Letter S Sound


The letter S is an easier letter when introduced to children when learning English phonics, as it is usually the easiest to pronounce and write. However be sure your students are saying the letter s sound and not /sh/ or /ch/. Many children are introduced to the /s/ letter early on, and have fun saying the /s/ sound when writing and blending new words.

Phonics Pronunciation of the Letter S Sound

The /s/ sound is normally taught as the sound of a hissing snake, as in sssssssss. Move your hand is an S shape like a snake and make a hissing sound. This sound is made by putting the tip of your tongue right behind the front of your teeth, and close to the roof of your mouth. When you practice this sound you can begin by pronouncing the sound slowly and clearly for the kids. You can make the s sound long and hold it for a few seconds, as the s sound does not have an inherent end. You can add variations to the /s/ sound with vowels liks “sa, sa ,sa”, “so,so,so” and “see,see,see”. In time your children will be able to move onto 3 letter CVC words, and bigger words and sentences with the s sound.

Checkout the letter s sound video for some fun ideas!

Visual hints

Some students may have some trouble with the /s/ sound, so it’s better to help them with the pronunciation. When you pronounce the /s/ sound, put your pointer fingers at the corners of your mouth and pull them back to your ears in a smile shape. You should encourage your students to copy you in making this sound. You can even use a mirror for students to see themselves making this sound, if it is difficult for them. This technique can be used to correct pronunciation problems as in /sh/ or /ch/.

Helping children with a lisp and the “butterfly technique”

Some younger children may have developed a lisp or difficulty pronouncing the straight /s/ sound, often sounding like /th/ or /sh/. Some children grow out of this, but other may need some help to correct their speech to make the proper /s/ sound. There are various techniques used by speech therapists to help fix this, with the most popular being the “butterfly procedure”. This technique usually has students do tongue exercises or pronounce sounds where the tongue is in the middle of the mouth, such as saying /t/ repeatedly which eventually makes a /ts/ sound and moves into the /s/ sound. You can also have the student try to say the /i/ or /ee/ sound in words such as tip, pip, or peep. This makes the students tip of the tongue touch the front of the teeth or stretches their mouth open to help them more naturally pronounce the /s/ sound. You can find out more information on this technique online and steps for your students to help their lisp.

Handwriting Help with letter /s/

In some cases, especially when the child is young such as early kindergarden or even before this, students forget how to write the /s/ properly and write it backwards. While most will grow out of this with practicing writing the /s/ more, you may want to correct this if the child doesn’t pick it up quite quickly.

Our recommendation is have the student practice writing /c/. Once this is memorized, you just continue the /c/ letter down and around, and it make the /s/ letter. If you can piece together the basic /c/ and continue it down and around, this should help the student correct their mistake and write the /s/ properly. If they are still having trouble, just emphasize the beginning must look like a /c/, and they should be able to continue the letter to form a /s/.

If you need more practice with writing the letter s, be sure to get a phonics book to help your child improve.

Activity hints

This sound can be fun for students as it is the sound a snake makes. Put your hand together and slither your arms like a snake, and encourage your students to do this as well. You can even introduce games or challenges for your students for your students to make a character for snake, and give a name to them such as “Sam the Snake”. These fun activities can help reinforce younger children on the sound of S, and help visualize a snake when practicing the /s/ sound at home or in their writing.

Letter /s/ Blending

The letter /s/ is a good start for students to begin blending, as there are many words that begin with the letter s. As this is the first letter for children to learn with phonics, it will serve as a basis and introduction into blending words for the students. Once the student is able to pronounce the /s/ sound with ease, you can move into repeating and blending words with /s/.

You can start with easy sounds with the vowels as in sa,sa,sa, so,so,so and see, see, see. Once the students are able to copy the sounds pretty well, you can move onto CVC words as in s-i-t, s-u-n, s-i-x. There are many words starting with /s/ in the English language, so you will be able to find plenty of words to practice for your child.

After your child can say words starting with /s/, it is equally important to blend words that end with the letter s as well, such as b-u-s or g-a-s. The reason for this is many students often have a hard time blending the complete word, especially the last sound, so you may need to help them blend the last letter (s in this case) as well. When blending you can blend each letter, and hold the /s/ sound for more emphasis. Blending words ending in /s/ is important as later on when the students learns plural nouns, they will need to say these types of words more often, especially in everyday life. So be sure to practice these words with /s/ at the end.

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

Everyday English

After learning the /s/ sound, the students will need to repeat each sound in order to remember them. This is important, as many students will often forget the sound right after the class ends, so each sound needs to be reinforced throughout the day and week for them to remember. Repeating just the /s/ sound will be good, but it is also much better to associate the /s/ sound with everyday words in real life. Here are some ideas of words you can introduce to the children to encourage them to use the /s/ sound and learn more English words!

Many animals start with the letter s, so you can show your children the pictures of a snake, sheep or snail, and also have actions with them to repeat the /s/ sound.

Also when repeating numbers, you can show them six or seven objects, and repeat the number so that they can learn new numbers and say /s/ words.

If the student is interested in food, you can start with easy food such as strawberry or salad, and move onto a bit harder words such as sausage or sauce. Pictures of these food work very well with young learners.

Letter /s/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /s/, 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.

The sun.

I see the sun.

Sam sees the sun.

Six socks.

Sam has six socks.

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 /s/ !

Letter S tongue twisters

The letter /s/ tongue twisters can often be the funnest and hardest to pronounce for students. Get your tongue ready to pronounce these silly /s/ tongue twisters:

-She sells seashells on the seashore. The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.

-Sam’s saw seven slick slimy snakes slowly sliding southward.

-Sally says she shall sew six sheets for her sister Shelly.

-Six sleazy shysters in sharkskin suits sold sheared sealskins to seven seasick sailors.

-Susan shines shoes and socks;

Socks and shoes shines Susan.

She stopped shining shoes and socks,

For shoes and socks shock Susan.

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