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A Better Way to Teach Letter X: Free Worksheet

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Learn the Science of Reading-aligned way to teach the letter X to your students. Gain confidence in teaching your students all about the unique letter X and get a free printable orthographic mapping worksheet for student practice.

Colorful graphic entitled "Teaching Letter X" with images of worksheets and a pencil.
Scroll to the “Download & Print” section to download the worksheet FREE!

๐Ÿค” Rethinking How to Teach X

As teachers, we begin explicit phonics instruction by introducing letters and linking each letter to its most common sound.

For example, we start off teaching all young students that letter C represents the /k/ sound. It isn’t until students have mastered reading and spelling words with C that we introduce the less common sounds of C (e.g. the soft sound of C = /s/).

We need to adopt the same mindset when teaching the letter X!

So often, alphabet charts include the keyword ‘Xylophone’ for the letter X. But in the word xylophone, the letter X represents the /z/ sound. This is an extremely rare sound only found in a few words of Greek origin, and frankly, young children don’t need to know it!

For a fun children’s book on this topic, check P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever.

Now back to the topic at hand! All educators should be teaching the most common sound of letter X, using keywords and memory hooks that include the most common sound.

โœ– All About the Letter X

๐Ÿคฏ The letter X is incredibly unique, so get ready to have your mind blown! The most common sound of the letter X is actually 2 distinct sounds.

  • /k/+/s/ are the two sounds that represent the letter X. It’s the only single letter in the English alphabet that is made up of two distinct sounds! (qu spells /kw/ which also represents two phonemes)
  • The /k/+/s/ sound of letter X never appears at the beginning of words; instead, it occurs in the middle or at the end of words.

When you say the two sounds quickly, you hear the /ks/ sound. But experts know that there is no one sound (phoneme) /ks/.

So /ks/ is actually a consonant blend! Together, these two phonemes /k/+/s/ represent the sounds of letter X.

When my students start to think of letter X as a single-grapheme consonant blend, just like any other consonant blend, things really start to click!

Graphic showing orthographic mapping of the word "fox" with x representing two sounds.

You can distinctly see the letter X and hear two sounds /k/ /s/ at the end of these words:

  • fox
  • box
  • tax
  • ox
  • ax
  • fix
  • mix
  • six
  • relax
  • suffix
  • hoax
  • complex

You can also see the letter X and hear the two sounds in the middle of words, particularly words with the prefix -ex.

  • explain
  • except
  • exhale
  • excite
  • exchange
  • expand
  • exclude
  • axle
  • dexterity

This means, in a word like fox, you actually hear 4 sounds, even though we only see three letters. /f/+/o/+/k/+/s/ = fox.

Graphic showing a printable sound wall and phonograms card resource.
Get our popular Sound Wall Bundle in our TPT shop! Two options are included: With and without the Letter X – /ks/.

๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿซ Teaching Tips

Here are some ideas and tips for teaching the Letter X and the two sounds that comprise it’s most common sound.

Remember, the consonant blend /k/+/s/ occurs in over 350 English words spelled with the letter X. It is the most common sound of the letter X.

๐ŸŒŸ Pre-k and Kindergarten Teachers: You get the privilege of setting the stage for future expert readers and spellers. At this level, the most important thing is that kids are firm in knowing X spells /ks/.

This will enable your students to read words accurately when they see an X and spell words accurately when they hear a /ks/.

๐ŸŒŸ 1st Grade and Above: As kids progress, it will be important that they understand this expert information about the letter X. They’ll need to know that /ks/ is actually /k/ + /s/. For example, when you teach the doubling rule, kids won’t have to wonder why the X isn’t doubled in base words.

Have you ever thought about why the word ‘fox’ does not become ‘foxxes?’ Well, it’s because the word ‘fox’ doesn’t end in one consonant letter sound – because the letter X has two sounds! So that’s why it isn’t doubled. Just watch the lightbulbs go off! ๐Ÿ’ก

๐ŸŒŸ The sound /ks/ is not included on most sound walls, just like other consonant blends. However, if you teach preschool or kindergarten, it’s not a bad idea to include the /ks/ on your sound wall.

Since sound walls are used as a scaffold, kids just learning the letter names/sounds may need the sound wall support to independently and accurately spell words like ax, box, or fox.

๐ŸŒŸ When words ending with the letter X are plural or show third person plural, you add the suffix -es. Ax becomes axes and fox becomes foxes.

A printed and completed letter x worksheet with a student mapping words containing the letter x.

๐Ÿ“„ Using the Free Worksheet

Download a free worksheet below to help students understand that the blend /k/+/s/ is represented by the one letter X.

We designed this worksheet using a print-to-speech format. Using elkonin boxes, students will match the sounds they hear (phonemes) to the letters that represent the sounds (graphemes). This process is called orthographic mapping.

  • Step 1: Review the pictures with your students so they know the words they are spelling. Pictures from top to bottom are: mix, box, fox, tax, ox, six, fix, wax.
  • Step 2: Students will spell the sounds they hear in the words, placing the X between the final two boxes. This will visually show them that the one letter X represents two distinct sounds – /k/ /s/.
  • Step 3: Kids will tap the sounds, blending the sounds together to read the words.
  • Step 4: Students rewrite the words on the rewrite line.

๐Ÿ–จ Download & Print

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How do you teach the Letter X? Weโ€™d love to hear about your experience using this resource!
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