The sounds of the English language are represented in written form by "graphemes". Graphemes are letters or groups of letters that represent individual sounds (or phonemes) in the language. Examples of graphemes are "ch", "e" and "igh".
The objective in teaching students letter sounds is to enable them to successfully decode unfamiliar words by pronouncing the sounds that graphemes represent. These sounds are then "blended" together to read the word. The more closely the student's sounding out of a word resembles the word being read, the more likely the student is to successfully decode/recognise the word. Pronouncing sounds correctly is thus important because correct pronunciation maximises the likelihood that students will successfully read unfamiliar words!
The first step in teaching your student letter sounds is to learn how to pronounce them correctly yourself!
The easiest way to do this is to use the letter-sounds activities in our programs and apps before trying to use them with students. Carefully practice repeating the sounds just as they are pronounced in the programs.
The sounds that single letter graphemes make in English may be divided into two categories - voicing and duration, which may help you to remember how to pronounce them:
Voiced Sounds("loud" sounds which involve activating the voice box)
Unvoiced Sounds ("whispered" sounds which do not involve activating the voice box)
Long Sounds (sounds which you can stretch over time, such as "ssssssss" and "lllllllllllllllllllll")
Short Sounds (sounds which you cannot stretch over time, such as "b" and "k")
The following letter-sounds are voiced, that is they are "loud" sounds, involving the voicebox:
All vowels (a, e, i, o, u)
b, d, g, j, l, m, n, r, v, w, y, z
The following letter-sounds are unvoiced, that is they are "whispered" sounds, not involving the voicebox:
c, f, h, k, p, s, t, x
When pronouncing these letter-sounds, ensure you do not use your voice (they must be whispered), and that you do not add an "uh" after them. For example:
The correct pronunciation for "h" is "hhh", not "huh"
The correct pronunciation for "s" is "sss", not "suh"
The correct pronunciation for "p" is "p", not "puh"
The following letter-sounds are long, that is they should be stretched slightly when pronounced:
f, h, l, m, n, r, s, v, w, x, y, z
When pronouncing these letter-sounds, ensure you make them longer than other letter-sounds by stretching them out over time slightly. For example:
The correct pronunciation for "m" is "mmmm", not "muh"
The correct pronunciation for "l" is "llll", not "luh"
The correct pronunciation for "x" is "kssssss", not "ksuh"
We hope that helps!