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Updated: Jan 23, 2023

It is back-to-school time here in Australia! Around this time, I always get lots of messages about what to teach first, and the subject of names recently came up. I will share with you how I teach children to quickly and effectively read and spell their own names. Learning how to read and spell your own name is such an exciting time in the life of a preschooler. It is the word that means the most – it is their word.

Names like Sam, Tom or Meg are easily segmented into basic sounds.

/s/ /a/ /m/

But what about if your child has a name like Oliver, Scarlett, George, or Charlotte? You could just write the letters and get your child to copy and memorise by sight – but this will not lead your child to understand how the sounds and letters in their name link to make up the word that is their name.

To teach your child how to master their own name, teach HOW to break up the word into the smallest unit of sound and link each sound to the letter or letter symbols on the page. This will quickly and effectively teach your child how to read and spell their own name, and it is a powerful first literacy lesson to build on. Memorising words does not help to develop the sound-symbol knowledge needed for future fluency.

Letter names don’t help the decoding process. Our free name mats help you discuss how sounds and symbols link.

Using initial sounds also doesn’t help. In a name like George, if we blend the initial sounds — it doesn’t create the word, George. Names like Oliver, Charlotte, and Scarlett need explicit teaching. The two letters ‘CH’ at the beginning of charlotte represent the /sh/ sound as in ship, but the most common way to say /ch/ is the same as in chair. Oliver ends in 'ER'. In many accents, these letters represent the schwa sound.

Discuss the sound-symbol correspondences in your

child's name.

Use the mat with tiles or, in this case, post-it notes.

Use the mat as a scaffold for writing.

George has 6 letters and 3 sounds

3 graphemes represent the 3 sounds

Ge or ge

/j/ /or/ /j/

Playful learning at the beginning with lots of conversation about words, letters, and sounds is a marvellous way to help your child see the alphabet is a code just waiting to be cracked. Painting, making, and drawing are all brilliant ways for your child to have fun with their name.

When your child is ready to write their name in a more structured way, use one of our name mats or write lines on a whiteboard or piece of paper to represent the graphemes that represent each sound (phoneme)

There are several mats to choose from depending on your child’s name and if there is not a mat to suit, let me know, and I will send you one. I use these with many resources, from shells or stones to my movable alphabet.

To help little ones blend the sounds to create their name, run your finger or pencil under the letters as you say them to show how to blend the sounds. Another way to help children to blend is to use a piece of paper to cover each grapheme and move it as you blend the sounds.

To take ownership of their name, they must be able to read and spell it.


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