Letter N Sound

Introduction

The letter N is a consonant with a nasal sound, similar to the letter /m/. While it is not one of the easier letters to pronounce, it also it not a harder one as well. However students may have troubles mixing up the /n/ sound with other sounds, such as /l/ or /m/. Begin to practice the letter n sound with your students and get them familiar with this nasal /n/ sound, as its a common letter in English words.

Phonics Pronunciation of letter N sound

The letter n sound is usually taught while covering your nose, and saying the nnnnnnn sound. This action will teach the student that this sound originates with the nose, and should be the main part of the /n/ sound. Make this sound by putting the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth, while opening your jaw just a bit to leave a gap between the teeth. This position of the tongue and mouth will create the /n/ sound.

This position of the mouth will be different from the /m/ sound, which should have the mouth and lips completely closed. It is also pronounced differently from the /l/ sound, with the /n/ being a nasal sound and /l/ sound focusing on the tongue. This difference will be important, as some students may have difficulties in hearing the two sounds.

Repeat the /n/ sound while covering your nose, and have your students repeat it while saying the nnnnn sound. You can hold this sound for a few seconds, to show them that is does not have an inherent end. After your students can say and repeat this sound well, you can add the vowel variations as in na,na,na, no,no,no, nee,nee,nee. When they can say these sounds well, you will be ready to move on with the three letter CVC words with them.

Checkout this video for how to send the letter n sound!

Visual hints

You can help the students to visualize this sound, as some students may have a hard time to pronounce the /n/ sound. Try the example as written before, and hold your nose when you say the /n/ sound, to show them that this is a nasal sound. Another technique is to help them understand where to put their tongue for the /n/ sound.

You can exaggerate your movements with your tongue, and show them to place it behind your upper teeth, and have them do the same. You can even wiggle your tongue in a playful manner to get their attention, and move it into place for the /n/ sound. If they have problems and are pronouncing the /l/ sound, you can show them to close their mouth more, and have their top and bottom teeth resting on each other. From this close position, it is nearly impossible to mispronounce with the /L/ sound.

Helping students with N vs L

After teaching many young children, students can often mix up the /L/ and /N/ sound in phonics and blending. When saying the /n/ sound, make sure that the student’s mouth is closed, with the lower jaw closed. This is because the /L/ sound is made with the air flowing around the tongue, which is nearly impossible to make with the jaw completely closed.

If your student is still having troubles with pronouncing the /n/ and /l/ sounds, you may need to go back and use the techniques for how to make the /n/ sound, or try different /n/ words to see if they can pronounce it. You may need to even find /n/ and /l/ words in their mother tongue, to see if the underlying problem is their understanding or inability to say /n/ or /l/. This may help on where to start and tackle this problem with the /n/ sound.

Otherwise look at the available phonics books to get more practice.

Handwriting Help with letter /N/

The letter /n/ can also be a bit harder for students, especially younger children, if their handwriting skills are not fully developed yet. Usually students can remember how to write the letter /n/, as the upper case /N/ and lower case /n/ look similar. However these letters require either straight or curved lines which may be a problem for some.

With the uppercase /N/, be sure to see how the student is writing this, and the stroke order. Make sure it goes from top to bottom and right to left, otherwise the student will be confused or mix up how to write this. If they are unable to write straight lines, it may be because of their pencil grip or they do not yet have strong enough muscles in their hand. You can use some techniques to strengthen their muscles or show them how to hold a pencil correctly.

In the case of the lowercase /n/, it can be a bit harder for students as the curved line is written differently, unlike the letter /c/. You may need to practice writing this curved line in other worksheet to build up their muscle memory for the letter /n/. Sometimes writing a continuous line of curved lines can be fun for students, with worksheets that can be found online. 

If your child still struggles with this sound, checkout some ABC books to help them out.

Activity hints

A fun activity for the students can be identify objects around the room, and say “yes” if true or “no” if not. For example, point to a pencil and say “Is this a book?”… “no!”. You will need to really exaggerate the question and objected named, and have fun with the activity with the students. This can be fun to make ridiculous sentences, as in asking if a pencil is a cat or dog. This will help them learn more words, as well as practice the /y/ sound with “yes” and /n/ sound with no.

Letter /n/ Blending

As students can have a harder time saying the /n/ sound, you can spend more time with practicing this sound and showing them the correct position of the tongue and mouth. Once the students can repeat this sound well, you can move on with the vowel variations.

Introduce the different vowels to your students with the na,na,na, no,no,no, nee,nee,nee. Once they can blend these sounds, move on with the three letter CVC words as in n-a-p, n-e-t, n-u-t. There are many words that start with the letter /n/, so you can practice this sound with many English words!

After the students can blend the basic CVC words well, you should also introduce words ending in the /n/ sound. This will be important for them to understand the difference the /n/ sound makes at the end of words, like c-a-n, r-u-n, o-n. They may hear that the /n/ sound at the beginning is a bit shorter, and a longer sound at the end. If the students can say these words well, you can also try to introduce 4 letter words to them as in n-o-s-e, n-i-n-e, m-oo-n.

Checkout our Top 25 phonics books for reading letters

Everyday English

When the students can say and blend the /n/ words well, build up their confidence by learning some everyday words with the letter /n/. This will be good for them to learn and practice later for review.

There are many body parts that start with the letter /n/ sound, such as nose, neck, knee. Practice touching each body part while you say their names!

Many foods also start with the letter /n/, like nut, noodles and nachos. Show students pictures of foods to get them hungry!

Letter /n/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /n/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences you can read together with the students.

A net.

Ten nets.

I can nap.

Nat can nap.

Nat can run!

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /n/ !

Letter N tongue twisters

The /n/ sound is fun to say with tongue twisters, and can get your tongue all tied up! Have some fun while saying these letter /n/ sentences!

Nine nice night nymphs

Nine nice night nymphs

Nine nice night nymphs

Nine nimble noblemen nibbled nuts

No need to light a night light on a light night like tonight.

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