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  • Becky McArthur, S-LP(C)

Letters & Sounds: A Key Distinction


Letters and sounds: it seems simple enough. But so many children struggle with this distinction and it impacts many literacy skills, including phonological awareness. Why does this matter? Phonological awareness is one of the critical skills for becoming a strong reader. Increases in phonological awareness correlate to increases in overall reading ability so strong phonological awareness is not just important, it’s critical!


Let’s look at this in real life: one phonological awareness task involves children identifying the first sound in a word. For example a parent or educator may say, “tell me the first sound you hear in the word bat”. How frustrating is it when the child says “the letter b”? No matter how many times we repeat, “No b is a letter. I want you to tell me the sound”, it just doesn’t help. Cue a new strategy!


I created a strategy to unlock my students' potentials and it’s as simple as two index cards and a marker. Draw eyes on one index card. We use this visual as a reminder to a child that we SEE LETTERS. Draw ears on the other index card. We use this visual as a reminder to a child that we HEAR SOUNDS. If I don’t have my visuals at the ready, I will also simply point to my ears and eyes as cues as well.



When we are working on skills like identifying the first sound in a word and a child says a letter name, I use these visual cues to provide clear feedback. For example, [holding up eye visual or pointing to my eyes] “I heard you say the letter b but that’s a letter we see.” [holding up the ear visual or pointing to my ears] “Can you tell me the sound you hear?”.

These simple visual cues have been an ah-ha moment for so many of my clients working on literacy goals. I hope you can better support your own child or student using this strategy too!


At We Communicate, we provide literacy services to children in kindergarten and older. We use evidence-based approaches that will help your child become a more confident reader and strive for their potential! If you are interested in discussing your child’s literacy skills, please reach out to us today.


becky@wecommunicateslp.com | 647-962-4552 | www.wecommunicateslp.com


The gist:

  • Knowing the difference between letters and sounds is crucial for phonological awareness skills

  • Phonological awareness directly impacts reading performance

  • Visual cues support the distinction: eyes = SEE LETTER, ear = HEAR SOUND

  • Reach out to a professional with expertise in literacy to support your child

#phonologicalawareness #PA #phonics #dyslexia #literacy #slp

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