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Alphabetic Principle For Preschoolers – Importance And How To Teach

Children have difficulty learning letter sounds and recognising letter sounds when they do not know the name of letters. In simple words, the kids can only understand and apply the alphabetic principle once and when they can recognise and name the letters.


Alphabetic knowledge begins with learning the name of all letters, then their shapes, and then their sounds. Therefore, an alphabet song is the first thing that children are taught as it helps them to learn the name of each letter and their sequence. Next, they are introduced to the shapes of all letters with the help of alphabet books and wooden letters. Finally, they are introduced to the sounds, which later help them to read words by blending the individual sounds. This is what the alphabetic principle is all about.


Do read on to further explore  the alphabetic principle for kindergarten kids.

What Is The Alphabetic Principle?

Let’s read the definition of alphabetic principle.


According to Rollanda E. O’Connor, the alphabetic principle is how “phonemic awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences comes together in the practical application of reading [and spelling].”


In simple words, the “alphabetic principle” is the idea that written letters have specific spoken sounds, and it is crucial for children to build this awareness early. It is what helps kids know how to “sound out” or decode words.

So, a child who understands this concept will know that the letter “n,” although pronounced as “/en/,” actually makes an “/nn/” sound when used in words.


The alphabetic principle has two main components.

1. Alphabetic Understanding

It is when children know that each word in the English language is made up of letters, and these letters represent the sounds of speech.


When children have an understanding of the alphabet, they know each letter by sight and can identify letters by their shapes and sound.


2. Phonological Re-coding

It is when children use the systematic relationship between letters, and letter sounds to pronounce or spell unfamiliar words correctly.


Alphabetic Principle Example

Below we have covered a few examples of alphabetic principles for children to read and understand the concept.

The letter “S” makes

  • “/s/” sound in “sit”
  • “/z/” sound in “dogs”
  • “/sh/” sound in “sure”
  • “/zh/” sound in “usual”

Why Should You Teach Your Child About The Alphabetic Principle?

If you are wondering why your child should know about the alphabetic principle, here are three key reasons to help you understand that.

  • Reading Text – Children should have a firm understanding of the alphabetic principle in order to read with fluency. When a child comes across a new word, they first look at each letter in the word, then they recall the sound of each letter, and finally blend the sound of letters together to read the word. This decoding isn’t possible without understanding the alphabetic principle.
  • Understanding Text – Focusing on just the meaning of the individual words does not help in understanding what the full text is saying. So, when a child has a strong understanding of the alphabetic principle, they spend more time reading easily with fluency, which allows them to use more brainpower to comprehend the text.
  • Writing Text – Writing is as important as reading and understanding the text. So, a child must know how to connect the sounds to the symbols in order to write any text correctly.

Stages Of The Alphabetic Principle

Now that you have read about the meaning and importance of the alphabetic principle let’s read about the stages involved in this concept.

  • Letter-sound correspondence In this stage, the children learn that each letter has a corresponding sound.
  • Blending sounds – In this stage, the children learn to blend individual sounds together to form words.
  • Segmenting words – In this stage, the children learn to break words down into their individual sounds.
  • Manipulating sounds – In this final stage, the children learn to change the order of sounds in words to create new words.

When Is Your Child Ready To Learn The Alphabetic Principle?

As a parent, you will know that each child develops at their own pace. But here are a few signs that can help you know that your little one is ready to learn the alphabetic principle:

  • When children have begun learning some letters, and they show an interest in learning more.
  • When they know that words are made from sounds.
  • When they begin to hear or isolate individual sounds in words.

Alphabetic Principle Vs Phonological Awareness

If you are confused between the alphabetic principle and phonological awareness, here is the difference between the two terms for you to understand.

The alphabetic principle means that letters represent sounds and that those sounds can be used to spell and read words. On the other hand, phonological awareness means the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds in the word. Therefore, phonological awareness is a prerequisite for the alphabetic principle.

How To Teach Your Child About Alphabetic Principles?

Teaching alphabetic principles helps kids to apply their knowledge of recognising sounds in words and associate written letters with spoken sounds while reading. To help kids with this knowledge, here are some ways to teach the alphabetic principle to them:

1. Teach Using Multi-Sensory Tools

Teach children using activities that do not involve a pencil and paper, as it will motivate them to create something. Anything from magnetic letters to play dough can help kinesthetic learners.

