Want to help your child become a Letter Expert??
Follow these easy and fun activities to explicitly introduce letter names, shapes, sounds and formation! The knowledge of the letters and their relationship to words we speak, read, and write is crucial for children in Pre-K and Kindergarten!
In fact, ‘A child’s ability to identify the letters of the alphabet by name is one of the best predictors of how readily he or she will earn to read.’ Treiman, Kessler & Pollo, 2006
Try the letter introduction routine below. It is in PDF format so you can download it to have on hand. Then take a look at all of the fun practice ideas I’ve come up with! I have several free downloads for you as well.
Letter knowledge is the:
- ability to recognize letter shapes and connect them to letter names
- ability to connect letters to their sounds
- ability to form the letters.
Research has shown that it is most beneficial to teach these skills in conjunction. Learning how to form letters as children are learning letter names will facilitate learning and recalling of both names and shapes. In addition, the name of a letter can affect a child’s ability to learn the sound that letter makes. All letter name systems are iconic which means that the names of the letters contain the sound that the letter represents. Children can detect a letter-sound within most letter names. (The only two letters in English that are not iconic are h and w.) For example, when we say the letter name B, the sounds in that name are /b/ /ē/. The /b/ sound is in the letter name. Pointing this out to children can help them remember the name and sound. Let’s take a look at some others:
Children are especially likely to confuse letters that have similar names as well as similar shapes. These letters will require more repetition. It is also recommended that that are not taught in the same lesson.
Uppercase- B/D, B/P, M/N Lowercase- b/d, b/p, d/g, m/n
Uppercase and lowercase letter pairs whose forms are almost identical are much easier for children to learn. Cc, Kk, Oo, Pp, Ss, Uu, Vv, Ww, Xx, Zz
A child’s first name is one of the earliest experiences he/she will have with letters. They have opportunity to see their name printed in many different contexts, sizes and fonts from a very young age. Practicing ‘building’ their own name gets children very excited and motivates them to engage in letter activities of all sorts! Try some of these fun activities:
- Have children build their names using letter tiles, cards, or beads.
- Have children practice identifying the letters in their first name
- Try dotting, stamping, painting, or sticker-ing the letters in their name.
- Use playdough to either stamp their names or mold the pieces into letter shapes.
Let’s take a look at a variety of fun, easy and inexpensive activities you can do with your child at home or with a group in the classroom.
Guess the Letter Game
Sorting letters is another great way to practice identifying shapes. One game I love to have kids play is ‘Guess the Letter”. You need to have letter shapes that are cut out so that children can identify the letter by feeling the shape. I found a great set of foam, capital letters at the dollar store. Check out the video below of how to play the game:
- Give children a bin of letters they have already been introduced to
- One child closes her eyes and picks out a letter. She tries to identify the letter by feeling the shape.
- She says the letter name. If it is correct, her partner says, “Yes, that is letter A”. If she is incorrect, her partner says, “No, that is letter ___.” The letters that are correct can be placed on a letter arch (seen here). All of the letters that were errors should be placed in a separate pile so that you can provide further instruction in those later.
- The next child goes through the same process of picking a letter until all of the letters are gone.
By having the children feel the letter without looking, they are required to visualize what they are feeling. This helps to solidify their understanding of the letter shapes. It is crucial, however, that if they make an error on a letter, it is corrected immediately and put aside to help you know what letters need more instruction and practice. Remind children to use both hands and take their time.
Letter Practice with Identifying, Matching, and Sequencing
Children need to have multiple opportunities to practice letter names using a variety of materials and methods. It’s also a good idea to expose children to a variety of fonts.
- Use a dot painter or small objects to ‘Find’ a specific letter with my downloads below.
- Write uppercase and lowercase letters on duplo blocks to have children match letters.
- Write alphabet letters on a pool noodle to make an alphabet necklace. Children need to know the whole alphabet in order to complete this sequencing activity.
- Collect a variety of letters (scrabble pieces, letter beads, foam letters, etc.) to have children sort letters into a muffin tin.
In the earliest grades, handwriting is linked to basic reading and spelling achievement (Wolf 2005). Children need explicit instruction in letter formation with lots of guidance. Letter formation that uses a continuous stroke is recommended to reduce the chance of reversals. All lowercase letters can be formed with a continuous stroke except f, i, j, k, t, and x.
Practicing letter formation using a multisensory approach is really beneficial. Try using sand, sand paper, or finger paint in a ziplock bag to have children form letters using their pointer fingers. When they begin using a writing tool, fat markers are the easiest for preschoolers to start with. The more narrow the writing tool is, the more challenging it will be for them to grip.
Exposing children to a variety of alphabet books not only helps them to see the letters in different sizes and fonts, it also exposes them to words which consist of those sounds that each letter makes. Most alphabet books include a bunch of alliterative words for each alphabet letter.
Here are some of our favorite alphabet books: