Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Learning the ABC's

As mentioned before, I consider learning the alphabet to be very abstract for preschoolers.  With my  preschoolers, we explore the alphabet. 
Names- alphabet exploration should start with the names that are most meaningful to your child...so their name!  This is the introduction to what letters are all about. 
   *  Use manipulatives to help your child spell their name.  If they do not have much experience with this, then I suggest you make a visual where your child can match their letters to letters already written.  Consider magnet letters, letter tiles, tactile letters, or stickers.  You can create our own by writing their letters on foam squares, card stock shapes, or even craft sticks.
   *  B-I-N-G-O can easily be switched to spelling your child's name.
      There was a child that I knew
      and she had pretty blue eyes.
      K-e-n-z-i-e; K-e-n-z-i-e; K-e-n-z-i-e
      and Kenzie was her name-o.
We made a visual with a 12x18 piece of construction paper folded in half.  We cut the top half into equal sized rectangles to make enough for each letter in the child's name.  On the top, we put a picture of a hand.  Inside we put the letters in their name and a picture to go along with the sound of the letter.  Then when we sang the song, we were able to point to each letter.  Then we could also put a flap down and the hand print was a visual that we are to clap that sound instead of singing it.  (clap-e-n-z-i-e; clap-e-n-z-i-e; clap-e-n-z-i-e and Kenzie was her name-o).

Environmental Print-  This type of print if very meaningful to the children also.  What child doesn't recognize the sign to their favorite restaurant or store?  Bob Evans, Burger King and Meijer were the first three places our kids recognized.  So build on that!  Point out and talk about the letters and sounds.  What about signs?  Preschoolers love "STOP" signs!  Make a stop sign to be used in their play.  Glue on letters or squeeze glitter glue onto the letters of their homemade stop sign.  Then build on it, what other signs are in your neighborhood?  Talk about them!  What about cereal boxes?  Soup cans?  Pasta containers?  How about your grocery ads?  Do you write up a list where your child can see you?  Give them their own paper and ad (pick up an extra at the store if you think about it) and let them circle items or even cut them out and glue them to a paper to make a list.  If they are interested in writing the letters, encourage them to do that! 

Sorting Letters- These type of activities allow your child to work with the letters as a whole and note similarities and differences.  Recognizing how the letters are shaped make a huge difference in their ability to recall the letter names and even write the letters.
  *  Sorting Mats: You can easily make sorting mats for your child.  And you can just as easily purchase them if you want.  :-)
Ideas of different ways to sort letters:
  In my name/not in my name.
  Sticks/curves/both (this makes for a nice venn diagram)
  Consonants/vowels (or makes 1 sound or 2 sounds)
  Letter or number

Build a Letter- building letters are excellent ways to familiarize a child with the alphabet. 
  *Collages:  Use block letter of upper and lower case on a piece of card stock.  Prior to creating the collage you can encourage your child to trace the letter using the correct formation as well as talk about whether it has sticks, curves or both sticks and curves.  Then provide material that starts with the letter sound for them to glue onto their block letter.  The younger ones I allow them to glue on anywhere inside of the block letter.  Older ones, I strongly encourage that they squeeze the glue on using the correct letter formation and then place their items on the glue in the correct formation.  Can you see how then they are repeating the correct formation and they are going to begin to internalize it?
   A is for apple- glue on foam apples or make fingerprint circles using red/yellow/green stamp pad or paint and then add a stem and leaf to each one.
  B is for buttons
  C is for candy or corn (or candy corn :-))
  D is for dirt
  E is for ears (cut out different ears from a magazine)
and so on.  If you get stuck on a letter, you can use pictures.  Side note:  this would be considered a literacy or fine motor activity NOT art.

  *  Stamp a Letter:  Provide block letters of the one you want to review.  Let them stamp inside of the letter with a stamp that corresponds with the sound or using the upper/lower case stamp.  I have a set of letter and number stamps.  Actually, two of them.  Both sets are from http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/.

I have both the upper and lower case letters in the Stamping Sticks and the Rubber Stamps come with both upper and lowercase letters as well as the numbers.

  *  Letter Sticks and Curves:  I had been using sticks and curves long before I came across Handwriting Without Tears.  This program uses these as a hands-on approach to letter exploration at the preschool and Kindergarten levels.  I make my own out of card stock or craft foam. You can also use pipe cleaners.  They introduce theirs by using the Mat Man.  http://www.hwtears.com/matman/meetmatman

  *  Playdough Letters:  Simply using letter cookie cutters or making snakes and turning them into letters is very beneficial for those tactile learners.  You can simply draw a large letter on a piece of paper and encourage them to make snakes to lay on each stick and curve.  Or you can download a set from Shelley Lovette's Teaching Idea page...browse down and you'll find them along with other good ideas.  :-)  I suggest laminating your cards after you print them.  http://www.childcareland.com/teach.html.  You can always purchase them at a teacher supply store as well.  I also have dough stampers that are a nice addition to our playdough activities.

These are from http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/.  Mine are a bit different, I have the upper/lowercase and numbers but I thought I purchased them through Discount School Supply or even Oriental Trading but I can't find them on either of their sites.  But this image will give you an idea of what I mean by dough stampers. 

