reading in Kindergarten

The ABC’s of Teaching Letters


by: Andrea Howell Chouhan

The ABC’s of Teaching Letters

What is the first step in teaching a child to read? Letters and sounds instruction is the key! In simple terms, for a child to learn to read independently and construct meaning from text – he needs to be able to identify words automatically. He can do this after he decodes unknown words. In order to reach this point, children have to first learn the 44 speech sounds of letters and more than 100 spellings that are made.  Therefore, a child must first be able to identify letter names and then be able to produce letter sounds. Then, he will be ready to read! The next step is to implement a carefully planned and systematic presentation of explicit letter/sound teaching.

Which Letters Should Be Taught First?

The hardest question for researchers and professionals to answer is – “What order should the letters be taught?” Although there is not one universal answer to this question, there is great data to give professionals guidance in creating and/or implementing the necessary systematic order of instruction. Teachers everywhere successfully teach children to read. Children also learn differently. Quite honestly, there is no wrong order to teach letters. Many teachers follow the curriculum, which determines the letter order.

When deciding the order to teach the letters, please keep in mind what some research says.

What Does Research Say?

  • Some letters are harder to learn than others: U, Q, V
  • The following letters are most well-known by children, even if they have not been taught them: O, A, B
  • Children are most likely to learn the first letter of a their name more easily and quickly
  • Teach the letters in an order that allows a child to form many words with them (for example: C, M, A, T)
  • Begin with letters that make “simple sounds” that are easiest to stretch out and are easier to blend: M, S, F, R, N, L
  • Teach new sounds in small steps
  • Review previously taught letters and sounds
  • Introduce commonly encountered sounds before the infrequent sounds: For example, “A” occurs more commonly than “Q” or “V.”
  • Teach the letters that occur more frequently in most words. The most commonly occurring letters are: E, T, A, I, N, O, S, H, R, D, L, C
  • Introduce vowels early. A child must know the vowel sounds, in order to make and read words.
  • It is suggested to teach graphemes together, like C and H, C and K, T and H
  • Alphabetic order is not ideal because it does not address the needs listed above
  • Do not pair and teach together letters that are auditorily and/or visually similar: E, I and D, B
  • Introduce some continuous sounds early: M, S
  • One study suggests introducing lower case letters first, unless upper case letters are similar in shape: (Similar: S, s, U, u, W, w; Dissimilar: R, r, T, t, F, f) Note: I have always taught capital and lowercase at the same time: Ss, Rr, Tt, so I do not disagree with this study, I myself and just unfamiliar with its effectiveness
  • Do not teach similar looking letters together: b, d, p, q
  • Introducing letters in isolation may confuse some children about the purpose of letters in relation to words and reading
  • Some letters take longer to visually discriminate:  t, a, e, o, s, i

 Suggested Letter Order Instruction

 As a teacher, I always used the “letter order” sequence that was outlined by my school. I wondered what reasonings were behind teaching letters in a certain way. So, I set out and discovered that research proves that there are various effective methods for teaching letters in a systematic sequence. Below are the compilations of my finding. The last column is what I created based on the feedback that I received from other educators who used each of these systems.

Letter Order Suggestions


Public School in Houston

(No More Letter of the Week Method by P. Lusche)


Montessori Method (Montessori Matters by M. Carinato


Montessori Method

(How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by T. Seldin)


Right Track Reading

(by M. Gagen)

Combined Curriculums (Montessori & No More Letter of the Week)

Letters Overview

s, m, t, a, p, f, c

c, m, a, t

c, m, a, t

Letters Overview and 1st letter of childs name

Letters Overview and 1st letter of childs name

r, b, l, I, g, n, d

s, r, i, p

 s, f, r. n

Capital to Lowercase comparisons

Pp, Aa

h, j, k, w, o, u, v

b, f, o, g

n, l, e, b

Mm, Aa, Tt, Ss, Cc

Bb, Ll

y, z, x, q, e

h, j, u, l

i, h, d, g

Rr, Ii, Pp, Ff, Bb

Ss, Hh

d, w, e, n

o, k, p, j

Ll, Oo, Gg, Nn, Dd

Nn, Ww

k, q, v, x, y, z

 q, u, x

Hh, Jj, Uu, Qq, Ee

Ee, Cc

v, w, y, z

Vv, Ww, Yy, Kk, Xx, Zz

Qq, Uu

Rr, Yy

Gg, Zz

Dd, Oo

Ii, Jj

Ff, Xx

Vv, Kk

 Note: The first column shows how my school in Houston taught the letters. “No More Letter of the Week” was one resource, however, the letter order above was created by my school district.

The many resources below provide a plethora of suggestions for the sequence of teaching letters and sounds. So, glean what you will and happy teaching!


Book boxes for “The Daily 5”


These are cereal boxes that I cut, and I plan to use them for my book boxes in my classroom. “The Daily 5” book is a great teacher resource, that gives simple ideas about how to instill more reading into your classroom routine. I have only used “The Daily 5” for one year, but I love it and am excited to use it even better this school year. Last year, I used magazine file boxes, that had been given to me-brand new. They did end up falling apart, and I had to tape the bottoms up with book tape. But they lasted for the school year. However, I did not want to go through the same thing again and decided to make my own book boxes-for free. I just need at least 15 more boxes to start out the school year. My parents and family have been instructed to save them up for me!

So, what is “The Daily 5”? Authors, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser have created these five components to encourage daily reading in the classroom:

1. Read to Self– This is silent reading time. Last year, I began the first 15-20 minutes of the day with silent reading. The students used their book boxes to read. Every book in the box was on the students’ reading level, with nothing too hard or too easy. I allowed students to change books out every few weeks.

2. Read to Someone- This can be buddy reading or reading with a partner. I incorporate this step into my Reading Center, where there are usually 2-3 students at a time. I think that the more students read, the better readers that they will become, as a result.

3. Listen to Reading– I incorporated this into my daily read-alouds. Since I love reading and I love reading to children, I usually read about 2-3 books a day to students. I believe that when children hear more reading, they enjoy more reading.

4. Work on Writing– I this into my Writing Center, where I have pre-stapled books available for students to write and illustrate their own “little books.” Last year, this was the most popular station in my classroom! Writing develops reading skills too!

5. Word Work- I also make this a Center station. I change the activity every 1-2 weeks. This is where I include activities for the phonics skill, which I work on during Guided Reading groups. So, if the skill is -at words, th- words or beginning sounds-I place an activity about it here.

I am excited to use The Daily 5 again this year!

20110919-062136.jpg Here are the boxes-filled with books!