Two objectives in early childhood classes today are for the children to learn to recognize the letters of the alphabet and the sound that each represents. Since mastery of these skills is part of the basic foundation for reading, it’s important that your students achieve this concept. By implementing one letter at a time, children will learn consonants and vowels through fun activities and individually versus in rote as when they sing the alphabet song. Must the studies of the alphabet letters be done in sequence? Not necessarily, as we are not after a recitation of the alphabet letters, but an understanding of the sight and sound they make, along with their use in communicating ideas. Below are samples of “letter of the week” ideas I have used with my preschool students. Make the activities fun and memorable and before starting a new letter, it’s best to repeat the previous letters you have learned. Repetition is so important when teaching young children.
Begin by charting the alphabet letters you plan on studying along with the week chosen. Post this chart where the parents can see it when dropping off and picking up the children. Ask the parents to help you with this activity.
The letter/sound table is a place to display items that start with the letter sound. Children will absorb letters and sounds with objects that are familiar to them. It is also a way for children to reinforce letters that are found in print all around them. For example when studying the letter F, place items such as a toy fish, feather, flower, football, farm toy or picture, frog toy, and fork on the table. Place a few books that correspond with this letter and these items. Go over the objects and name them emphasizing the letter sound. Let the children use this table as a hands-on place to handle the letter/sound of the week materials. Note: Make sure items placed on this table are not valuable or breakable.
Magic Letter Art
Children love surprises and this traditional art activity is one that is fun and can be adapted in many ways. The basic materials are a white crayon and white paper. Prior to class, the teacher draws the letter of the week randomly on white paper with the white crayon. Make one for each child. During art class, invite the children to brush a paint wash (tempera paints diluted with water) over the entire page to decode the surprise letter. You can get creative by adding other drawings to the page other than just the letter. For example, for the letter B, why not draw some balloons, balls, birds, and bunnies on the page. This will make the magic picture more interesting. Also, for some letters incorporated the color that week. Painting the page blue for B week works well.
Show off any of your week's artwork by stringing up a clothesline in the corner of your classroom. Call this your "letter laundry" and invite the children to pin their artwork to the line with clothespins.
Song of the Week
Pick an appropriate song to sing that relates to the letter of the week. This not only teaches an alphabet letter and sound, but also builds upon the child's song library. For example, you could teach the song, "Five Little Monkeys" when teaching the letter M, but also could incorporate this song and use the content and change the animals. You could make the song, "Five Little Kangaroos" jumping on the bed, or "Five Little Pigs." Another song that is fun to use in this context is "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." Change the animals or even use a child's name that emphasizes the letter of the week. If the letter is B for bear, why not change the song to "Brent Went Over the Mountain."
Having foods that accompany the "letter of the week" is one of the best ways to reinforce the letter/sound concept. The social experience combined with the benefits of good nutrition and refreshments will help the children remember the letter and sound. Make sure the snack is healthy and not just a sugar laden product in order to implement a letter. Examples:
Letter A = apples, apricots, avocado
Letter B = bread & butter, blueberries, bananas
Letter C= celery, carrots, cocoa
And so on!
Teaching the alphabet to young children is fun and prepares them for reading skills in the near future. Make the letter of the week part of your curriculum plans and emphasize one letter at a time. Don’t forget to use simple materials like play dough rolls to make letters, read an assortment of alphabet book titles to match your letter, and play alphabet games. Don’t ever underestimate how “play” equals learning!
- Routines to Teach Letters of the Alphabet: http://www.education.com/reference/article/routines-teach-letters-alphabet
- Photo credit by grietgriet: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/698317
- A to Z Phonics.com for Early Reading Success: http://www.atozphonics.com/alphabet-letters.html