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Skill Overview

What is alphabetic principle?

Alphabetic principle is the understanding that letters (graphemes) represent speech sounds (phonemes).

What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Knowledge of the alphabet

    • order​

    • number of letters

    • distinguish between vowels and consonants

  • Letter recognition​

    • Uppercase and lowercase letter​s

    • Letters in different fonts

  • Write uppercase and lowercase letters​

  • Letter name/Letter sound association

  • Alphabetize words


Why is understanding alphabetic principle important to reading?

Alphabetic principle is important because it is a prerequisite for learning and applying phonics.

What diagnostic can be used to determine if the letter-sound association is a deficit?

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Teachers should follow a scope and sequence for introducing letter names and sounds.  Begin with letters that have the highest utility and can be used to build simple words for reading. Include letter name, uppercase and lowercase letter, position in the alphabet, and the sound. When introducing new letters and sounds, continue to review previously learned letters and sounds.

To systematically teach letter names and sounds, the teacher should show a letter card with a picture of an associated guide word.  Modeling correct articulation of phonemes is critical when teaching the letters and sounds.  Be careful not to vowelize consonants by adding the /uh/ sound to the end of consonant stops, such as /b/, /d/, /t/, /y/, etc.  Providing motions for guide words can also facilitate learning.  Modeling and explicitly teaching proper letter formation helps students recognize and connect the letters to their sounds.  Students should be provided instruction in recognizing and producing (writing) letters.

To assess for mastery, students should be able to identify the uppercase and lowercase focus letter within a series of letters.  Students should be able to write both uppercase and lowercase letters properly and articulate the sounds. This may be done after teaching a new letter or grapheme or after two or three letters have been taught. Students should be able to name the letters that go before and after the focus letter(s) in the alphabet. Older students who know all of their letters should be assessed on their ability to alphabetize words after explicit instruction on this skill.

Practice Resources

Downloadable Files From BRI Resources
Downloadable Files From Literacy Partners