Letter 30 - Heinemann

Letter 30
Dear Parents and Care-Givers:
Your child was probably aware of letters of the alphabet during their preschool years when they sang the “ABC” song and
perhaps noticed some letters on building blocks and magnetic letters on the refrigerator. You can reinforce your child’s
knowledge of letters when you draw attention to letters in your child’s name; when you read alphabet books; when you read
predictable pattern literature to them; label objects; and have your child copy over and under sentences. However, particular
attention to individual letters can also be accomplished by playing “I Spy” games, finding letters in words in stories and
naming letters in words they already know on their word keys.
• A Word of Caution: Children generally have a better understanding of the function of letters of the alphabet after they
have had numerous opportunities to hear literature read to them, after many experiences dictating stories and sentences, and
chances to examine sentence patterns and words in literature selections. In fact, many children find instruction in letter
recognition very difficult and abstract unless they have experienced these strategies first. So don’t rush your child into
studying letters until they have experienced the function of letters through these various activities. A good rule of thumb as to
when to start examining letters of the alphabet is when your child reaches the Developing phase of reading.
Children generally appear to learn letter names more effectively when we draw attention to them during real and
functional experiences, for instance when letters are associated with meaningful contexts such as family names, common
words around the house and community. Thus, it is more effective to draw attention to names of letters during many
meaningful experiences with language rather than drilling the recognition of isolated letters. In fact, those children who
develop understanding of letter names through active participation in meaningful reading and writing activities are likely to
progress more quickly than those who have simply been formally taught and drilled on the names of individual letters.
An example of a meaningful experience with letter recognition occurred at Nathan’s house when he was five. As he was
helping to set the table, he appeared to use letter names to help him figure out the names of his family that were printed on the
napkin rings on the dining room table. He pointed to his Mom’s label (Maureen) and said that was Mom’s; he then pointed to
the label on his grandma’s napkin ring (Gail) and claimed that it said Grandma. When we asked him how he knew, he said
“Well, Mom’s name begins with an ‘M’ and Grandma’s name begins with a ‘G.’” Even though he was not reading the labels
accurately, he was using letter names appropriately as clues. This literacy experience with Nathan is a good example of how
context helps children understand the function of letters in the alphabet.
Specific activities to foster understanding of letters are outlined below.
Letters in Names
One of the best ways to make your child aware of individual letters is to start with their name.
1. Beginning Letters: Point out the name of the letter that comes at the beginning of their name (A is for Amy, N is for
Nathan, K is for Kody).
2. I Spy: Play “I Spy” by having your child try to find the first letter of their name on signs around the home, around the
community, in titles of books, in pattern literature, and in their dictated sentences and stories.
3. Individual Letters in Names: Focus on one letter at a time in your child’s name and repeat the above activities.
4. Copying Letters in Names: Reinforce knowledge of letters in your child’s name by having them copy over the letters in
their name. When their coordination develops, have them copy under the letters in their name.
5. Names of Friends and Family: Once your child has become aware of letters in their own name, have them become
familiar with letters of the alphabet in the names of their family. Invite your child to choose the name and letter they want
to work on and then repeat the activities above.
Alphabet Books
Alphabet books are great resources for helping your child recognize letters of the alphabet. Try some of these activities.
1. Enjoyment: First, read alphabet books just for fun, which develops a general awareness of letters.
2. Finger Tracing: During the reading of an alphabet book, focus on one letter at a time and have your child name it, have
them trace their fingers around the letter, and name animals or objects that begin with that letter. Focus on one new letter
every day or so.
3. Alphabet Posters: Invite your child to make alphabet posters using all the letters they know. They draw or cut out
pictures of things that begin with certain letters they recognize. For example, at the top of a page put a letter they know
(‘R’) and have them draw things or cut objects out of magazines that begin with that letter (rake, robin, rabbit). Once
they have glued their pictures onto the paper, have them dictate labels for you to write down.
4. Letter Hunts: Invite your child to find letters they know in a variety of places such as dictated sentences, pattern
literature, signs around the house, newspapers, and magazines.
• Pattern Literature: After you have read pattern selections a number of times to your child, play “I Spy” by having your
child find words that begin with a new letter you have introduced.
• Newspapers, Magazines: Invite your child to circle particular letters they know on a page of newspaper or magazine.
Another time, have them circle letters you name.
5. Word Cards: Have your child sort their words from their word chain according to letters they know: find all the words
that begin with the letter N as in no (name, nickel, number, neck); find all the words that begin with a T as in telephone
(top, tip, ten, table).
6. Recognizing Letters in Dictated Stories and Sentences: Read together familiar sentence strips with your child and then
have your child point to letters they know; then you point to letters in words and have your child name the letter.
Have fun finding letters in all kinds of reading material with your child. Contact me if you have any questions.