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What is SATPIN? (Hints and Tips from a Teacher)

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 4 min read

Many early years teachers will know the term SATPIN. For those that aren’t 100% sure, you’re probably wondering what is SATPIN? SATPIN refers to the first six letters that many phonics programs begin with when introducing initial sounds to children.

Why those sounds, you may ask? Well, that combination of letters yields the most words and has 2 continuous sounds to get students started with word building. Continuous sounds are sounds that can be made for multiple seconds. Such as, ‘sssss’ for /s/ and ‘nnnn’ for /n/.

Once students have a greater understanding of these first initial graphemes and phonemes, your students will be able to decode many basic words. Which in turn, provides a confidence boost for little readers!

Why don’t you just teach the sounds in alphabetical order?

This is a question that gets asked a lot, and it’s no surprise! Children often begin school singing the alphabet, or reading literature about letters in alphabetical order, so why not go with what they know? Many early years teachers will not teach the letters and sounds in alphabetical order.

There are many reasons why, but one, in particular, is that introducing initial phonemes to students in alphabetical order can in fact make it more difficult for them as they will often revert back to letter name rather than the sound it makes.

The order you teach the initial sounds in will depend on your school and the phonics program that is used – however, the most common 6 letters to begin with are s,a,t,p,i and n. Here’s a suggestion for the rest of the sequence provided to us by Clare Wood (Literacy specialist) – m,d,g,o,c,k,e,r,u,b,h,f,l,j,w,v,x,y,z,q. It’s important to note that some programs will often incorporate some digraphs into the mix towards the end of this sequence as well.

How to Teach Beginning Letter Sounds

When beginning the teaching of beginning sounds – I would often teach a letter a day! Starting with s, a, t, p, i and then n. Other’s may do a letter every couple of days. This all really depends on the varying levels of knowledge in your class. I would introduce and speak about the letter and sound through literature. As well as this, I would provide visuals in the classroom (only once I had introduced the students to that letter/sound). I found having all of the letters up before introducing the individual letter and sound was too overwhelming for the students in my classes.

These gorgeous letter posters for the classroom are the perfect visual for your students to begin your display.

alphabet posters for the classroom

Other alphabet posters:

Image of Letter Formation Alphabet Posters

teaching resource

Letter Formation Alphabet Posters

A set of letter formation alphabet posters to display in the classroom.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYear: F
Image of Individual Alphabet Charts with Pictures

teaching resource

Individual Alphabet Charts with Pictures

Alphabet charts with pictures for each letter.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYears: F - 4
Image of Animal Alphabet Display

teaching resource

Animal Alphabet Display

Alphabet charts with animal pictures.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYears: P - 1

Letter Activities for the Classroom

Once you have explicitly taught a letter/sound to your students, giving them the opportunity to explore the letter and sound on their own is important! Here are some fantastic individual letter/sound activities that you could incorporate into your phonics lessons.

Image of Alphabet Playdough Mats for Fine Motor Development

teaching resource

Alphabet Playdough Mats for Fine Motor Development

A set of alphabet playdough mats to help children develop their fine motor skills and identify the letters of the alphabet.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYears: P - F
Image of Alphabet Playdough Mats

teaching resource

Alphabet Playdough Mats

A set of playdough mats where students write and form letters in playdough.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYear: F
Image of Beginning Letters - Individual Alphabet Worksheets - BW

teaching resource

Beginning Letters - Individual Alphabet Worksheets - BW

A beginning letter worksheet for each letter of the alphabet.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYear: F

SATPIN Activities

Consolidate your students’ knowledge of SATPIN with these super engaging and fun activities for little learners.

Initial Sound and Letter Matching

This super cute SATPIN Frog and Lily Pads activity will have your students identify the initial sound of each of the pictures and place each picture onto the correct lily pad. Each frog has a letter on its tummy! The best thing about this resource is you can change it up to differentiate it for different students or groups of students. If you only want to focus on one or two letters you can just provide the chosen lily pad and pictures for those letters.

SATPIN activitiy for kids

Letter Recognition Activity

This collection of Colour by Letter (SATPIN) worksheets are perfect to consolidate your students’ recognition of all six letters. Students follow the guidelines to colour each of the cute images in a certain colour.

Decoding Simple SATPIN Words

Once your students have a solid understanding of these letters, you can begin to talk about using their understanding of these phonemes to decode simple words. Our first group of sound button cards is the perfect addition to the classroom. This is a collection of words that use either s, a, t, p, i and n!

To read more about sound button cards – read our blog – What are Sound Buttons? | A Teacher’s Guide.

Sound button cards for the classroom

Here are some more alphabet activities you can incorporate into your phonics lessons once more letters have been taught:

Image of Uppercase and Lowercase Peg Cards

teaching resource

Uppercase and Lowercase Peg Cards

An uppercase and lowercase matching activity combined with a fine motor activity for the early years classroom.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYear: F

Image of Initial Letter Bingo

teaching resource

Initial Letter Bingo

30 different bingo cards using initial letters.

Teach Starter Publishing18 pagesYears: F - 1Has Starter Sheet
Image of Alphabet Puzzle Activity

teaching resource

Alphabet Puzzle Activity

A hands-on puzzle to consolidate your students' knowledge of the alphabet.

Teach Starter Publishing6 pagesYears: P - 1
Image of Alphabet Bubbles

teaching resource

Alphabet Bubbles

An alphabet activity using pictures and corresponding words.

Teach Starter Publishing26 pagesYears: F - 2

Looking for more activities? Read our blog – 20 Fun and Engaging Alphabet Activities for Kids.

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