The use of characters and actions to teach phonics is supported by scientific research. The Letterland system is also in line with research on memory and the way we learn.
Each Letterland character has a personality and lives in a realistic environment filled with alliterative objects. By integrating phonics with life experience, they provide children with a systematic and motivating framework for learning all 44 sounds and their spellings and for developing full literacy.
"To help children learn all of the letter-sound correspondences, some phonics programs teach mnemonic devices. For example, in the Letterland program (Wendon,1992), the shape of K is drawn as the body of "kicking king” whose first sound, /k/, is the sound of the letter. The shape of S is drawn as the body of "Sammy Snake." In this way, an easily remembered mediator is taught to help children connect the shape of the letter to its sound. Research shows that this makes it easier for the children to learn the correspondences (Ehri, Deffer, & Wilce, 1984)"
'You have uncovered some important principles of learning supported by research findings in your efforts to develop Letterland as an effective instructional tool. I am very impressed.'
Read her mention of Letterland in her Keynote Speech to the 21st Annual Reading Reform Foundation of New York Conference.
"Very clearly, Letterland offers a systematic program of instruction for alphabetic and phonological knowledge that is critical for the early stages of reading development. The materials are well designed and highly attractive to children, serving to motivate them to spend more and more time learning to recognize and name the letters of the alphabet as well as learn the letter sounds AND develop their rhyming and rime skills. Researchers across the world have repeatedly found that these components are the literal building blocks that lead to reading success."
"Many children who are at risk for reading difficulties have serious problems learning the names and sounds for the letters of the alphabet. Letterland, with its engaging characters, stories, songs, gestures for each letter, provides a rich and effective system of cues for letter-sound associations. Use of these multiple cues as part of the Letterland reading program should ensure that all students develop mastery in this critical component of reading."
“Letterland is the most effective of all the synthetic phonics programs for children that I have observed or worked with. This program is not only extremely well-thought out, it is highly imaginative and distinctly and usefully memorable. As a result, teachers and children alike take pleasure in carefully exploring the terrain in which letters and groups of letters live and interact. As a long term student of young children’s writing and spelling development, I have been singularly impressed at the early start that children get with the aid of Letterland instruction. (This is something that teachers comment on with regularity.) I have consistently observed earlier, more accurate and more complete phonemic analysis in children’s spelling under this system—Letterland’s dramatic “live spelling” may be a powerful help in this--as well as a willingness to write among even the most shy and least secure children. Although I have focused my comments on children’s writing, I see the same kind of excitement and progress in their reading”.
"Another engaging and helpful phonics program ... is Letterland ... in which animate characters take on the names and shapes of the letters they represent as in Fireman Fred and Sammy Snake"
“Letterland is unique in providing resources for children as young as three and extending in to the early elementary grades...
The materials have immense potential for integration into individual and group intervention for phonemic awareness, articulation, phonology, and expressing language. ...
Their high degree of structure makes them appropriate for use by speech-language pathology assistants and families. I would highly recommend their use.”
"Letterland is a highly sophisticated program that embeds letters in characters using pictograms and stories. This not only stimulates children’s imagination, but gives children a visual cue to remember the letter shape and an auditory cue to recall the sound. For children with reading difficulties traditional remedial programs have rarely been so much fun or so attuned to the need to take a multisensory approach, that is, to involve more than just the eyes in the learning process. On one level teachers and parents can simply introduce each Letterland character through the storybook. However, the Letterland program also includes a highly systematic approach that teaches letter combinations and spelling rules through stories involving the original letter characters. Motivation is a critical factor in learning to read, so if children have already begun experiencing difficulty, a program like Letterland can switch them back on to reading.Whilst debate about how to teach reading continues in classrooms, the research is unequivocal in the need to teach both the traditional skills of letters, spelling rules and sounding out in a learning environment that emphasises reading as a meaning making process."
"In Letterland, letter shapes appear as pictographic body shapes, and take on life as people and animals. Through storytelling, the characters talk about the sounds they make, and why their sounds vary in different contexts. Teachers who have used the system report that the children themselves also begin to talk about the sound-letter correspondences, and thus make progress in their metalinguistic skills, an important step in early first language acquisition."
© Copyright 1996 The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
‘Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and its Implications for Reading’
In 1997 US Congress commissioned the National Reading Panel “to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read.” The NRP report was published in 2000.
The panel’s research focused on a number of “topics for intensive study” including ‘Phonics Instruction’. This included an examination of “the value of mnemonics for teaching letter-sound relations to kindergarteners”_. The report states that there was evidence to support the use of mnemonics in teaching letter-sounds.
“In a study by Ehri, Deffner and Wilce (1984), children were shown letters drawn to assume the shape of familiar objects, for example, s drawn as a snake, h drawn as a house (with a chimney) ...Memory for the letter-sound relations was mediated by the name of the object. Children were taught to look at the letter, be reminded of the object, say its name, and isolate the first sound of the name to identify the sound…With practice they were able to look at the letters and promptly say the sounds. Children who were taught letters in this way learned them better than:
The NRP reported, "application of this principle can be found in Letterland (Wendon, 1992), a program that teaches kindergartners letter-sound associations". Not only did the NRP cite Letterland as a programme where the use of mnemonics is prominent, but they also said that:
The secret to Letterland’s success lies in its pictogram (mnemonic) characters and the emphasis on multi-sensory learning. The NRP has highlighted Letterland as a scheme where these techniques are used.
National Reading Panel, (2000), p1 National Reading Panel, (2000), p2 National Reading Panel, Chapter 2, Part II: Phonics Instruction, (2000), p2-125 *Exact quote.
"One example of systematic phonics instruction cited in the report is Letterland developed by Wendon (1992). Although useful for kindergarten children, it is developed for children aged 3 to 8 years old and has activities involving letter names and sounds, phonological processing, and writing. Pictograms are used to represent alphabetic letters such that each letter is a character whose name aligns with the letter’s sound (e.g., Clever Cat, Eddy Elephant, Munching Mike). Letterland activities include stories featuring the characters and their names/sounds, cards with pictures of the characters and manipulatives in the shape of the characters that can be combined to create words and to practice phonological processing skills (e.g., sound blending, segmenting and elision, for example, saying the word cat without its beginning sound—at). Letter writing skills are developed through the use of directional arrows embedded in the characters as guides to writing each letter. Letterland is cited by the National Reading Panel because of its value for engaging young children in activities that are fun and relevant for beginning readers."