My child can recite the alphabet. Isn’t that considered knowing your ABC’s?
Your child has been able to sing the alphabet song for years, doesn’t that mean she knows her ABC’s? It’s definitely the first step, but no, it does not mean she has a full understanding of the alphabet. Children who start Kindergarten able to identify the names and sounds of the letters, in both their capital and lowercase forms, and in any order have a huge advantage when it comes to reading. Yes, it used to be that Kindergarten was all about learning your letters so you’d be ready to read in first grade. Expectations have changed! Children now need to be able to leave Kindergarten reading at least simple patterned texts (think Dr. Seuss). Since most teachers will start reading groups with their classes by early fall, January at the very latest, that leaves little time to devote to letter/sound identification. Though, of course, it is addressed regularly in just about every activity in the typical Kindergarten classroom.
Now that I know, what do I do?
Practice identifying the letters in your child’s name. Again, not in the same order. If your child’s name is Cole, we want them to be able to pick out the letter “e” and then “o”, etc.
Take Advantage of Car Trips. When driving in the car, call out things you see and ask your child what letter he hears at the beginning and then identify that letter. For example, McDonald’s starts with the sound /m/. What letters makes the /m/ sound?
Magnetic alphabet letters. Your child can use the magnetic letters for exploration, to copy words he sees or to work on letter and sound identification. You can also have them sort the letters into groups such as: ones with curves and ones with only straight lines, ones in their name, etc. A great tip for busy parents is to use the letters with a cookie sheet. This way your child can play with the letters wherever you are, in the car, at the doctor’s office, sitting in the grocery shopping cart, etc.
Rainbow letters. Have your child write a letter in red. Then have him write it again on top of the red letter only this time in orange. Continue with all the colors of the rainbow.
Shaving cream. Spread shaving cream on the kitchen counter, bathroom mirror or any flat surface that you don’t mind cleaning later. Then let your child write letters in the shaving cream.
Play-dough. Have your child make their play dough into long snakes. Then have them use the snakes to make different letters.
Letter Songs. Sing songs like the “Apples and Bananas” song that change letters. This one is especially great because it changes vowel sounds with Opples, Bononos, etc.
“I Spy.” Play “I Spy” only instead of spying colors spy things that start with a certain letter or sound. If you are spying something that starts with the letter “b” but your child guesses something that starts with a different letter, use this as an opportunity to discuss the letter and sound of the object your child guessed.
Art Supplies. Use all sorts of different art supplies to write the letters. Bath crayons, sidewalk chalk, scented markers, finger paints stamps the list goes on. After practicing writing different letters have your child then draw a picture of something that starts with each letter you practiced writing.
“What to Expect”:
Don’t forget that your child needs to know that vowels have two sounds. Both short and long sounds are important! Children also often confuse the sounds of letters “u,” “w” and “y.”
Point out different fonts to your children when the opportunity presents itself. Letters like a and g often look different depending on the font used.