Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now I know my ABCs????

We've been talking the past few weeks about decoding report card talk, or what to do when you enter a parent/teacher conference and find that your child is not mastering a particular standard. Today I want to take a look at the standard of letter recognition. I want to stress that today's post are ideas that I have from working with first grade students who did not have mastery of letter recognition. I would not necessarily teach it in this manner to my son, who is only 2. I would use some varied approached to get the letters known with him and I would take it at much more relaxed pace.

Know the term: Letter recognition simply means to know the entire set of letters my name, sound or word.

Understand the Problem: You might want to ask the classroom teacher for specifics. Does your child not know anything about the letter? or does he know all the letter names but doesn't know the corresponding phonetic sound? etc.  Different approaches to teaching reading, will instruct students to learn letters in different ways. When working with struggling readers, it is best to just worry about getting the letters known.
Get it known by name, sound, or by word. Marie Clay says, "Beginning readers making good progress use any of these ways of identifying letters. It seems to be useful to have more than one way of labelling a letter."
You might also want to consider which letters are confusing your child. For instance, if your child has a b/d confusion, don't give him a worksheet of bs and ds. Introduce the b one day and the d another day. Don't work on distinguishing them from one another until you are sure the letter is known!
"There is quite a science to learning letters but don't let that worry you. Just have fun exploring and talking about how letters work with your child." Richard Gentry in Raising Confident Readers

Search for a Solution:
There are many, many ways to practice letter recognition. Here are just a few:

  • Texture letters (Cut letters out of sandpaper, carpet samples, fabric, let your child trace the letters)
  • Model writing the letters and talk about movement. This post tells you multiple surfaces for practicing letter formation
  • Make your own Alphabet book-- Put twenty six 3X5 index cards on a ring. Add letters to the book as they become known to the child. Let your child choose a picture to correspond with the letter. These homemade books are so much better than professionally produced ABC books, especially when your child chooses which picture to include. You can even get FREE stickers here. Print them onto mailing labels and then your child can just choose one and stick it in the book!
  • Published alphabet books - find one on a topic your child enjoys. For instance, tryThe Dinosaur Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta's Alphabet Books) for dinosaur lovers.
  • Try these activities with magnetic letters
  • Practice the letter in the context of writing. Try having a practice page near where your child writes. When your child is writing, have him practice the formation of one new letter. Have him do it until he can do it quickly. (This is similar to finding the letter in a book while reading, but it slows the brain down a little bit and lets it think about the letter)
  • Play with Alphabet puzzles
  • Make a ruler sized alphabet strip to post on your child's workspace so he can reference a visual form of the letter when writing.
  • Make letters out of playdough or cookie dough and bake.
  • Glue items into the shape of the letter. (For example, write a letter B in glue. Have your child glue beads to the letter.)
  • Letter squirt. A few weeks ago I posted about our color squirt activity. Try the same activity with letters!
"You need to respect the learner's pace of learning but you need to get the entire set of letters known as soon as this can happen. That will make the child's decisions about words easier." Marie Clay

Literacy Lessons: Designed for Individuals, Part Two: Teaching Procedures
Raising Confident Readers: How to Teach Your Child to Read and Write--from Baby to Age 7

Great website for Teaching the Alphabet