University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Word Building Sounds Sequence

Word Building Sounds Sequence

LEADERS Handbook of Early Literacy Strategies and Activities

All rights to the Word Building strategy are copyrighted by Dr. Isabel Beck and the University of Pittsburgh.

We recommend that the sequence in which sounds are taught should follow the sequence recommended by Dr. Beck, which is based on the confirmed research findings of Dr. Beck and others. The sequence in which you teach sounds is important, because students often tend to confuse particular sounds and usually learn sounds more effectively by contrasting them with obviously different sounds. (Another approach is to follow the sequence of sounds which you are already following in your classroom, using word building to build and reinforce decoding skills.)

Start with the first four letters (you may want two of the letter d in order to make the word 'dad'). Your first list will be short, and consist of such words as mad and sad. As your lists progress, you can add one letter/sound at a time in the following order:

Recommended Sequence:
a, d, m, s, t, n, i, h, o, g, p, f, c, b, e, sh, k, ck, l, u, th, r, w, j, x, ch, v, qu, z

There are four sets of word lists to work through, as follows:

Set of Word Lists Description

  1. The First Set - Approximately your first 40 lists should use short vowel sounds.
  2. The Second Set - Then you can begin to introduce the CVCe pattern, where a silent "e" is added to the end of a word to make the vowel long. The recommended sequence for teaching the long vowel sounds for the CVCe pattern is: /a/, /o/, /i/, /u/. A list of long a words, for example, should include short a words as well, so that students can see what happens when they add or remove a silent e at the end of the word.
  3. The Third Set - Now that you have introduced the idea of long vowel sounds, you can use this next set of word lists to teach students some of the other common ways to spell long vowel sounds. You can use the following sequence: ea, ee, ai, ay, oa, ow (w acts as a vowel in this case), oi, oy, ou, ow.
  4. The Fourth Set - Because they are the most difficult, r-controlled vowels should be saved for this final set of lists: ar, or, er, ir, ur.
Return to the main Word Building page.

Resource Texts

Isabel Beck
Bringing Words to Life
The Guilford Press, 2002
Joan Novelli
40 Sensational Sight Word Games: Grades K-2
Scholastic Professional Books, 2002
Mary Rosenberg
Fun and Easy Word Building Activities: Grades K-2
Teaching Resources, Teacher Edition, 2003