As a pre-K and/or kindergarten teacher you are faced with the task of teaching 26 letters and their sounds to a class of students who vary significantly in motor skills, development, and learning styles. It can be quite daunting. A method that I found to be successful with my students was using a variety of instructional approaches and resources as well as varying the times of these activities.
I begin the day with a whole group activity, usually morning meeting (or circle time), where the letter is introduced briefly. Then, I split the students into 3 groups giving each group a name (sometimes they are animal names (lions, tigers, bears) or food names (ketchup, mustard, pickles) or pet names (dogs, cats, fish), etc.). The groups are not always the same, I try to change the students around every week or so. Each day a different group begins at a different center so that the students are experiencing a variety of instructional styles and activities at various times of the day. Not all students have the same bio-cognitive styles so varying the schedule helps provide for these differences.
The small group center I lead focuses on recognizing the letter, learning its sound, and forming or writing the letter. I like using puppets to introduce the letters because it makes learning fun and interesting for the students and provides novelty (each letter has a different puppet as well as a different interactive activity). The students get to sing songs and do a different hands-on, interactive activity with the puppet each day we are studying the letter. For example, when learning the letter C with Carrie Cat students get to put C cookies in her cookie jar one day and then go “clamming” with her the next (digging for C clams or if we were working on letter sounds the clams would have pictures and they would find the clams that had pictures beginning with C).
The puppets’ names each begin with the different letters of the alphabet helping children remember and learn the letter and its sound. The puppets “live” under the letter on our classroom alphabet display as a visual reminder as well. The puppets also ask if anyone else’s name begins with their letter and then I hang a picture of those students under each letter too.
When working on writing and/or forming the letters I provide practice in a variety of styles and ability levels. I have differentiated letter pages ranging from large bubble letters to writing within 3 lines. Sometimes we form the letter with play dough, sometimes we do rainbow tracings (trace the letters as many times as desired with different colored crayons), sometimes I provide a variety of papers for all ability levels and allow the students to choose which one to use and other times I choose for them. The key was using variety and choice. Below are a few examples of some of the pages.
The next center is a game center where students are moving about and using gross motor skills. The games are always different according to the letter we are learning. For example, when learning letter A we play Musical Apples which is similar in nature to musical chairs except the students have to find an apple cutout that contained a letter A when the music stopped. For letter M they play a mitten relay race where they have to run and find a mitten with an M from a pile of mittens or a mitten with a picture that begins with M. For letter P they play a purple and pink penny pitch game where they throw pennies and try to land them on a P.
Sometimes it is a review game that covers several letters (four corners, letter baseball, etc.).
The third center is an arts and crafts, creative center. Students create or experience something beginning with or related to the letter. For example, they do apple prints for A, build something with Lincoln Logs for L or make a log house out of pretzel sticks (student choice), play with goop or gak for letter G, glue feathers or fish (Goldfish crackers) on an F or fingerpaint an F.
Motivate & Encourage
Even with all of these fun ideas, learning 26 letters and their sounds can be overwhelming for young students which is why I like to motivate and encourage them each step of the way with brag tags. They receive a special and unique brag tag for each letter learned.
Receiving something special to celebrate their efforts (especially if they have been struggling) can energize their desire to learn more, rekindle enthusiasm about learning the alphabet, and restore their confidence and commitment.
The brag tags also give students a visual of what they have learned, they can use them to review the letters, and they help me keep track of what letters students have mastered.
By using a wide variety of novel activities that address various learning styles I was better able to not only make learning interesting for my students but address the diverse needs of each individual student. Also, varying the schedule and times of the activities and providing students choice helped the students succeed as well as become independent learners.
If you would like to see all of the activities, puppets, songs, games, etc. that I used to teach the alphabet they are included in my Alphabet Activities & Pages Bundle OR you can get the differentiated practice pages here.