Are you making one of these 3 mistakes with letter sound posters in your classroom? Letter sound posters can be valuable teaching tools in your classroom when used the right way. I’ll tell you how to avoid the 3 most common mistakes I see teachers make when using letter sound posters in the classroom. But before we dive in, let’s start with the basics.
What are Letter Sound Posters?
A letter sound poster is a visual aid that illustrates how letters are used to represent sounds. They are used to teach students how to read and spell words by connecting speech sounds to printed letters. Letter sound posters are also sometimes referred to as “phonogram posters”, “alphabet posters”, and “sound-spelling posters”, but all of these terms mean essentially the same thing: posters that are designed to help students remember letter-sound connections.
These posters typically contain a large printed letter (or set of letters) that make one sound (a grapheme) and a picture that helps students remember the sound (phoneme) represented by the letter or set of letters. For example, a letter sound poster for the letter A may include the letter in large print with a picture of an apple to represent the short /a/ sound. Similarly, a poster for the phonogram Qu may include the letters in large print with a picture of a queen bee to represent the /kw/ sound.
Mistake #1: Your letter sound posters have the wrong keywords.
The primary purpose of letter sound posters is to provide a visual cue for students to produce clean speech sounds. To do this effectively, you need to make sure the posters you’re using have the right keywords. This means that the posters should contain keywords that represent the correct phonetic pronunciation of each sound.
A common mistake I see is using the keywords “elephant” and “egg” to represent the short /e/ sound. While both words begin with the letter e and can be depicted with easily recognized images, they aren’t good representations of the short /e/ vowel sound because the sound is distorted in both words. In the word “elephant,” the short /e/ sound is distorted by the liquid /l/ sound. This is known as an l-controlled vowel.
The distortion of the vowel makes it hard for students to distinguish the vowel from the /l/ sound. In fact, many students struggle to hear the short /e/ sound at all in the word “elephant”. I often see students spell the word “elephant” as “l-i-fant”. “Egg” is also troublesome as a keyword because it is often pronounced as “ay-g” in many dialects. This dialectic variation uses a long /a/ sound instead of a short /e/ sound.
The Solution ✅
Instead of using “elephant” or “egg”, consider using keywords such as “Ed”, “edge”, “echo”, or “eddy” which all begin with a clean short /e/ sound that is easy for students to hear.
Mistake #2: You aren’t using your phonogram posters to teach.
Letter sound posters are more than classroom décor! While a good set of phonogram posters can certainly brighten your classroom wall, their true purpose is to strengthen your instruction. There are 3 simple ways to fix this mistake. First, instead of hanging all of your posters at the beginning of the year, consider hanging the basic alphabet and then adding posters as you introduce new letter sounds. Second, use the posters in your daily phonics instruction by pointing to each poster during the sound drill. Third, teach your students to use the posters when stuck on a word they are trying to read or spell.
Mistake #3: You aren’t prompting your students to refer to your posters when reading and spelling.
The true magic of phonogram posters is that they are both a teaching tool and a learning tool! When your students need support with attacking an unknown word in print, prompt them to refer to the posters to decode each sound in the word. Posters are powerful tools for both teachers and students! Teach your students to use the posters to support their independence with reading and spelling.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re making the most of Letter Sound Posters in your classroom:
- Make sure you’re using keywords that represent clean speech sounds (phonemes) to promote pure sound production.
- Use letter-sound posters as tools to teach. Instead of hanging all of your posters at the beginning of the year, hang up just the basic alphabet and add posters as you introduce new sounds. Point to each letter-sound poster as you rehearse letter sounds in your reading lessons.
- Encourage your students to use letter-sound posters when reading and spelling.
More Back to School Tips for Teachers:
How to Assess Students’ Prior Knowledge in 4 Easy Steps