Saturday, August 18, 2018



All aboard for Letter Land! The next ten days I’m going to be sharing alphabet activities on my blog because this time of year the ABC’s seem to be the starting line in most pre-k and K classrooms.

I have been at this rodeo a LONG time and I want you to know there is NO one correct way to introduce letters or teach children to read. Just take a look around you and you’ll see people of all ages who know HOW to read and they learned TO READ with a variety of different approaches, materials, and reading programs.

Many people ask me questions about how to introduce letters. Should you do capital letters first? Is there a specific order you should follow? There is NO definitive research to support one particular strategy. Children come to you with so many varied experiences and skills that one size will not fit all. There are two principles that I think are important.

First, make it authentic! Teach letters in context and connect with children’s names, units of study, nursery rhymes, and other interests. For example, a trip to the pumpkin patch would be the perfect time to talk about Pp. Talk about the letter Jj when you say Jack and Jill. If your football team is the Falcons discuss the letter Ff.

Second, make it playful and challenging. Use hands-on activities, songs, movements, and games to stimulate multiple senses. Blocks, play dough, puzzles, and magnetic letters are much more REAL than a worksheet or computer game.

Finally, remember that children take it in and take it in and take it in – and then something comes out! They don’t all learn in the same way at the same time, so you have to provide a variety of opportunities to learn.  The key is to keep it fun and make them feel successful.

Over the next ten days I will suggest simple tools that will provide children with multiple experiences in learning letters. Purposeful practice for automaticity (aka repetition) is important for skill mastery so you will want to do these activities many times.

Note! Although I’ll be focusing on alphabet letters, please “harvest” these ideas and make them work for the age and interests of your students. For example, if your children are proficient with alphabet knowledge, use these ideas for sight words. For younger children adapt these activities for learning colors and shapes.


Envelope Puppets
Seal an envelope and cut it in half as shown. Write the uppercase letter on one side and the lowercase letter on the other side. Sing the “Hokey Pokey” with the letter puppet.

     You put your (letter) in,
     You take your (letter) out,
     You put your (letter) in
     And you shake it all about.
     You make the (letter sound)
     And then you put it down.

*Listen up! Tell children when you say words starting with that sound they can hold up their puppet. When you say a word that doesn’t start with that sound they should keep the puppet in their lap.

*Have children write a letter on one side and draw an animal that begins with that sound on the reverse side.

*I Have - Who Has Alphabetical Order?
Seal 13 envelopes, cut them in half, and then write the letters of the alphabet on the envelopes. Pass out one or two envelopes to each child and have the child with A say: I have A. Who has B?
The child with B says: I have B. Who has C? And so forth.

*Let children hold up their letter as you sing different alphabet songs.

*Use these puppets to make CVC words.

Paper Plate Puppets
Staple two paper plates together 3/4 of the way around. Write a large uppercase letter on one side and a lowercase letter on the other side.  Or, just write the uppercase and lowercase together on one side.  Children wear these on their hands and hold them up when their letter is sung in an alphabet song. 

*You can also use these to make CVC words or sight words.

Letter Man
Letter Man (or you could make a Letter Lady) is easy to make and sure to capture your students’ interest. You’ll need a small swinging trashcan, felt scraps, googly eyes, pom poms, craft glue (E6000 works great), and magnetic letters.

Decorate the trashcan to look like a man similar to the photo. Spread magnetic letters out on the table. If children can identify a letter they can “feed” it to (put it inside) Letter Man. What a fun way to assess the letters that children know! 

*What’s My Sound?
Place the letters inside Letter Man. Children can take turns pulling out a letter, making the sound, and saying a word that starts with that sound.

*Alphabet Center
Put Letter Man (full of letters), paper, and pencils in an alphabet center. Children take turns choosing a letter and then trying to write the letter.

*Feed Letter Man
Ask children to feed Letter Man all the letters that are blue… feed Letter Man all the vowels… the letters in alphabetical order…and so forth.

Have children spell their name or sight words and then feed them to Letter Man.

*Sing this song to the tune of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” as you put letters in the trashcan.
     I know an old man who swallowed a (name letter).
     What would he say if he swallowed a (name letter).
     (sound), (sound), (sound) – (name letter).

Note!  If you don't have a trash can you can use a plastic jug or other container.