Teaching Letter-Sound Corrospondence

Teaching letter-sound correspondence is a critical component in learning the alphabet, teaching phonics, and essential to reading success. So let’s talk about letter-sound correspondence and how you can teach it effectively!

What is letter-sound correspondence?  Letter-sound correspondence is the knowledge of the sounds/phonemes connected to individual letters.  Although there are only 26 letters of the English alphabet, there are 44 Phonemes or individual distinct units of sound.  Phonemes also include letter combinations like blends and digraphs, but I will only be focussing on the letters of the alphabet for this post.

When to teach letter-sound correspondence?  As you teach letter recognition, it is just as important to teach letter-sound correspondence understanding.  I have found that teaching letter-sound correspondence with letter identification increases phonemic awareness, phonics understanding, decoding words, and reading skills overall.

   How do you teach letter-sound correspondence?  Teaching letter-sound correspondences should be done one at a time.  Once a letter-sound has been mastered introduce the next one.   To facilitate early reading the best, try teaching letters and letter-sounds by those found most often in text.  I use the order below.

  • a, m, t, p, o, n, c, d, u, s, g, h, i, f, b, l, e, r, w, k, x, v, y, z, j, q


  • Teach frequently used letters first aids early reading. (e.g., a, m, t)
  • Teach letters that look similar and have similar sounds (e.g. b and d) in separate lessons to help avoid confusion.
  • Short vowels should be taught before long vowels.
  • Lower case letters are taught before upper case letters.
  • Teach unique sounds once the others are mastered. 

  • Unique sounds, like hard and soft C and G, should be taught seperate from each other. These sounds are also referred to as copycat C as /s/ and copycat C as /k/ and copycat G as /j/.

  • Letter X is usually found at the end of a word and may be easier to teach as an ending sound rather than beginning sound.

Letter-object association vs letter identification with letter-sound correspondence

Providing a variety of objects and visuals that begin with the focus letter increases vocabulary and understanding of the phonemes.  For more advanced students, use objects with the focus letter sound at the end or in the middle and have them identify if the sound is in the middle or end of the word.

   Be careful not to teach letter-object association like B is for ball.  Here is an example of a more effective method of teaching letters and letter sounds while using visuals.

Point to the focus letter. “This is the letter B,” “The B says, “b”  (children may say buh, but we do not emphasize the uh at the end).

“Can you say “b” too?” 

Hold up the visual, the ball for this example, and ask your child to tell you what it is.

Did you say the B sound “b?”

Let’s listen carefully and say it again.  “B-b-b-ball. Ball!”

“What letter sound did we hear?” “The letter B sound!”

    I created letter-sound correspondence mats to help students gain confidence in identifying the letter sounds for each letter of the alphabet. 

Teaching letter-sound correspondence mats
Click the picture to grab this resource!

  In level 1 of the letter-sound correspondence mats, students will demonstrate basic knowledge of letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound for each picture. All eight images on the mat begin with the focus letter-sound.  In level 2, students will discriminate between pictures that begin with the focus letter-sound and those that do not. 

Included in this resource – 

There is a page for every consonant letter sound.

Vowel sounds have two sounds covered:  long and short vowels A, E, I, O, and U.

The unique or tricky sounds hard and soft C and G are included seperately.

These unique letters are also listed as copycat C as /s/ and copycat C as /k/ and copycat G as /j/.

(These letters are placed at the end of the alphabet so you can choose which version of wording you want to teach before printing.)

Unique letter X is the only letter mat that focuses on the ending sound instead of the beginning sound.

Additional resources you may like

The following resources go nicely with my letter-sound correspondence mats.  They focus on letter formation and letter-sounds.

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