Children require an awareness of the small or individual sounds at the beginning of words in order to be in a good position to start learning the alphabet sounds.


  • When children are able to ‘hear’ and ‘say’ the initial sounds in words only then does the alphabet sound system make sense. This does seem logical, as the alphabet symbols represent sounds and if children cannot ‘hear’ and ‘say’ the beginning sounds in words, then learning the alphabet is inevitably going to be more complicated.
  • For example; When a child can identify that ‘sun’ starts with a ‘sssss’ and ‘tap’ starts with a ‘t’ it is then an ideal time to introduce the alphabet symbols that correspond with the sounds that the child is aware of.

Too often the alphabet is introduced without prior explicit attention to initial sound awareness. As a result of this approach:

  1. A proportion of children will make the connection that the alphabet represents the sounds they can ‘hear’ in words.
  2. A proportion of children will struggle to acquire the alphabet sounds (or will acquire a letter naming dominance). In addition the skill of blending is even more difficult to acquire, and hence the transition to reading is inevitably a challenge.

The download is a quick assessment to determine:

  • If this important prerequisite skill has been learned, or requires further attention. In a preventative sense, the screen will determine those students who are ready to start learning the alphabet and those who require the prerequisite to be further developed.
  • For older students who are already being presented with an alphabet program but for whom they are already experiencing difficulties, the screen typically explains why they are experiencing difficulty.

Page 5 of the whole school literacy strategy outlines when initial sound awareness should be ideally instructed. The short response is the term before an alphabet sound program is introduced. This page provides a more detailed explanation of how the skill is taught explicitly first, then there is a 1 minute progress check scheduled to determine if this essential skill has been adequately developed for the next area of instruction, the alphabet sounds and blending.

PLD also produces a program (devised by speech pathologists) aiming to prepare ALL students for alphabet success or which can be used for remediation with older students who are already experiencing difficulties learning the alphabet. Learn more about ‘Preparing for the alphabet’.

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