Writing Letters:  After exploring with building the letters, often my preschool students are ready to practice writing their letters.  I steer clear of alphabet tracing sheets more often than not.  I like to provide large paper for them to explore with "writing their letters".  Using tracing sheets with lines and requiring your child to write their letters within the line is not developmentally appropriate for most preschoolers.  These children need to be able to write their letters BIG!  So here are some "out of the box" ideas for letter writing (that you can also use for writing numbers or drawing shapes). 
  *  Window Writing.  We have a sliding glass door.  PERFECT for preschoolers.  I provide washable markers and a damp rag and let them go.

  * Shaving Cream:  Use a tray for easy clean up.  Spray the shaving cream onto the tray in front of your child using the letter(s) you want to reinforce.  Have them trace them before smearing it all over the tray.  A little tip...have only a brief writing expectation prior to letting them explore on their own.  So their "have-to" is to write 3-5 letters in the shaving cream and then let them be.  Give them a few tools if you want.  If they continue to write letters, lovely, if they don't...that's fine also.

  *  Sand Tub:  This can easy turn into a sensory activity.  Encourage them to use a stick, their finger, or a pointer to write certain letters and then, like the shaving cream letters, let them be.  Today we did "Digging for D's in the dirt" for our sensory activity.  I added some upper and lowercase letter D's to the dirt and provided a dump truck and sieve with a few more tools.  Just adding a literacy component to sensory. 

  *  Rainbow Letters:  I have given them large block letters and encouraged them to use at least 3 or 4 colors of crayon or marker to make a rainbow letter but I also have rubberband markers and crayons together and let them explore with large paper also.

  *  Chalk Board:  Oh, they do so love when I bring the sidewalk chalk inside to substitute for the small pieces of chalk.  :-)  Our easel has a magnetic dry erase and chalk board so the children enjoy using the easel with dry erase markers and chalk.  We also use water and a small paint brush on the chalk board side also.  When it gets warmer, we'll be taking buckets of water and larger paintbrushes outside on the sidewalk and driveway.

Alphabet Books: Please don't forget books!  Our local library system sorts their alphabet and number books so we have 2 shelves just waiting for us.  :-) 
Beginning Sound Crafts:  There are a lot of cute ideas out there for activities/crafts that are simple to do but used to reinforce beginning sounds of letters.  I consider these activities part of exploration also.  Here are a few we did these last two days (we're doing alphabet review week).  Whenever possible, add a fill in the blank or dictation sentence and/or encourage the child to write the upper and lower case letter on their work.  Hand over hand is just fine for your younger ones.  
K is for Kite. 
The children traced a wooden diamond and cut out their kite.  Decorated with stamps, glued to the "sky".  Then they squeezed glue in a line and we laid yarn to make the string.  Then they chose from a variety of colors of foam triangles to make the bows.  They had the option of putting as many or as few bows as they wanted on their string.  After about 5 bows, they got a bit tired...glue on small items can be frustrating!

G is for gumballs.
You may wish to use a sentence like the one above for these types of projects.  They will soon learn to "read" that sentence as it's predictable!  Children sorted through "gumballs", colored circles, and found the G and g gumballs and placed them on a circle piece of contact paper.  Then you put another piece on top, then glue on the remaining pieces of the project and write the letters. 
The letters G and g, typically need hand over hand.
I is for icecream.
Children glued a brown triangle, cone, onto their paper.  I provided shaving cream and glue inside of a bowl.  They chose what "flavor" icecream they wanted and I dripped a few drops of food coloring in the shaving cream mixture.  They mixed away (that's all part of the fun.  One wanted a solid color, one wanted to mix two colors.)  When ready, they dolloped the mixture onto their paper and used the back of their spoon to move it around.  Remember young preschoolers might not even get the "icecream" on top of their cone.  Or they may glue their cone upside down.  But it's all okay!  It's "their" work.  No worries!  The children wrote Ii in the cone and then gave a dictation sentence. 

H is for hands. 
Children glued their hands onto their paper and wrote a capital H in one hand and a lowercase h in the other hand.  Then I had "crazy scissors" (craft scissors) available and they trimmed around to make a "frame".  We also included the "H is for hands" sentence where it fit on the paper.  You could also have a fill-in-the-blank sentence such as "My hands can ________________." to spark some thinking on the children's part.  I included this picture because it shows my tactile letters.  These sandpaper letters came from Amazon.com.  Note the dot on the bottom of the lowercase letters.  They have a dot on all their lowercase cards because some of the letters look like another letter (ex. n/u) when rotated.  If you are making your own letters, consider doing the same.  I placed the upper and lowercase tactile letter at each space where we were working.  It reinforces the letter the activity is focused around as well as gives us a referral point for when it's time to write them.

B is for bus.
This week we are doing an alphabet review.  Yesterday's letters were A-F.  We didn't have a lot of "take-home" paper projects for those letters.  This is one of the two.  This is a 9x12 piece of construction paper.  They cut the simple line to make the bus, added two wheels and wrote B on one wheel and b on the other wheel.  Then they chose from a selection of /b/ pictures and glued them onto their B bus.  We went through them together and wrote the corresponding words, emphasizing the first letter (b).  I used a different color crayon for the b in the word to make them noticeable for the children at a later date.  For me it's twofold...it makes a note to the parents to "please reinforce this letter". 

All the above activities were relatively easy for the children to do.  Simple is the best route to go.  Those extravagant projects end up being the adult's work vs. the children's!  We don't want that.  The children are so proud of their "work" when they are done.  Be sure to display the projects you can!  They'll go back to it again and again and "read" the sentences for you.  

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