How to Teach the Alphabet using Language Objects
Teaching the Alphabet using Language Objects
It's so exciting when your toddler starts pointing out alphabet letters on signs and in books and asks, "What's that?"
Many parents think this means their toddler is ready to learn the alphabet. They start naming the letters as objects, singing the alphabet song, and doing “letter of the week” crafts and other letter recognition activities.
What many parents don’t realize is that teaching the alphabet using that approach focuses on memorizing letters out of context and in isolation.
Also, most toddlers are not developmentally ready to understand that letters represent sounds in spoken words. That concept is just too abstract!
I'm going to show you how to teach the alphabet in a way that’s effective and developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.
The whole reason for “teaching the alphabet” is to help your preschooler get ready to learn how to read.
So, you’ve got to think about the skills your child needs to be able to decode words in the early stages of learning to read.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when teaching the alphabet is focusing on letter names.
But here’s the thing: knowing the names of the alphabet letters does not prepare your child for reading!
Ultimately, you want your child to be able to blend the sounds /c/, /a/ and /t/ to make the word "cat" versus naming the letters as "see", "ay" and "tee".
When it comes to teaching the alphabet, it's the sound each letter makes that's essential for preschoolers to learn.
Your preschooler needs to to understand that each letter symbol represents a speech sound.
By starting with sound games to develop phonemic awareness before introducing letter symbols, the letter symbols will have meaning for your child.
Then it's simply a matter of associating each speech sound with its alphabet letter to build the reading network in the brain.
The sound-letter association game you’ll learn inside The Playful Path to Reading™ helps your child map each speech sound onto the grapheme (a letter, or letters, that spells a sound in a word).
With a solid foundation in phonemic awareness, the letter symbols will not be so abstract. Your child will think: "That's not just a curvy line, that’s the sound /c/ as in cat."
The sound-letter association game uses tactile letters because children learn best through hands-on experiences that involve the senses and movement.
Tracing a lowercase tactile letter and saying its sound will help your child develop muscular, visual and auditory memory of the alphabet letters.
The tactile letters are lowercase because most of the letters we write and read are lowercase letters. (Another big mistake is focusing on uppercase letters!)
Each time you play the sound-letter association game, you’ll present three letters that that look different and sound different. For example, you might choose “a”, “s” and “f” because the order doesn’t really matter.
To provide a meaningful context for each letter symbol, you’ll have a conversation about words that start with the sound the letter represents before showing the lowercase tactile letter to your child.
To make the sound-letter association game really engaging and fun, you’ll invite your child to say the beginning sound of the word represented by a language object and then ask him or her to match it with the lowercase tactile letter that makes the same sound.
To wrap up the sound-letter association game, you’ll gather the lowercase tactile letters and place them face down on the table. One at a time, you’ll turn them over and say “Please trace this and say the sound.”
It’s ok if your child doesn’t remember the sound-letter association the first time you play the game, and your child doesn’t need to master each letter before moving on to new ones.
You’ll cycle back through the alphabet by playing a variety of games to reinforce the sound-letter associations using the materials you’ve already got.
It takes only 10-15 minutes to play the sound-letter association game. That’s way less time than it takes to plan and prepare a new craft and activity for each letter of the alphabet as required with any “letter of the week” curriculum!
Using the approach you’ll learn inside The Playful Path to Reading™, you won’t need to prepare any crafts or worksheets, it won’t take 26 weeks to get through all the letters, and you’ll know exactly what to do once your child knows most of the letter sounds. Click here to learn more.
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About the Author
I'm Lisa Adele, an AMI-trained Montessori teacher and the creator of The Playful Path to Reading™. I help parents of preschoolers use hands-on activities to develop pre-reading and early reading skills.