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How to Assess Letter Names and Sounds

magnifying glass and reading glasses to analyze letter names and sounds

A true understanding of letter names and sounds is much more than just singing the alphabet. Students must recognize both capital and lower case letters shown in any sequence. Students must also be able to associate and articulate the sound that the letters represent. Our Free Letter Name and Sound Assessment includes an in-depth analysis of typical student responses called Guidelines for Analyzing Letter Name and Sound. This document provides an essential framework for interpreting your students’ varying abilities.

Who would benefit from a letter name and sound assessment?

This assessment should be given as a Kindergarten universal screening three times a year. It is also appropriate for First Grade students who did not achieve mastery in Kindergarten. This screener can be used to analyze the skills of struggling readers

What should I look for when I assess my students’ knowledge of letter names and sounds?

There are a lot of nuances to gaining mastery of the alphabet. Here are some things to look for when determining your students’ understanding of letter names and sounds.

  1. Reversals. b/d, and p/q are common developmental errors in emergent readers. With frequent exposure and practice, these reversals should lessen as time goes on.
  2. Hesitation. Automaticity is an important part of mastering letter names and sounds. Does it take longer than 3 seconds for the student to name the letter or produce the sound? Keep an eye on this because students with dyslexia often have trouble with rapid naming.
  3. Confusion of letters whose names sound similar (g and j).
  4. Identifying the letter sound based on the pronunciation of the name (i.e./ay/ or /ch/ for the letter h)
  5. Reliance on the keyword to recall the sound. Letter/keyword/sound is an instructional scaffold that can be used to help students recall the sound of the letter. Eventually, students need to let go of the scaffold of the keyword and produce the sound when prompted.
  6. Not clipping the sound (saying /puh/ instead of /p/).
  7. Fatigue. Do the students start off strong, but make more errors as the assessment goes on? This could be a sign that students are depleting their cognitive energy.

I’ve analyzed the letter name and sound assessment, now what?

Look for ways to group your students:

  1. Some students may not know any letter names (or very few). Group these students together and start by introducing a small number of letters (4-5). Review these letters until the students achieve mastery.
  2. Look for letters that most of the students had difficulty with (qu, w, x, and y). Target these letters in your daily drill.
  3. For students who tend to reverse letters such as b/d try adding a multisensory component such as gel boards or sandpaper letters.
  4. Fluency grids can be used to help students develop automaticity.
  5. Vowels are among the most difficult letter sounds to learn. These sounds all require an open mouth. The mouth shifts only slightly to change from one vowel sound to another. Explicit instruction in mouth position is helpful for many students to recognize the subtle differences.

Where can I find resources to help my students master letter names and sounds?

We offer a Letter Name and Sound Bundle. This bundle includes the Guidelines for Analyzing, letter cards, letter bingo, and fluency grids. Just click on the image below.

This Letter Name and Sound Bundle is available in our TPT store.


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