According to cognitive and developmental psychologist, Marilyn Jager Adams, “The two best predictors of early reading success are alphabet recognition (letter knowledge) and phonemic awareness”.
Letter knowledge is knowing that letters are different from each other, and that they have different names and sounds.
Most children enter school being able to say the alphabet. Many children will learn this skill by about age four. However, being able to say the names of the letters is not the same as “knowing” the letters. Children learn the alphabet best through the active exploration of the relationships between letter names, the sounds of the letter names, their visual characteristics and the motor movement involved in their formation. Set up alphabet activities where children can both see and touch letters.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to help your children learn their ABCs. Instead, here are some ideas that you can use to make your own games that promote letter knowledge.
Using a die cutter
Queen's University has an Ellison machine (or die cutter) that can be used by the public. A die cutter is a hand-operated machine that uses steel rule die shapes to cut through a wide range of materials quickly and easily. It's basically like using a cookie cutter. Die cutters work much better than scissors. using scissors takes time and patience. However, die-cutting allows you to quickly replicate the same perfect shape over and over again. You can make these for little to no cost - purchase your materials you wish to cut at the dollar store to save on costs.
Here's a video on how to use an Ellison machine
Note: Some scrapbooking stores make die cutters available to customers as well.
**Create a Letter Sensory Bin**
Provide different textures of letters in a sensory bin.
Textures you can use:
- sand paper
- scrap fabric/old clean clothing
- faux fur
- cardboard from cereal boxes
**Create Lacing Letters**
Using a strong and sturdy material, cut a 4" set of the alphabet. Punch holes along the outline of each letter. Cut out 26 one-foot pieces of yarn. Put tape around one end of each piece of string to form a point (this will be the head of a “needle”). Tape each “needle and thread” to one end of every letter of the alphabet. Set the ‘lacing letters’ on a tray for children to explore.
**Sandpaper Letter Chart**
Use sandpaper to and 2' letters to create a complete sandpaper alphabet. Glue the letters onto a piece of bristol/poster board. Hang the chart at children’s eye level on the wall or set it on a small table/the floor for exploration. Talk to children about the shapes of the letters and the letter names.
To help young children learn letters, have them sort letters by various features such as those that have a stick, a circle, a dot, a hump, a hook (tail) or a slant. Use magnetic or foam letters at first so children can feel the shape of the letter. You could also use letters on printed cards. Have older children sort letters based on their attributes. Talk with children about how some letters may have more than one feature. For example, both sticks and circles in “d,b,p,q”.
Here are some links that may be helpful to you:
Ellison Machine information at Queen's University:
Queen's Education library's hours:
More suggestions to come tomorrow!