Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From A to Z: Simple Ways to Teach Alphabet and Letter Knowledge

Being able to identify letters is one important skill that is related to beginning reading and decoding of words.  And, although your child may not be able to identify a few letters by name until he is into his preschool or kindergarten years, the process of learning the alphabet and letters can (and should) begin at a young age.  There are some children who can even learn to identify all of the letters of the alphabet well before their second birthday.

Baby bookworm has been learning about letters since about 6 months of age.  Now, that doesn't mean that I've been giving her alphabet quizzes each week, or that we have some strenuous or even formal lesson plans focused around learning the alphabet.  Rather, I have made letter learning a part of our day to day lives in very easy, subtle, and fun ways......take a look at some of the things we have done over the past year and a half.....

1) Games/Crafts/Worksheets

OK, so I have grouped a bunch of things into #1, but they do all sort of go together in a way.  I'll subgroup them for organization.

     a. Letter Games
  • One of my favorite, recent alphabet games that I've done with baby bookworm was based on Bill Martin Jr.'s book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (which comes in hardcover and board book form).  Basically, I got foam letters from a craft store and assembled the coconut tree with construction paper in advance.  I spread out the letters on the table, and as we read the book I asked baby bookworm to find each letter and glue it on the coconut tree.  It was wonderful practice!  If your child is trying to learn his/her name, you could also read the book first then ask the child to search for the letters in his name. 
  • A matching game involving letters is also a great skill builder.  All you have to do is ask your child, for example, to match a letter A to another A. We've done this in a number of ways, but I like this idea here posted on The Learning Hypothesis.
     b. Letter Crafts - there are tons of letter crafts you can do, but here's a few good ideas for inspiration.
  • We recently decorated a letter B with buttons.
  • We've made letters into objects or animals (this idea came from Kathy Ross Crafts: Letter Shapes)
  • You can check out No Time For Flash Cards for some really great craft ideas involving both the upper and lower case letters.  She has ideas posted for the whole alphabet so this should keep you busy for awhile!
     c. Letter Worksheets - Baby bookworm and I have not really been "into" worksheets thus far into her
        short little life, but I thought I would throw it in for good measure.  Plus, worksheets are great for kids
        who are just about to enter preschool because they give some practice at letter recognition and writing.
  • Check out School Sparks for some great letter worksheets and activities.
2) Alphabet Books

There's nothing like a few good books to help your baby learn the alphabet!  Here are a few that we have read in the past week. For an extensive list, check out this 50 Fantastic Alphabet books over at No Time for Flash Cards.

T is for Turkey: A True Thanksgiving Story by Tayna Lee Stone and Gerald Kelley
(appropriate for this time of year)

C is for City: An Alphabet Book (Mr Doodle) by Orli Zuravicky and Giuseppe Castellano

3) Living Literacy

What exactly does living literacy mean?  To baby bookworm and I it means finding literacy (and letters) in our everyday lives.  So for example, we will find letters in our take out menus when I get them out to order food (this happens frequently, by the way).  Or, letters on street signs when we are out for a walk.  Or, letters on cereal boxes when we sit down for breakfast.  It's as simple as that.  I'll just ask baby bookworm..."can you find all of the letter A's in that menu?"

Living literacy is a FABULOUS way to teach letter knowledge to those very active babies who just won't sit still to read an alphabet book from start to finish.

Here's some of my favorite things that we have used to have a letter lesson in disguise:
  • Magazines
  • Business cards (why do I have so many laying around the house?)
  • Can/Box labels
  • Street signs
  • Greeting cards (I have saved so many of these too!)
  • Store signs
  • Menus
  • Fridge Magnets
  • Newspapers
4) Songs

So I can guarantee that you've already done this one with your own baby, but of course, singing the ABCs is one very easy way that we teach letter knowledge.  Your child may even learn to sing them himself before his third birthday.

5) Flashcards

Yes, flashcards.  But, let me clarify before I have other educators and educational psychologists jumping down my throat over this suggestion.  Flashcards may not be for everyone, BUT I have used them with baby bookworm and, personally, I think they can be a great learning tool (when used properly).  I do NOT recommend drilling and practicing letters, however!!!  Think of flashcards much like you would any other "toy".

What I have done with baby bookworm is I've let her "play" with flashcards since she was very small.  Sometimes that involved sucking on the corner of the card, sometimes that involved stacking them in piles, or spreading them out all over the floor.  Sometimes it actually did involve practicing our letters, too.  And when it comes down to it, when used in a "laid back" kind of a way, flashcards are not ALL that different from alphabet books.  Baby bookworm especially liked these Sesame Street Slide and Learn flashcards very much as a baby (and it's especially fun if you make it into a peek-a-boo game). For other creative ways to use flashcards, check out this titled: How To Use Flashcards Creatively For Learning.

So go out there and practice the alphabet in these easy ways! 

Your child will be learning without even realizing it!


  1. What a round up of fantastic ideas! I would love it if you linked it to The SUnday Showcase- a weekly linky party full of child-centered posts like this!

  2. Thanks for checking out this post, Aimee. I linked up, and following via Facebook. I've read your blog before and I think it's great!


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