Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alphabet Train Puzzle

Today we put together a "favorite" floor puzzle.  This is a Melissa and Doug floor puzzle.  The pieces are large and easy to keep clean.  When I looked at their site, they no longer have this exact puzzle but they do have a Train Alphabet Floor Puzzle that looks like it's all animals.  Puzzles are great for logical thinking and fine motor development.  Again, a lot can be grasped just by conversation.  You can reinforce the letter names, sounds, upper/lower case, how many "word chunks" (syllables) in the object name, rhyming, segmenting and many other phonological awareness activities.

Here is a song I introduced today and we'll be using it for the next while.  

Tune: I've Been Working On the Railroad (author unknown)
I've been working on the railroad, learning letter sounds.
I've been working on the railroad; here's the latest sound I've found.
I am sure that you will like it; it's the best one yet!

I've been working on the railroad to learn the alphabet.

This is letter (A); this is letter (A)
The sound it makes is /a/ /a/ /a/.
This is letter (A); this is letter (A)
The sound it makes is /a/!

I'm not a big fan of the "letter of the week" approach.  Yes, it has it's place and can be beneficial.  It works best with those children who have a good idea of what the alphabet is about already. And as the teacher, it's easier to make sure we spend time on each letter.  I like to reserve that approach for the older students when teaching letter formation, and even then I'm always planning some way to review the letters and work with the alphabet as a whole.  I find that many teachers who teach "the letter of the week" focus on that letter and then, even if unintentionally, they forget it.  A few will grasp it in that week but many will not, especially young ones, so it's very important to do activities and sing songs that use the alphabet or review the letters already taught.  The alphabet is rather abstract to many students and I find that many don't begin to really know their letters inside and out until they grasp that we use these letters to form words.  The Montessori approach has a great concept in their "moveable letters".  We want to provide opprotunities for children to explore with letter manipulatives to form their own names and simple words.  They can use manipulatives to "copy" words from the front of their favorite cereal or cracker box and etc. Once they understand that "I can put these letters to spell 'T-a-g', my dog's name" it becomes much more meaningful and fun to learn about the letters.  Have fun exploring the alphabet!

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