One of the most important foundation skills in learning to read, write, and spell is the ability to fluently recognize and name the letters of the alphabet. Research has consistently demonstrated that letter name knowledge is one of the strongest predictors of learning to read and later reading achievement. Helping children to understand that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language is known as the Alphabetic Principle.
The progression of development for mastering this principle is as follows:
- Learning letter names
- Learning letter shapes
- Learning letter sounds
- Learning to combine letter names and sounds to make words
You can help your emergent reader by posting an uppercase alphabet chart or strip in your child’s view. Have your child sing the alphabet song while simultaneously touching each letter of the alphabet. Change the tune of the song to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Happy Birthday, or Mary Had a Little Lamb. Changing the tune will help to ensure that the letters L, M, N, O, P will not sound like one letter.
Next, help your child recognize uppercase letters by playing the alphabet-sock game. For this activity you will need a set of 3-D plastic or wooden uppercase letters, an uppercase alphabet strip or chart, and an old sock. Begin by placing the alphabet chart in front of your child. Have your child touch and name in sequence all 26 letters. Then, have your child place in sequence all 26 letters on the alphabet strip. Look closely at the letters and talk about the letter shapes, looking for letters with big lines (F, E, P) , letters with little lines (E, B, A), letters with big curves (C, D, G), and letters with little curves (B, P, R). Now have your child take all 26 letters and place them inside the sock. Lastly, take turns with your child, reaching inside the sock naming the letter by feel before pulling the letter out of the sock. NO PEEKING! If your child correctly names the letter, have them place it on the alphabet strip. If it is incorrectly identified, return the letter inside the sock. Continue taking turns until all 26 letters have been named and placed on the uppercase alphabet strip. Once your child can fluently name all 26 uppercase letters, repeat the game using 26 lowercase letters and a lowercase letter alphabet strip. Finally, as a challenge, combine all upper and lowercase letters into the sock and repeat the game using the same process.