method. Here is a list of the letters and their corresponding sounds. We have included word examples for each sound. You can reproduce this chart and place it in your classroom or in your language lab.



Letter Sounds Word Examples
Long Short Long Short
Aa /eɪ/ /æ/ Cake Cat, man, hand, dam
Ee /i:/ /e/ Meet, we Met
Ii /aɪ/ /ɪ/ Bike Sit
Oo /əʊ/ /ɒ/ Bone Pot
Uu /ju:/ /u:/ /ʌ/ /ʊ/ Cube, rule Luck, Pull




Letters Sounds Word Examples
Bb /b/ Bag
Cc /s/ (Soft)

/k/ (Hard)



Dd /d/ Doll
Ff /f/ Face
Gg /dʒ/(Soft)

/g/ (Hard)



Hh /h/ hose
Jj /dʒ/ Joke
Kk /k/ kettle
Ll /l/ Lion
Mm /m/ Money
Nn /n/ Nurse
Pp /p/ Puppy
Qq /kw/ Quick
Rr /r/ Rose
Ss /s/ Snake
Tt /t/ Teeth
Vv /v/ Voice
Ww /w/ Watch
Xx /ks/ Axe
Yy /j/ Yam
Zz /z/ Zero


Reinforcing the Lesson

A great way to reinforce this lesson and help the pupils see that they are making progress is by providing literature for them to read. In our next article, we will provide examples of books that you can use to teach letter sounds.

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