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Teaching preschoolers the alphabet & letters

 
Being able to read is a vital life skill, so make the early stages of learning the alphabet as fun as possible for your preschooler. Preschoolers learn and develop best through using their whole body, all of their senses and their natural environments. You’ll find that most preschoolers begin to recognise letters when they’re about 2 to 3 years old, and are able to identify a large number of letters between 4 and 5 years old.
Being able to read is a vital life skill, so make the early stages of learning the alphabet as fun as possible for your preschooler.

Preschoolers learn and develop best through using their whole body, all of their senses and their natural environments.

You’ll find that most preschoolers begin to recognise letters when they’re about 2 to 3 years old, and are able to identify a large number of letters between 4 and 5 years old.
 

Teaching preschoolers the alphabet & letters

 

7 Activities for teaching preschoolers letters


Families and caregivers play an essential part in teaching early childhood literacy skills.

When teaching your preschooler a new letter of the alphabet, ensure that tthey can:
 
1. HEAR the letter
 
  • Help your preschooler to listen to the sound that the letter makes.
 
  • Use words that start with the same letter and see how many words they can think of that starts with the letter.
 
  • Read aloud with your preschooler every day and place emphasis on the words that start with the letter or that have the letter in them.
 
  • Play eye-spy using the sound of the letter. Listen to music and help your preschooler to recognise words in the songs that start with the letter.
 
2. SEE the letter
 
  • Help your preschooler to notice the letter in the world around them.
 
  • Show your preschooler examples of the letter in the names of friends and family, books, store names, product names, signs, magazines and recipe books.
 
  • Make letters on their plates using food or snacks like carrot strips, crackers, cheese strips, spaghetti etc.
 
  • Use cookie cutters and cut the letter from pieces of bread.
 

 

3. SAY the letter
 
  • Ask your preschooler to repeat the letter and letter sound after you have said it.
 
  • Ask your preschooler which letter specific words start with, using words that all start with the same letter until a variety of letters have been learnt.
 
  • Point to a letter and ask your preschooler what letter it is.

 

4. TOUCH the letter
 
  • Create opportunities for your preschooler to trace the letter using their fingers and toes.
 
  • Allow a variety of tactile experiences by using different resource media.
 

 

5. CREATE the letter
 
  • Ask your preschooler to create the letter out of play dough, batter, matchsticks, food, pipe cleaners, wire, boxes, nature (sticks, stones or shells), slime, in bread with cookie cutters etc.
 
  • They can even use the limbs of their body to create the letter.

 

6. WRITE the letter
 
  • Encourage your preschooler to write the letter using his/her fingers or toes using all sort of homemade paints, sand, slime, water, and the air.
 
  • Ask your preschooler to write the letter using a crayon, paint brush, feather, matchstick or earbud.

 

7. READ the letter
 
  • Read a variety of books with your preschooler and together you can identify the new letter learnt, as well as the sound that it makes.
 
  • Show your preschooler a variety of 2 and 3-letter words that start with the letter or that have the letter in them and read the words together.
 
  • Identify the letter in the names of friends and family, store names, product names, signs, magazines and recipe books then help your preschooler to read the words.
 

7 Things to remember when teaching the alphabet & letters

 
1. Teach the sounds & names of the letters together
 
  • The sound of a letter is often different from the name of the letter and in both reading and spelling; it is the sound of the letter that is important.
 
  • When you teach the letters of the alphabet to your preschooler, teach them the name of the letter and the sound that it makes.
 
  • Teach your preschooler the name of an animal and link it to the sound it makes.
 
  • The letters of the alphabet are much the same. Each letter has a name, as well as a sound that it makes. 
 
2. Teach lower case letters first
 
  • Most ABC books for young children teach upper case letters first, but only 5% of all letters in the written English language begin with a capital letter.
 
  • Lower case letters are more important in developing reading and writing skills, as these are the ones that preschoolers will be introduced to first, and more often in their natural environments.
 
  • When preschoolers move on to reading basic books, they can then learn the upper case letters.
 
  • The books will allow them to identify the upper case letters as well as the related rule e.g. the first letter of a name; the first letter of the first word in a sentence. 
 
3. Teach a mixture of consonants and vowels
 
  • Teach your preschooler a mixture of vowels and consonants first, alongside teaching the order of the alphabet.
 
  • It is not encouraged that you teach your preschooler the letters in the order of the alphabet. How many words can you think of that use the letters a, b, c and d? Not many.
 
  • If you teach your preschooler the letters in order of the alphabet, they are will find it difficult to read a variety of basic 3-letter words until they have moved quite far down the alphabet.
 
  • Teach your preschooler the vowels and the most commonly used consonants first. In this way your preschooler can learn to read, spell and write a greater variety of basic words.
 
  • Teaching the letters of your child’s name or family members is a great way to start as this gives meaning to the letters.
 
4. Read books aloud as often as you can
   
  • Take them to the library and allow them to choose books that interest them.
 
5. Read a variety of books
 
  • Preschoolers need to experience a variety of books e.g. picture books, hard backs, comics, magazines, poems, rhymes and information books.

 

6. Talk about books
 
  • Always talk to your preschooler about the book; about the pictures, the characters, how they think the story will end, and their favourite part.
 
  • By doing this you will be able to comprehend what they have understood about the book and you will help them to develop their speech and language skills.
 
7. Help your preschooler to make different types of books
 
  • Help your preschooler to make their own books, which will encourage them to explore, create and develop a love for letters, words and reading.
 
  • Your preschooler could even make a letter book for each letter, even if the book only consists of pictures.
 
  • When preschoolers read the books that they have created, their self-confidence in reading ability and fluency increases, and this will encourage a willingness to learn to read, and a love of the written word. 

More kids learning articles to enjoy:  
Source: Article written by Emma Loggenberg. Emma runs a company called Tuputupu Kids and has recently completed her Master Thesis in Educational Psychology. She also has a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and has completed advanced courses in Play Therapy.
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