Teaching the letter q

Q is a letter that deserves a reading lesson of its own for many reasons, as I discovered while working with a kindergartener.

  • The shape of the lower case qlowercaseQ is confusing, changing its appearance depending on the typeface used.  It can be made with a straight descending line only, a straight descending line with a forward slash attached to it,  or a straight descending line with a forward curve attached to it. And then there are serifs, which add another visual element.
  • A lower case q can be mistaken for a p or a g.  It needs to be taught with p and g distractions to help students recognize the differences in those letters.
  • The presence of the silent u can lead the child to pronounce a word like quick as kwuh-ick.  So qu- words need to be pronounced among CVC words.

I would begin by telling the child that the u is silent.  The u has to be there for spelling reasons, but it is not pronounced.

Then practice simple CVC-like words such as quack, quad, quest, quill and quit.

You could create a BINGO-like card with words and nonsense words like quad/quab, puest/quest, and guit/quit, to test the child’s recognition of the real q.

You could pour sand or sugar into a pan and have the child draw the first letter of words you say, such as pest, quest, pack, quack, pick, and quick.  Using multiple senses helps the concepts studied to stick better than reading aloud or writing with a pencil.

You could show an assortment of flashcard words and ask the child to pronounce them in order to reinforce that the u is silent.

My point is that q is more complicated than most other consonants and needs to be taught with special emphasis.

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