Recommendations to Foster Alphabet Knowledge
A. Use a wide variety of alphabet books to help students recognize the letters and learn the sequence of the alphabet. Such books also help students build vocabulary and learn letter-sound associations, especially beginning sounds.
B. Create a collection of nonbook materials to encourage students to explore the alphabet, including magnetic letters, letter stamps, flashcards, and dry-erase boards. Also include items such as cereal boxes, catalogs, magazines, and newspapers. Provide opportunities for students to freely explore the alphabet.
C. Teach students the alphabet song. Then present a copy of the alphabet (in alphabetical order), and as students sing the song, ask them to point to each letter.
D. Present a letter and discuss its characteristic shape; for example, it may have an ascender, such as the letter h, or a descender, such as the letter p. The speed at which students learn letters is highly variable. Some can learn several letters at a time, while others can learn only one letter per week. Some letters are easily confused and should not be taught closely together, such as p-d, b-d, p-q, q-b, m-n, and i-j. (If students have difficulty with letters that are easily confused, refer to the recommendations in items H and I.)
E. Prepare a blank book and label the pages with the letters of the alphabet. Have students cut out letters from cereal boxes, catalogs, magazines, and newspapers, and then paste the letters in the book. To help students learn that letters appear in a variety of styles, point out the different fonts that appear in different text and encourage them to collect many styles for each letter.
F. Make a tape recording of the letters of the alphabet to accompany an alphabet book such as Animalia by Graeme Base. Students will find this entertaining, and it provides a way for them to learn the letters in context.
G. When teaching the alphabet, be sure that it appears on a chart where students can see it constantly. Using just a few letters at a time, work with students until they can instantly tell you which letter comes before or after any other letter. For example, if you say, “Which letter comes before G?” and point to a child, he should instantly say “F.” Most adults can instantly give the letter that immediately follows another; however, they usually pause a few seconds before they tell which letter precedes another. Knowing the order of the letters will save time later when students are using the dictionary.
H. If some letters are reversed, or if a student seems to have a difficult time learning them, prepare letters cut from fine sandpaper and have him feel the letters as he pronounces them. This can also be done with three-dimensional letters made of felt or similar material. (Do not become overly concerned if children tend to reverse letters. This is a normal part of the learning process with emergent readers and almost always disappears gradually as letter knowledge increases.)
I. Place a thin layer of salt or fine sand in the bottom of a shoebox lid and have students trace letters with their fingers in the sand or salt.
J. Make a list of the first third of the alphabet.
Then make a recording for students to take home or work with in the classroom. The tape-recorded script can be as follows: “Look at the letter by number one. This letter is A. Point to it and say ‘A.’ Look at it very carefully and say ‘A’ again. The next letter by number two is B. Point to it and say ‘B.’ Look at it very carefully and say it again.” Continue through the list. You may wish to modify this script to have students also write the letter. In this case, the script would be as follows: “Look at the letter by number one. This letter is A. Point to it and say ‘A.’ Look at it very carefully and say it again. Now write the letter and say ‘A’ as you write it,” and so on. Note: This presentation will be successful only with students who are able to learn letters easily and rapidly. For other students, the presentation can be simplified by presenting only one or two letters at a time. Also, you must observe students when they are learning in this way. Some students, especially younger ones, cannot stay on task without direct participation or instruction from the teacher. For these youngsters, this technique will not be effective.
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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