January 20, 2012

Tips for Introducing Letters

The way you introduce letters to your child will vary greatly depending his or her age and developmental level. Here are some things to consider.

Letters don't need to be introduced alphabetically. In fact, there are good reasons to consider presenting them other ways.

Tip 1:  Teach new letters as they become relevant, such as "o" during the month of October, "p" when you bring home a pumpkin, "v" when Valentine's Day arrives, or the digraph "th" at Thanksgiving.

Tip 2:  Teach letters according to what they look like. Introduce letters with straight lines (or "sticks") first (L, I, T, F, E, H, Z, X, N, M, V, W, Y, A, K), followed by those with curves (O, Q, C, G, U, J, S), and finally those with both straight and curved parts (D, P, B, R).

There is plenty to learn about and with each letter you teach. The big picture includes sounds, formation, encoding and decoding.

Tip 3:  Understanding sounds in words is an essential per-reading skill. Introduce the sound of a letter even before presenting it's form.

Tip 4: Play with sounds by rhyming and blending. You can also separate and put together beginning, middle and ending sounds.

Tip 5:  Practice forming letters in playful ways such as writing them in the air, in sand, rainbow writing, and building them with blocks, play dough, your bodies or hands, or other manipulatives.  

Tip 6:  Connect the letter to its corresponding sound.  Put letters and sounds together to form words you know, that are relevant to other studies or themes in your day, and to form names. You can make word puzzles with Legos or out of cardboard.

Tip 7:  Go on a letter hunt.  Driving in the car or walking down the street are great times to hunt for letters.  This is called using environmental print.  The letters on cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, and the remote control are all examples of environmental print.  A print-rich environment (which may include labeling items in your home or classroom) is a great tool for early literacy.

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