Fluency at letter–sound correspondence level transcript

Elaine Stanley:

Let's look first at ways to support fluency development at the letter–sound correspondence level.

Letter–sound correspondence fluency, for reading and spelling, involves symbol-to-sound retrieval. That means when students see a letter, they're able to attach the learnt sound to that letter, and that's the reading side of letter–sound correspondence knowledge.

On the other side, the flip side of that, we also need to develop sound-to-symbol retrieval. That means when students are given a sound, they're able to match which letter corresponds to that sound, and then write that letter, form that letter correctly. That's the spelling side of letter–sound correspondence knowledge.

Both of those things need to be developed at the same time, and they're really two sides of the same coin. You're developing the reading aspect and the spelling aspect at the same time, and both of those will help cement each other when students are practising them both.

Letter formation – and later, handwriting skills – forms an important part of writing fluency in general. The more able students are to easily write, the more that helps the process of getting information down on paper. So there's a real emphasis on this area, even from the beginning stages of instruction. As a teacher introduces each new letter–sound correspondence, there's a real focus on forming that letter correctly with the correct entry and exit points, lots of modelling from the teacher, and then also students having that opportunity to practise, sometimes in the air or on the carpet or even on a student's back, they're forming that letter correctly before they come down to the smaller version on a whiteboard or on paper. So, lots of emphasis right from the beginning on that letter formation and handwriting skills.

Supporting letter–sound correspondence fluency begins with your phonics lessons and explicit instruction. This snip on the left here, that you can see, there's two slides there, an ‘I do’ slide and a ‘We do’ slide. They’re from our beginning phonics lesson example, which we showed everyone in topic two. If you haven't seen that topic and the beginning lessons and the standard phonics lessons, we'll just put the link in the chat now for that topic two webpage. You can go and have a look there if you'd like to.


Basically, letter–sound correspondences are introduced through those lessons using the gradual release of responsibility framework. That's the ‘I do’, ‘We do’, and eventually ‘You do’ process. Students are introduced to each new letter–sound correspondence, and then given opportunities for modelled practice with the teacher, and then guided practice where the students join in to make those symbol-to-sound connections really strong, and get the letter formation happening really well.

That's your starting point. Having that in place where students are learning to do that really accurately from the beginning is what's going to really contribute to later fluency. Right from the start, students are learning to do that well within those lessons.

Then, on top of explicit instruction, we've got daily review sessions. This is where students are given opportunities to review and retrieve known letter–sound correspondences that they've already learned previously through daily practice. In our daily review sessions, as letters are flashed up on a screen or on cards, students will say the sound that they've learned that matches that letter. And as teachers present a sound for students, students will retrieve the letter that they know that makes that sound and then practise forming that letter correctly. Again, two sides of the same coin there, and both really help develop the other.

Daily review sessions really provide that opportunity for repeated practice and retrieval of all the content and skill areas that students have already learned, and it really helps keep all the balls in the air with all the letter–sound correspondences students have already learned to this point.

Then, on top of explicit instruction and daily review sessions, students are also given opportunities to carry out independent practice through skill application tasks at their level of skill application, as I said before. The two snips you can see there on the right are from our fluency development slides. We'll just put the link in the chat for you now for those.


We've got a whole range of tasks in there that can help build students' fluency in reading and writing. They're also in the handouts along with this session and on the topic page as well for topic four.

Just looking at those two slides there, you can see in the top one we've got one single letter. We've got the letter s. What students would do, they're going to build their fluency by practising independently tracing over each letter and saying the sound. We've given support there on that slide for the writing side of doing that work, so helping them to form that letter correctly. On the slide at the bottom, we've got this for students who can hold onto all of those letters and sounds, and they're going to trace over each one of those letters, trace over each one, and say the sound that matches each one. But again, we've given support there for the handwriting side of it to help them form letters correctly. Of course, you can change the font in those resources as well to suit the font that you are using for your students.

It's important to point out at this stage that early on, in learning their letters and sounds, it will take students longer to do the writing or the spelling side of knowing their letter–sound correspondences than it will in the reading side in terms of seeing the letter, saying the sound. When you think about what's involved in writing, it's a much more complex process.

When students are given a sound, they actually have to retrieve internally the letter they know that makes that sound. Then, they have to think about how do I actually write that letter, form that letter, where are the entry and the exit points that I need to do. And then, it involves their fine motor skills as well to actually form that letter on paper or on a whiteboard. So, it's a much more complex process than the reading side, which is just seeing the letter and saying the sound. It can take the students longer to develop that side of things, so just be aware of that, and it will take longer for their fluency to develop as well, in some cases.

Repeated practice with those different levels of teacher support is key to building students' fluency at the letter–sound correspondence level. You've got maximum teacher guidance and support in the explicit instruction lessons, lots of modelling and then guided practice before the teacher checks that students can really apply what they've learned. And then, we move into that independent practice where students take more ownership of completing tasks at that level, with teachers just monitoring how they're going.

In daily review sessions, the teacher gauges how much support they need to give, but really they can step in and give more support if students need it at any point, and the teacher would be making notes about, okay, I need to really go back and maybe do a bit more work in this area. I can see they're not able to do that without support. But mainly in daily review, it's for students to practise what they have already learned, so the teacher support is less than in the explicit instruction lessons.

But all of these areas are really important at letter–sound correspondence fluency level, because they contribute to word reading and spelling fluency. What you're doing is making that letter-sound retrieval and formation of the letters really strong and accurate and automatic and effortless, and that's what we want students to have at this stage.