Understanding the /s/ sound.

What do, science, socks, psychology, circles and mess all have in common?

Yep, the beginning of confusion for your child and they all have the /s/ sound in them.

sound ss


Your child has happily been writing  words using the most common sounds. They want to write sun, they know the /s/ sound and writes s, they know the /u/ sound and writes u, they know the /n/ sound and write n.

During writing sessions you hear them saying sounds aloud and happily connecting them with the letter it represents.

All of  a sudden they notice there are words such as circle, circus, cinema which have the sound /s/ at the start however they use the letter c.

Don’t avoid this conversation with your child, congratulate your child on noticing and learning something new.

Then begin to explore the /s/ sound with some of the following activities (depending on your child’s level of understanding)

Incidental Learning

celery s

Create a science experiment with celery without making a mess. Using words with the /s/ sound but different letter combinations exposes your child to new words in a fun environment.

Discovery Learning


Go on a Sound Spotto adventure and find words which begin with the sound /s/ either in your environment, in books, or in general discussion.

Talk about the words you find and which letters represent the /s/ sound, s, c, sc, ss, or ps.

Structured Learning

Write a list of words for each of the different /s/ sounding letters. Ask your child to see if they notice anything about the words in each column.

Here are some words to get you started.

s – socks, some, sell, stop, slime

c – circus, circle, cinema, cent, cycle

ps – psalm, psycholog

ss – mess, less

sc, scissors, scene, science


They may find the following information:

The /s/ sound is most often written with the letter s.

If a c is used to represent the /s/ sound it is only before an i, e or y.

Double s (ss) can be found at the middle or end of a word – never at the beginning.

P is a silent letter in psychology and psalm.

If a sc is used to represent the /s/ sound it is only before e, i, or y.


Asking children to study the letters and sounds in the English language ensures not only does it seem less daunting it will also help them to spell and read more complex words in future.


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