A successful phonics program is one where teachers themselves are aware of which letter sounds their Latino students from Spanish speaking homes already know. These students will learn to recognize both letter sounds and their particular individual letter figures, A,B, C etc.
Some English second language students may have an ABC advantage over others. Latino students are one example. Spanish and English are similar languages and share many letter sounds. Many times at home, Latino students hear and speak these similar sounds, Ramon, David, etc. This language familiarity offers Latino kindergartners from Spanish speaking homes a solid entrance point to the ABCs, but it must be recognized.
Often when a Latino kindergartner begins their long entry into sound instruction, no prior adequate ABC assessments have taken place. Therefore, it is not always known which English letter sounds are already familiar to students. This situation will have the teacher misspending valuable instruction time on already known letter sounds.
Is it very difficult for kindergarten teachers to know which letter sounds individual Latinos from Spanish speaking homes know and do not know? Not necessarily. Accuracy depends on the type of examples which are selected for the task at hand. Traditional English-only picture examples, B is for BEAR/oso, may be chosen as well as other Spanish/English pictures, B is for BICYCLE/bicicleta. English-only examples are not as effective with Latino students, since the students may describe the images to themselves in their home language, Spanish. However, Latino students may silently identify the PAN AMERICAN images in Spanish and still receive the desired ABC message.
All of our PAN AMERICAN letter/sound images, T is for TRAIN/tren, T is for TURTLE/tortuga, etc., are easy for Latino SSH kindergartners to recall and compare to each other, as well as offering English peers an opportunity to learn Spanish. We support and enhance the Latino SSH student’s ability to recognize beginning sounds, the most important factor to then unlock the entire ABC process.