Now I Know My ABCs

blog post by Lillah Martin

This afternoon over 70 teachers gathered to hear Sandra and I talk about the basics of teaching the alphabet.  Most children come into our classrooms “knowing” the alphabet because of the ABC song, or TV shows that showcase the alphabet but they do not have an alphabet awareness that makes sense to becoming writers and readers.  We have many little learners that think “lmnop” is one “thing”!

We revisited a very old program based on Anna Ingham’s blended sight sound method, with some adaptions of our own, and shared a story for all 26 letters, that gave the explicit sound as well  the letter formation. Using this “method”, the letters are introduced in groups of 2 or 3, selected by the way they are voiced, common usage, or sometimes the shape they have.  We spent time noticing where the tongue is in relation to the roof of the mouth, or the teeth, what shape the lips take and analyzing how the sound “feels”.   Many children need to have this pointed out to them.  The letters are introduced quickly, explicitly, and with an engaging little story that the children can easily remember .

Alphabet StripBy the nature of this method, all letters are introduced within a month, left on display, referred to in meaningful ways that build connections, allowing for each learner to take their next steps in a developmentally “makes sense” way.

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The “what next…” in the classroom was also shared with ideas for using children’s names, alphabet books and  embedding letters/sounds at every opportunity.  With small group explicit instruction and meaningful activities to target specific  areas you will see a joyful explosion of confident writers and readers.

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The alphabet song does still have a very important place in our classroom—it should be visible in the room and sung at least 3 times a day as it lists the letters in order, is a great strategy tool for learners to go to when they are looking for a letter they need BUT every time it is sung, someone needs to be tracking and touching the letters in the song.  Sing it fast, sing it slow, sing it high, sing it low, sing it with stops at specific letters, and try to sing it using the sounds.  Play with it asking questions like “how many letters have holes in them, straight lines, or curvy lines?”  Notice which ones are tall, which ones hang down, which ones are in your name, your friends name, which ones “are easy for you” etc.  Make it so familiar that all learners feel success with the 26 keys to our language!

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