How to Teach Letter Names

The letters of the English Alphabet are the foundation upon which the reading and speaking of English is based. Although knowing the names of the letters does not contribute directly to reading, it is correlative. For one thing, The letter names come in handy as identifiers. If you do not know the names of the letters, you may end up identifying them by sound, which would be incorrect. You will be diminishing one of the beauties of thee English language. As you may already know, unlike our native languages, the English language has two sets of letters. One is the letters of the English alphabet and the other is the letters of the English sound system. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we spell  and write with the letter names. Therefore, learning the names of the letters is prerequisite to learning to read.

One of the questions that arise in this regard is when it is best to teach the letter names. In most schools, the names of letters of the English alphabet are taught along with sounds from the preschool level. ICCOM recommends this style. Teaching the names and sounds of the letters helps in clarifying two areas of confusion. First, you establish immediately that the English language has two sets of letters. Second, you eliminate the confusing of letter names for sounds. For example, you will correctly say, “Letter ‘b’ says /b/” instead of, “letter /b/ says /b/”.

However, other schools are convinced that teaching the two concurrently may be too much information and will confuse the pupils and so they wait until a little later. Whatever group your school may fall, you will still need to know how to teach the letter names when you decide to. If you have been thinking of the best way to teach letter names, this post will help you.

Identifying the Objective of the Lesson

When you decide to teach letter names, you should have clear in mind what your objectives are. Do you want the pupils to just have a theoretical knowledge of the letter names. Perhaps just by chanting or learning by rote? Then for the children in early years,you may choose to play an education DVD that highlights the names of the letters in song. There are variations of the alphabet song that the children will enjoy.  This is a simple and very effective way of teaching the letter names.

If you can clearly identify why a lesson is needed, it will be easier to figure out how it should be prepared

What if you are teaching older kids? For example, as a speech trainer or instructor, you may need to teach even pupils in primary classes how to say the letter names who have not exposed to them before. In this case, your objective becomes more cognitive. You will not only need to teach them how to say the names of the letters but also how to apply this knowledge. In the case of older kids, you may even need to convince them why they need to know and use the names of the letters. Simply repeating the names of the letters or teaching with song would not suffice.

Teaching Older Kids how to say Letter Names

It is always best to go from the known to the unknown.

Step 1

Ask the pupils to say the names of the letters as they know it.

Step 2

Take note of the letter names that have been said correctly.

Step 3

Write out the letters that have not been said correctly.

Step 4

Say the names of the letters correctly, pointing out how they are being mispronounced and, depending on the age of the pupils, why they are not usually said correctly.

Step 5

Ask that the pupils repeat the names of the letters correctly.

Step 6

Write out some simple words that contain the letters in the mispronounced list and have the pupils call out the letter names.

Step 7

Write the letters randomly and have the pupils say their names correctly.

Do not forget to commend the pupils for a job well done.

Lesson Content

Africans in general have a difficulty saying the names of some letters of the English language. The alphabet of our native languages do not contain diphthongs. You may find that your pupils/students have difficulties with these letters too. They include a group of letters we will call ‘A’ and its derivatives: A, H, J, K. Other letters to give attention are O, R, and W. For advanced students, giving P, T and K their plosive value may be a challenge.

The letter names and how they are said, using IPA symbols are shown. When teaching the letter names follow the colour code to teach groups of related letter names.

letter names


Resources for Teaching Letter Names

There are several resources available online and offline for teaching letter names. However, you need to be careful that the resources you subscribe to contain authentic information. Some of the resources may contain incorrect pronunciations. If you are not sure how the letter names correctly, you may not be able to identify the best resources. The Speech and Presentation Course offered by the Institute of Certified Communicators comes with DVDs that teach letter names.  Why not contact us to learn how you can assess our training materials. You can read about our courses here.

To reinforce and assess the lesson, you may need to create visual aids. The visual aids you create may be as simple as reproducing the colour-coded slide above on cardboard sheets. You may also create your own flash cards with the names of the letters only for younger kids and the names and sounds for the older children. Or, you may also buy ready made flashcards and card games to make the lessons more entertaining. You may also find other creative activities for reinforcing the lesson.

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Are there fun experiences you have had with teaching letter names? Do you have further questions about teaching letter names? Then share with us in the comments section.

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