2. Teach In Limit

Don’t force your child to learn too much at once. Introduce at most four new letters/letter sounds to them in a week. This makes it easier for them to grasp and stick to the new information and prevents them from feeling overwhelmed.

3. Be Patient

Keep in mind that children learn at very different speeds. Some kids will grasp the alphabetic principle concept quickly, while for other kids, it could take some time. So, do be patient while teaching your child.

Activities That Will Help Your Child To Learn About Alphabetic Principle

Here are some alphabetic principle activities for children to understand the concept.

1. Identify The Letter

Material You’ll Need

  • Magnetic letters

How To Play

  1. Place the magnetic letters in front of your child.
  2. Now say a word to them and ask your child to pick the letter they hear at the beginning of that word.
  3. For example, if you will say the word “rat,” your child has to identify that the word starts from the “/r/” sound, and look for the letter “R” and place it on a magnetic board.

2. Guess The Word

How To Play

  1. Ask your child to concentrate on the sound you are saying and identify, and tell you the words.
  2. Stretch each letter sound for your child to hear it clearly.
  3. For example, you can say “Kkkkk, aaaaaaaa, ttttttt” = cat.

3. Match The Beginning Sound

Material You’ll Need

  • Wooden letters
  • Objects starting with different letters (one object starting with one letter each)

How To Play

  1. Place all the objects and wooden letters on the table.
  2. Ask your child to match the beginning sound of each object to the correct letter and place them together.
  3. For example, if you have placed a toffee in front of your child, they have to identify that it starts from the sound “/t/” and then find the wooden letter “T”.

4. Swap The Letters

Material You’ll Need

  • Plastic letters

How To Play

  1. Spell out simple words using plastic letters, like dog, cat, etc.
  2. Next, ask your child to change any one letter from the word to make a new word.
  3. For example, if they change the letter “D” in the word “dog” with the letter “F,” it will become “fog”.

5. Swap With Lower Case Letter

Material You’ll Need

  • 10 Paper cards
  • Sketch pen

How To Play

  1. Write a single letter on each card — five in uppercase and five in the lowercase version of the same letters.
  2. Hand over all the lowercase letter cards to your child.
  3. Now give your child one card of the uppercase letter and ask them to find the match in lowercase letter cards.
  4. When they have a match, they win the card, but only if they can say the sound associated with that letter.

6. Name The Objects

How To Play

  • Sit with your child in front of you.
  • Give them a letter sound and ask them to name five things around them, starting with that sound.
  • For example, you can ask your little one to name five things starting with the sound “/m/,” and they can say mat, mug, mirror, mop, and microwave.

7. Find The Words

Material You’ll Need

  • A storybook
  • Highlighter

How To Play

  1. If your child can read, give them a page of a storybook to read.
  2. Also, give them a sound, say “/s/,” and ask them to highlight all the words on the page that start with this sound.

Few Tips To Develop The Alphabetic Principle

Here are some tips for you that you can use to fully develop your child’s concept of the alphabetic principle.

  • Teach letter-sound relationships explicitly and in isolation.
  • Provide lots of opportunities via games and activities for kids to practice letter-sound relationships.
  • Include instruction for new sound-letter knowledge, as well as cumulatively reviewing previously taught relationships on a regular basis.
  • Introduce your child to two to four new letter-sound relationships in a week.
  • Start with the most common and less confusing letter-sound relationships.
  • Introduce vowels and consonants in a sequence that allows children to read words quickly.
  • Practice blending sounds once children have learned a few sounds. They don’t need to learn all the letter sounds before moving on to blending sounds.
  • Don’t introduce your child to auditorily or visually similar sounds and letters at the same time.
  • Don’t teach single consonant sounds and consonant blends in one single lesson.
  • Only practice blending with words that contain the letter-sound relationships that children have already learned.

What Are The Fastest Ways To Teach Alphabetic Principles?

The fastest way to teach children the alphabetic principle is to draw their attention to how to connect letters to their most common sound or sounds. An easy way to do this is by using the following:

  • The concept of the alphabetic principle
  • The concept of a word
  • Left-to-right tracking
  • Letter-sound knowledge
  • Phonemic segmentation
  • Early decoding
  • Early spelling

Teaching the phonics and alphabetic principle to children is essential to help them become confident and independent readers. But always remember that it is important to introduce new concepts to children slowly and to make sure that they are practising with a variety of activities.

Also Read:

Teaching Picture Graphs to Preschoolers
Phonics Activities and Games for Kindergarten Kids
Ways to Teach Letter Sounds to Preschool Children



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