The activities explained below can be used for teaching your child(ren) to recognize and learn letters. One thing that I loved about this topic was that it is important to note to your child that letters are truly just shapes. When working on these activites with your child, make sure to use the term "shapes," not "letters". "Letters" is more of an abstract term for children at this stage and "shapes" is something that they will be able to better understand and comprehend.
For this activity, you will need the small magnetic letters. Oftentimes, you can find them at such places as Walmart or Target in the inexpensive toy aisle. Leap Frog Alphabet letters may not work as well for some of these activities because you want your child to be able to feel all the bumps and grooves of the letters. Also, try to stay away from typewriter style letters. This is not typically how students will learn to write their letters once they are in school!
Sorting is just what the name implies; you will ask your child and demonstrate to them how to sort using the following techniques:
- Colors: Sort the shapes into matching colors (i.e., red, yellow, blue, etc.). If your shapes are differents shades of red, for example, let your child take the lead. Do they want to sort the shapes into all reds, all yellows, etc.? Or, do they want to break down the colors further (i.e., yellow, orange, yellow-orange, etc.)?
- Size: Sort the shapes into fitting into the attic, main floor, or basement. This one may be a bit confusing, but compare the shapes to a house. A house has an attic, a main floor, and a basement. The shapes, when typically written on a line, will be tall, short, or hanging on the lines. When I say the lines, I mean one that typically looks like this:
- So, in this example, A, b, d, F, h, and i would all fit into the category of attic because they are on the top line. As for the main floor, the letters are c, e, and m. And, for the basement, g is the letter because it hangs below the line.
- Attributes: For attributes, you will want to sort each of the shapes into sticks, holes, tunnels, and broken. Do each of these one at a time because some letters may fall into two different categories. For sticks, you are looking for straight lines; holes are circles; tunnels are flat with an arch (think of a train tunnel!); and broken is the shape that looks like it has been broken. As for examples, F, A, x, and z are examples of sticks. Examples of holes would be b, d, and o. Tunnel examples would be B and e. And, finally examples of broken are E, H, and L -- basically, it looks like the shape was snapped in half or bent at a right angle!
- Sound: When sorting the shapes/letters by sound, you will determine what is happening with your mouth when you make the sound of the letter (not the name of the letter!). Do you use your lips, teeth, tongue, or throat? As examples, p uses lips, l uses teeth, d uses teeth, and h uses throat. A fun twist on this exercise is to watch yourself in the mirror while making the sounds!
- Upper/Lower Case: Lastly, sort the letters into upper and lowercase letters. A twist on this one is to compare the upper and lower case matching pairs. Do they look the same? Do they look different? How? I even thought you could talk about how they look different by using some of the sorting descriptors above (i.e., attic vs main floor, sticks versus holes, etc.).
As you can probably tell, there is a bit of a sequence here. For the young ones, you will want to start with the color sorting and move your way through from there. If you have an older child, s/he may be too advanced to start with the colors, so you may want to start with the attributes instead. Also, you can then move from using the term "shapes" to "letters."
Though I am far from the expert on this subject, I do see how these can be so helpful to kids in learning their letters and reading. First of all, what great ideas to help them remember how to actually draw the shape of the letter (i.e., size and attributes). Secondly, this can be so helpful with learning the sounds of the letters, especially if you are demonstrating and watching yourselves in the mirror! And, lastly, understanding the difference between upper and lower case letters and how they compare and contrast can be so beneficial when learning letters and how to read!
I hope that these ideas help you as much as they have helped me! I loved these ideas and cannot wait to try them out with my son!
Coming Soon: Roaming Around the Known