February 22, 2024

The Alphabetic Principle

The alphabetic principle refers to the understanding that written letters represent sounds from spoken language.  For example, as experienced readers, when we see individual letters or letter teams, such as “k” or “sh,” we automatically associate their sounds with them.  /k/ is the beginning sound in “kite,” and “sh” is the starting sound in “ship.”  This predictable and systematic code of letter sound relationships is an essential component of phonics for early and advanced reading.  

During school hours our pre-kindergarteners are learning alphabet knowledge by recognizing, naming, and writing upper and lower case letters.  They’re also learning the most basic sounds represented by each letter in the alphabet.  In Reading-Ready, we work to reinforce and build upon these skills and apply them to phonemic awareness activities where students blend, segment, isolate, delete, replace, and add on to individual sounds within words.    

Better Than the Old ABCs

One fun way we are strengthening our knowledge of the alphabetic principle is through Jack Hartmann’s “Silly Letter Sounds Song."  Better than the well known ABCs most adults grew up singing, Hartmann’s version provides each letter in alphabetical order, along with its sound.  Additionally, there is a keyword or phrase for each letter, which we’ve paired with a goofy movement or facial expression.  For instance, for the letter “h,” we say its name, sound (/h/), and keyword (hulahoop).  Then, we spin our hips to keep up those pretend toy rings around our bodies!  

As we sing along together in Reading-Ready, a visual of each letter and its keyword is shown to students.  This is a very important part of our instruction since we are working towards each child being able to independently see any letter (in isolation and out of order) and say its name and the sound it represents.  Put all of this to a catchy beat blasting from a JBL speaker, and you’ve got kids happily moving and grooving while learning foundational knowledge essential to reading.  

Using These Resources

Hartmann's "Silly Letter Sounds Song" is FREE and can be played through YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5SZKdY9ClQ

*We sing "qu" instead of just "q" in our song to teach children that "u" follows "q" in words when we read and write.  Together, the letter team "qu" represents the beginning sounds in the keyword "quack."  

*Our class replaced "fish face" with "funny face" for the letter "f."  This is one of the children's favorite letters and keywords to sing and act out because it's so silly!  Just look at all of their funny faces in the photo at the top of this post!  They're adorable!

*As a heads-up, the movements for each keyword that our class practices may differ a little bit from what Hartmann acts out in his video.

The Let's Connect Alphabet Sound and Keyword Card Set, which matches the lyrics from Hartmann's song is in PDF format and is FREE to subscribers (see below).  I created them to be used as visuals that can be used with or without the song.  My personal set is laminated and hole punched on a key ring, so that I can remove cards for individual use and I can quickly scaffold a lesson by flipping to a keyword.

Other creative ways to use the Let's Connect Alphabet Sound and Keyword Card Set include:

  • Playing memory or simply matching letters with their keyword pictures (timed or untimed)
  • Playing Go Fish to match letters with their keywords
  • Having your child place the letters and their keywords in alphabetical order on the table or floor and then go through them by saying the letter name, sound, and keyword
  • Laying cards face-up and saying a letter name or sound and having your child find the corresponding letter card and/or keyword card

Learning the ABCs has never been more fun or more valuable to helping children read!

- Johanna Sims, M.S., CCC-SLP

"K" is for /k/!  Kangaroo!  We are really perfecting our hops!

Sample Letter Cards

Sample Keyword Cards

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