There are many ways of introducing letters to young children and for good reasons. We want them to be able to recognize letters by shape, know their names and the sounds they make so they’re ready to be confident readers. The issue is being able to do all of this within a child’s short attention span. In my experience in teaching young children who spoke a different language but were learning to read in both their native language and English at the same time was that the order in which I taught the letters were highly important. To get these young learners up and running as quickly and confidently as possible I used a specific letter order known to get young children reading successfully.

How to get started with teaching your child to recognize letters

Before teaching your child to recognize letters be sure they are ready to learn these skills. There are some key skills children need before we begin introducing reading skills such as recognizing letters.

When children are ready to begin learning the letters of the alphabet, use SATPIN. To get started teaching your child letter recognition and beginning reading using SATPIN all you need is to outline the exact order you will use, choose or create a phonics program, plan fun activities and choose how and when you will assessment your child’s progress.

What is SATPIN?

SATPIN is a specific order that the letters of the alphabet can be taught. Many believe that children need to learn the letters in alphabetical order but that simply is not the case! Learning the letters in alphabetical order does nothing really to help young children learn how to read. What they need is to be able to recognize letters by shape and associate the sounds for each letter. That’s what gets young readers moving quickly. Children who are taught using SATPIN order are able to read 10 words before having to learn the rest of the alphabet! That’s how powerful this simple trick is for your child.

Tips for Success with SATPIN

Tip #1 Planning is the key to this approach. It mostly requires you to change how you view the alphabet. The letters of the alphabet serve the purpose of written communication so when you are teaching your child, keep this in mind. Remember that singing alphabet songs is fun and can be a great addition to a lesson or turned into a game but a child being able to sing the letters of the alphabet has little impact on them being able to use letters for their intended purpose – written communication.

Tip #2 Once you have wrapped your head around using the SATPIN order, go ahead and choose a phonics program that supports this approach. I’ve found good luck with Jolly Phonics. 

Tip#3 How will you track your child’s progress? This is very important. Child friendly assessment and tracking will make sure you’re able to know exactly which letters your child may be struggling with or may not need as much support learning. A pre-assessment is recommended so you know exactly what your child already knows. Sometimes young children will surprise by what they know and what gaps they have.

Tip #4 Fun-filled activities are your friend! Make sure that whatever you are planning is fun-filled. Teaching letters using SATPIN is only the approach and so it’s very flexible. You can insert a variety of fun activities that help your child learn the letters by shape and associated sound.

Common Questions/FAQ About Teaching Children Letters

  • Should you teach upper or lowercase letters first?

    • Though it seems logical to teach uppercase letters first, most text is written in lowercase letters. So if you had to choose, introduce lowercase letters first especially if you are teaching how to write the letters along side letter recognition.

  • How do I get my child to recognize letters?

    • Make sure your child sees print in their environment daily. Point out text whenever possible and natural and make learning letters fun – as much as possible. 

  • How do you teach uppercase and lowercase letters?

    • There are many ways to teach upper and lowercase letters. Using alphabet puzzles are a great way for children to see both the upper and lowercase shape of each letter. Sensory bin activities are also a great way for children to explore upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet.

  • What is the best way to teach preschoolers the alphabet?

    • Hands-on activities are the best way to teach preschoolers the alphabet. Daily exposure through play-based activities allow children to begin to learn the shape and sounds of the letters of the alphabet without stress. The less they equate letters with stressful emotions, the more likely they are to be interested in learning the pre-reading skills they need.

  • When should children be able to recognize letters?

    • Most children between 3-4 years old will begin to recognize letters with the majority knowing all letters by age 5.

  • Which phonics should I teach first?

    • SATPIN is the best order for getting your child reading quickly so S would be the first sound introduced.


The Last Thing You Need to Know about Teaching Children Letters with SATPIN

Introducing your child to letters should be and can be a natural progression if you keep print visible in their daily environment. Referring to print on cereal boxes or reading recipes to raise their print awareness gets your little on ready to recognize letters. Also if you want them to have a smooth transition from merely recognizing to reading, strongly consider using the SATPIN order when introducing letters.

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