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Lesson 01

Words with 3 letter sounds



Words with 3 letter sounds

What do you do? There are 26 letters to learn.

You teach safely so that problems are not created (for dyslexics like everyone else). You teach first how to write and sound out: c-a-t, d-o-g. Five of these letters begin with the same action as “c”. Think of a round clock-face, and you start at 2 on the clock, and go back-up, round to 6 at the bottom then up to 4, leaving a gap on the right. For “a” you start with another c and keep going up and down, making the letter “sit on the line” and “fit the space.”

To emphasise the right movement, shape, the pupil can “write the letter in the air” with a large arm movement from the shoulder, to help get the feel of the shape. The pupil will write the shape and at the same time say the sound and listen to, hear the sound. 

Avoid encouraging the child to use a pen, it is a bad idea. It slows the writing down, and makes correction difficult. Some strugglers get so frustrated that at the slightest hint that the word is not right, they scribble it out and you end up with a dozen black splotches on the page – horrible! 

Keep things positive, so avoid “That’s wrong.” Say instead, “You have 5 letters right and you need just another letter for another sound. Which sound is missing?” or “Let’s try again.” In rare desperation, praise the writing, praise effort, laugh and say, “Tomorrow is another day!” 

Write the letters down using guide lines.A thick one to write on and an upper one either dots or faint, to control the height of the “small” letters. A “t” has two starts. Begin above the guideline just high enough so that the cross-bar will go along the top guideline.

You will be playing about with letters. From “cat” you can make: a at act ! The first contact the pupil has with the letters is in a word, so that he can see the point of learning letters, and he sees how they work.  He is learning to write, sound and blend, from the start. 

All three letters start with the anti-clockwise “c” movement. d has the same action as a, but goes up tall. The reason for learning these 5 letters first is to get the movement and recognition of “d” firmly established and keep “b” until much later on. This prevents the common confusion of b/d for dyslexics. 

For those who have already mixed up b/d, say: “a..b…..c..d”. Tap on the table 2 taps for a,b.. with the non-writing hand, then two more taps with the writing hand for c-d; then tap a-b the same with the non-writing hand, but with the writing hand swing round in the air for c and keep that movement going up, and then while you say “d” (with emphasis) bring the pencil down the downstroke, to complete the letter “d”.   a..b…….c…d

Like a t, the f is tall enough for the crossbar line to be on the guideline. If getting the slope of x is a problem, draw a square and show how the lines of x go from corner to corner. 

r n and m all start the same and sit on the bottom line. Start using nanograms (oxo boxes), 9 squares with a vowel in the middle. You find words, real words, by taking an, any outside letter, then the middle one, then another outside one, to make a CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) real word. If some of the outer boxes have 2 letters that would give a 4 or 5-letter word. The middle letter is a vowel or vowel digraph and the outer ones are consonants

How many real words can the pupil make and write?

V is two straight lines down, up. It is the shape of a valley. 

z is 3 straight lines. Again, draw a square and show how the z fits into it. Like g, p goes below the line; the bubble fits the space. 

You now have three vowels. How many real words can the pupil make and write? 

s starts anti-clockwise like a c, but changes direction half-way through. The top half is slightly smaller than the bottom half, and s fits the space. 

w is four straight lines. 

e is a straight line leading to a c shape. 

Three letters have a tail: g j and y. 

j is i + tail. 

u is the 5th vowel. It goes down, Under and Up (and down again). 

y is a u + tail (for handwriting). 

Y and w are both consonant and vowel. At the beginning of a syllable they are a consonant; at the end or grouped with, after another vowel they are vowels.
l h k b all begin with a tall down-stroke. The l part is tall, and the rest are small, “fit the space”. 

q starts with the “c” movement. In English it is always followed by “u” and there are no 3-letter words starting with qu. So we must have 4 or 5 letters: quiz quilt. 

The words quick quack come to mind. Say: “If you have a sound twice, you only say it once”. This phrasing covers the –ck- spellings and also ff, ll, ss: cliff, pull, pass and later for any double consonants (e.g. rubbish, better, middle.) 
We learn 26 letters, for a lifetime. First we get comfortable with 3-letter words. We understand that changing one letter changes the word and meaning. Think of: cat cot cut. The sounding out left-right and blending are becoming automatic. . There is a game, “Change a letter” which two can play, or it can be a class game:- cat fat fit sit ….. with words written on the blackboard from pupils’ contributions.

Play Bingo, slides-and-ladders, and Pairs. As you go through the programme, games from earlier levels can be used for revision, to encourage fluency, or to keep faster pupils usefully occupied while the slower ones complete (say) a worksheet.

Guide Contributed by Mona McNee - 2010


  • Keep sounding out and blending!
  • "u" can make two sounds: "u" as in put and pull, or "u" as in cup and hut
  • The Irregular words to and the are included in the snakes & ladders games to provide some simple sentence continuity. They are sight words not to be sounded out. "They just need to be learnt!." "Go" is also sparingly used. Three words in total - that is all. 


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3 letter sounds