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Letter Sound Pronunciation & The Importance of Clipping Sounds

Helping Emergent Readers Pronounce Letter Sounds Correctly

Image of large and small letter sound cards.

What do you mean by there’s a right way and a wrong way to pronounce letters?

Emergent readers (and beginning readers or struggling readers) sometimes add a vowel sound to the end of a consonant sound.  (i.e. they say /puh/ rather than /p/.)

What does clipping sounds mean? 

Clipping sounds simply means saying the sound for the letter p as /p/ rather than adding the schwa sound /u/ at the end as in /puh/.  The vowel sound /u/ has been clipped off the /p/ sound.

The following video demonstrates articulation of all letters using letter/keyword/sound cards.  Consonant sounds are clipped.

Why does it matter if students ‘clip’ sounds?

It may not seem like a big deal whether a student says /p/ or /puh/.  After all, the student has FINALLY learned that letters have sounds.  That’s a win right?

Yes, it is a big step when students finally connect sounds to letters.  But, if they are permitted to continue adding the schwa sound at the end of consonants this could lead to confusion when reading and spelling.  If the student reads the word ‘cat’ as /cuh/… /a/… /tuh/, he may not recognize ‘cuh-a-tuh’ as the word cat.  The same is true for spelling.  We have seen students spelling words by adding the schwa after the consonants.  When students go back to read their writing, they have trouble because the word they spelled is unrecognizable.

How will I know which students need direct instruction on clipping sounds?  

the letter name and sound assessment on a clipboard wth a pencil
This FREE Letter Name assessment includes guidelines for analysis. Click link (LEFT)

The best way to determine the students who are adding schwas to their consonant sounds is to administer a ‘Letter Name, Letter Sound’ assessment.  When you hear a student adding the schwa, make a note of it on the recording sheet.  After each student has taken the assessment, review the data and plan for whole group, small group, or one-on-one instruction in letter names and sounds.

How can I help students with the correct pronunciation?

Letter Name and Sound cards resource

After giving a ‘Letter Name, Letter Sound’ assessment, work with a small group of students or on-on-one with a student.  It’s important to do this direct instruction in a small group setting rather than whole class so you can model the sound and provide immediate correction if needed.

Use letter cards (Check out our Letter Cards Resource HERE!) and model the correct pronunciation using the ‘my turn, your turn’ method.  You say the sound the student repeats the sound.  If you notice the student has added the schwa sound, say the sound again and ask the student to repeat the sound without the /u/ sound.

The following video demonstrates this process:


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  1. Very common to hear that “uh” added to sounds!
    Also –
    The “r” sound is /r/ not /ER/
    We say rabbit not ERabbit. Rat not ERat.
    My speech clinician and I often talk about this very common error. Many teachers and paras I know say it incorrectly.

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