How the process of alphabetization has changed in time

Before the current didactic practice took shape, there were four methods through which people were alphabetized: the alphabetic, phonetic, syllabic and psycho-phonetic methods.

  • The alphabetic method: It was the first method that was used to teach reading.

First, the capital letters, then the small letters were taught, in alphabetical order, each with its correspondent name.


[es] – S

[em] – M

Then, meaningless combinations of two letters were practiced (like “ba”, “be”, “bi” etc.), followed by combinations of three, four or five letters.

The next step was to make more complex combinations: to use syllables in order to form words, and words to build short sentences.

This method of learning was in itself a process of repetition and memorization.

“Letters were associated with images of objects that began with the letter that had to be taught. This method was abandoned because it was considered inefficient, and there were no rational or scientific arguments that justified it.”

  • The phonetic method: This method, unlike the previous one, taught letters by associating them with their corresponding sound.

First, the sound was taught (the phoneme), then the symbol (the grapheme); vowels were taught first, then consonants, without a fixed order, and then the sounds were combined together.


ma me mi mo m

pa pe pi po pu

Once the sounds were learnt, letters were combined together to form syllables, then words, and finally sentences.

  • The syllabic method: This method would start just like the previous one, by teaching the sound and form of vowels, but, in contrast to the phonetic method, it didn’t teach the sound of consonants. It skipped directly to teaching the form and sound of syllables, that were associated with an image of an object that began with that syllable.

Example: ki! (kitten)

  • The psycho-phonetic method: It consists in comparing the syllables from different words and using them in order to build new words.


Butter: bu-tter

Narrow: na-rrow

Using the syllables “bu” and “rrow” we obtain burrow.

This method was not efficient because not all monosyllabic units could be combined in words, like in the example above.

All these methods can be observed in the examples included in the annex at the end of the document, (before the conclusion).

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