Should Letter Names Be Taught?

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Experts believe that teaching letter names will bring more confusion than clarity. For many, the belief is that focusing on sounds instead of the letter names is better.

Letter name instructions have been included in beginner reading instructions for a very long time now. For instance, the first school books that came to America from Britain began with the alphabet. 

There have been several discussions over time, but there has been little evidence to proceed. 

The Journey So Far

There are several discussions on whether or not letter names should be taught. The earliest known studies have emphasized the consequences of teaching artificial alphabets, so the conclusion arrived at was that children could read words formed using pretend letters even if they do not know the letter names. 

Ever since then, there have been several studies that have attempted the same thing using real letters. The results in this regard have been a bit mixed. Marilyn Adams deduced in 1990 that there was not much advantage to teaching the alphabet.

Telling Research Findings

Recent research has sought to understand the real value of the alphabet in the context of phonemic sensitivity training instead of on its own. 

The conclusion in this regard is that training in the alphabet and PA usually has a more significant effect on later reading achievement than solely teaching PA. Suffice it to say that the addition of letters in a PA curriculum comes with a multiplier effect on the eventual result.

One of the most complete considerations on this issue came from Jean Foulin (2005). In his study, he analyzed studies that examined the alphabets’ facilitative effects in learning how to read. This was done to determine if such instructions were sensible and why letter names may be helpful. 

The Way Forward

He concluded that there is a need to carry out more research because it is unclear why knowledge of the alphabet gives its positive effects. 

Also, he concluded that beginning reading instructions should have a concerted effort aimed at teaching letter recognition and letter names and the sounds linked with the letters.

Note that concepts are abstract by default, and giving them names seems to assist the children in picturing them as real entities. 

Concluding Thoughts

The question about whether letter names should be taught is rather complicated. Building letter concepts involves teaching children how to group collections of auditory and visual objects into sets. Such activities are proven to help children associate words with letters, thus improving memory.

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