Lesson 4: Letters and sounds (developing phonological and orthographical knowledge)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English

English, Reading and Viewing, Language: Phonics and word knowledge


  • Blend sounds associated with letters when reading consonant-vowel-consonant words (VCELA147)

Level 1: 

  • Understand how to spell one and two syllable words with common letter patterns (VCELA182)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway A

Reading and viewing

Level A1:

  • Recognise some common letters and letter patterns in words (VCEALL051)

Level A2:

  • Use knowledge of letters and sounds to read a new word or locate key words (VCEALL132)

Pathway B

Reading and viewing

Level BL:

  • Recognise the letters of the alphabet (VCEALL208)
  • Revisit familiar texts to develop accurate and fluent reading (VCEALL213)

Level B1:

Level B2:

  • Apply knowledge of letter–sound relationships to read new words with some support (VCEALL368)
  • Self-correct pronunciation (VCEALL371)

Theory/practice connections

In order to develop phonemic awareness in the early years of school, it is also important to introduce onset-rime activities, both orally and in writing. Onset is the term applied to the initial sound in a single syllable word, while rime refers to the reaming part of the word that contains the vowel and the other letters; for example, in the word play, /pl/ is the onset and /ay/ is the rime.

Onset and rime activities help students to learn that words can be broken into smaller parts. “Being able to break single-syllable words into onset and rime is the starting point for more demanding word analysis and segmentation later” (Westwood, 2008, p.48).

When the students are able to break the words into onset and rime, and remake them, they are then ready to break the words into individual graphemes.

Learning intentions

We are learning that words are made up of smaller units of sounds.

We are learning to stretch out words to hear every sound.

We are learning to represent each sound in a word with a single letter or group of letters.

Success criteria

I can break up a word into smaller sound parts.I can stretch out a word to hear each sound.

I can represent each sound I hear in a word by a single letter or group of letters.

Role of the writer

Text encoder - representing sounds in words with letters Group Size  Whole class, or small group (4-6 students).

Lesson sequence

  1. Reread the picture book aloud to students for pleasure.
  2. Revisit the list of rhyming words from the previous lesson.
  3. Take one group of rhyming words and expand chart by adding extra columns.
  4. Teacher supports the students to separate each word into onset and rime (Column 2) and then to stretch each word out, listening for single sounds or phonemes (Column 3). The students see the repeated pattern ‘ay’ and hear the repeated pattern /ay/ at the end of every word. Some rhyming rimes look and sound the same.
  5. ​ word​ onset and rime​ single phonemes
    ​say​s + ay​s + ay
    ​way​w + ay​w + ay
    ​play​pl + ay​p + l + ay
  6. Students can make words with magnetic letters, using different colours for onset and rime. Play with words, breaking them up and putting them back together while saying sounds, for example, w- ay- says way.
  7. Encourage students to use analogy to move from known word to new word, for example, the teacher says If I know how to spell say then that can help me to spell bay.
  8. Students can make word slides using the given onset and rime. Word slides comprise a card that has the rime written on it. A strip of paper is inserted before the rime which has a letter or letters written on it for the onset. To create words in the same word family, the strip of paper is moved up or down to position new letters in front of the rime.

ABC Education Literacy Mini Lessons

The Department collaborated with ABC Education to create a series of videos. All 16 mini lessons based on content from the Literacy Teaching Toolkit are available on the ABC Education literacy mini lessons page.


The spelling patterns that the teacher selects from the picture book are matched to identified needs after assessment of the students’ reading and writing. If this lesson is conducted for a small group of students, teacher can choose students with like needs for targeted teaching.