Setting up Early Learners for Success in Spelling & Reading


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, One of the many famous dyslexics is credited with this quote. I have this written in my lesson plan book as a constant reminder of my goal for my students which is to through proper teaching, help them to become more successful with their language skills while they are with me in Dyslexia Therapy or in Early Literacy Intervention. The motive behind Dyslexia Therapy and Early Literacy intervention is to forge the next Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and several other dyslexics who became geniuses. Through careful implementation of these strategies, a dyslexic child could be the genius they truly are.

One thing I have come to discover in my over twenty years of teaching is the fact that a true understanding of how to build a solid foundation in Early Literacy is sadly missing or somewhat neglected in the ELA curriculum across the nation.  These important basic skills & strategies that serve as basic building blocks of the English Language are not being taught with fidelity to our early learners, thus depriving them of the opportunity to learn and understand the essentials of the Language.

In a misguided urgency to “get” children reading, the actual science of learning how to spell and read right has been lost.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that reading is very important, but if in our bid to hasten a child’s reading we skip the fundamental foundations that should otherwise enable that child to read right, we are by extension reducing the child’s ability to make letter/sound connections, develop word building skills or decode unfamiliar words when reading.  In simple terms, by skipping what is really important, we are making bad readers and spellers.

In stark contrast to what we are doing now, what we need to do is to provide a solid, systematic phonics foundation in early development which would equip our learners with the tools necessary to not just read words but to actually decode words based on their structure.  In our rush to get children reading in this part of the world, early learners are rarely taught all of the sounds for the 26 letters of the alphabet.  Thus leaving gaps in their language development and spelling skills.  Yes, there is “spell-checker”, however; adequate knowledge of the building blocks of words allows spell-checker to be used much more easily and could reduce the need for it all together.

This is the first of a series of blog posts on “Early Literacy Skills & Strategies”.  I hope to with each post, show you how easy it is to implement simple yet important early literacy skills and strategies with your Pre-K and Kindergarten students.  When the skills and strategies I am going to share with you throughout this series are implemented with fidelity, it will alleviate the need for extra intervention for the majority of your students.

I believe that the strategies and skills discussed in this series would lay a solid foundations which would give you, the teacher, the opportunity to not just enhance your teaching skills and by extension stretch your students spelling and reading knowledge but these strategies would also help to develop their abilities beyond what you have been able to do over the years.

So, let’s get right into it, shall we?

To help you build a feasible plan for effective implementation within your classroom, I would be sharing the Early Literacy Skills and Strategies in small chunks.

Look out for the freebies & product links throughout the posts as this will give you the tools you need to start implementing early literacy skills with fidelity this week if you wanted to!!

There are two quintessential foundational skills to instill in early learners and these are the skills I begin with, in my Early Literacy Kindergarten class each year.

They are:

  • Teaching the Letters of the Alphabet
  • Teaching Phonograms

The importance of these two cannot be underestimated or overstated and here is why.

  1. Teaching the Letters of the AlphabetThe best place to start is where we all do…the Alphabet.  However, we often study the Alphabet on a surface level really digging deep into alphabet knowledge.  Simply being able to sing the letters of the alphabet to a cute little tune does not equate to understanding the alphabet.It is important as a teacher to first off, teach your learners “Symbol Matching” as it allows the students to match the symbol for each letter using plastic letters and mats. Symbol matching is important because, just like you and me, when we know the symbol for something, we can easily attach other information to that one symbol.  Symbol Matching also helps students hold onto future information about each symbol. Once they are secure in the naming of letters in the order of the alphabet, give them activities {as in the second picture} with letters in random order to reinforce and assess their true understanding of letter symbols.

    So, allow students time to match upper & lower case letters attaching their names simultaneously.  If you would like a set of the alphabet mats shown in the first picture, use the link below to download:


Systematic Naming and Placing of alphabet letters, five at a time.



Random Matching of Upper & Lower Case Letters

Once a student can recognize and name their letters randomly, they will be ready to attach the sound with more success.  I will go into more detail about this next step further into this blog series.

Below is a short video example of another random letter naming activity I call the “Letter Pit Game”.  You’ll need Upper & Lower case letter cards, Write-on Dice (Really Good Stuff), & the pocket chart is optional.    A Hula-hoop would be a good “letter pit” marker to help define boundaries for your students.   I write upper and lower case letters on the dice.  I use two dice so there is a dice within reach of the students.  I only use the 5 letters (upper & lower case) which we have practiced on the alphabet mats prior to playing this game.

2. Teaching Phonograms

What is a Phonogram?

Phono = “sound”

Gram = “picture”

Phonograms are pictures that represent sounds.

Phonograms may consist of 1 to 4 letters that represent different sounds in the English language.  Each letter of the alphabet makes at least one sound and each letter sound is thus considered a phonogram.  As we progress in learning each of the 26 single phonograms and their 44 sounds, this can become a big task, as certain letters such as vowels, make more than one sound.  The first activity I do with my students at this point in their learning is to build a picture- sound deck they can review at home and in their classroom.  It looks like this:


I always tell my students that the vowel sounds are 5 of the most important sounds in the alphabet.  I introduce the short vowel sounds first then we progress from there. I created these “Desk Helpers” for a helpful visual memory tool.

Grab yours for FREE in my TpT store – just click the picture for the link.



As students develop a solid alphabetic and phonemic foundation using the above skills and visual strategies, teachers can go on to build the important skills and strategies for spelling and reading, on this foundation.

This series is a must read for teachers looking to turn around dyslexia and help any student struggling with a language based learning difference in their classroom.

Another famous dyslexic, Thomas Edison once said: “A teacher sent the following note home with a six-year-old boy: “He is too stupid to learn.” That boy was Me”. The teacher is forgotten today because he/she did not invest in her “dyslexic turned genius”. You cannot be that teacher!

In the next post in this series, I will share how simply teaching the basic 44 sounds of the 26 letters can lead into syllable patterns & word building.

Be sure to grab your FREE Early Literacy “tools” and check out the other product links to help you get started with a successful Early Literacy plan for your students.

Have a great week!!


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