One of the biggest things students learn about in Kindergarten is letters! In some instances, students come to K already know their letters and the sounds they make (some even come to K already reading – bonus!). But many do not. In the community I work in, many of the students come knowing little to no English, and therefore no letters and/or sounds (I should add, in English – many come knowing their home language letters and sounds proficiently). In my class this year, I have 21 students, 16 speak a language other than English at home. So, when I’m teaching letters -there’s a lot to cover!
Not only am I teaching them to recognize what the letter looks like, I am teaching them how to form them correctly (at least I’m trying to), what sounds they makes. Thanks to English being a weird and complicated language, sometimes they make more than one sound or they make different sounds depending on who their neighbour is…
The Letter C is an unreliable, redundant letter. It either makes the /k/ sound as in cat or the /s/ sound as in celery. It is considered redundant because it doesn’t make a unique sound.
The Letter C is part of the /ch/ digraph as in chicken
When C is followed by ‘e’ or ‘i’ it often has the soft sound (as in celery).
Seriously can it be any more confusing for a 5 year old who is learning English for the first time?!?!
That’s a lot to take into account, and over the years I’ve adapted the way I teach letters/sounds/etc. Different groups of students need different things, and I change my delivery each year depending on the needs of my Kindersmartens. In the beginning I started with a version of my letter books, and from there it grew as my teaching practice developed. I’ve borrowed things from other teachers, and Frankensteined them to suit my teaching. Hopefully, you can find something you want to use with your class, so here’s what I do with my class for letter learning because, sharing is caring…
***disclaimer: I teach a FULL DAY program – I have my kids all day, every day…so I have more time in my schedule. When I taught a half day program, I only did the letter book and letter art***
My Kindergarten Letter Learning Activities:
- Letter Tubs – You can purchase Alphabet tubs from Lakeshore Learning or you can make your own, like I did (I will do a post on that soon!) To kick start our letter learning I put all the objects from the tub into a drawstring bag. I have the students sit in a circle and I take the objects out of the bag, one at a time. I don’t say anything at this point, I just pass the object to the student next to me and it goes around the circle. The students naturally chat about what the objects are, and we are at the point that many start talking about what letter they start with. (The first time I did it they were very confused, why was I passing around a feather, a tiny Canadian flag, and plastic fish…those kids who didn’t know their letters and sounds were looking at my like I had two heads!) We do this until all of the objects have made their way back to me and are sitting on the floor in front of me. Then I pick up each object and talk about what it is, and what letter it starts with. I started doing this in the fall, and the kids love it! It’s super engaging and hands-on.
- ABCmouse Videos – these are awesome!! The songs are all different and very catchy. A few years ago my EA was a musician when he wasn’t working with kids, and even he said the songs were really well done! They are also short and sweet!
- SMARTbook activity – I made SMARTboard activities when I actually had a SMARTboard (which was about 7 years ago), when I moved schools my classroom had an Epson interactive whiteboard installed. Luckily, I can still use my SMARTbook files with it! The file has 4 pages:
- An intro page with the letter (which says it’s name when you touch it) and something that starts with that letter (which usually makes a sound or is animated)
- A page showing how to make the letters using the HWT (Handwriting without Tears) pieces (digitally) (otherwise known as the “mat man pieces” in my class)
- I have an entire page of images of things that start with that letter (I always import my students pictures into that page – as we often use students names to help with letter sounds…“what letter says sssss?? *blank stare from child* “sssss? like Sarah” *momentary blank stare, and then lightbulb moment “S!”). With the SMARTbook technology, you can even get images that have sounds attached or that move…or you can just google a gif and insert it 🙂
- Finally, I have a page that mimics a chalk board that the students will use to practice making the letter
- Chalkboards! – These are available from the Handwriting without Tears and are great for teaching letter formation. I had a set at my old school, but (again because I love a good DIY) I made my own. They only thing I don’t like about them is that they are not double sided, like the ones you get through HWT. I use the SMARTbook file to demonstrate how to properly print the letter (based on the Handwriting without Tears method) starting from the top and using their language: big line down, frog jump up ribbit, big curve…ps if I don’t ribbit (aka make the frog sound) on a frog jump letter, my kids let me know by loudly making the sounds themselves. I often wonder if they will ribbit in their heads when they write those letters as adults. After using the chalk, we use wet sponges to make our letters disappear!
I should add I have a very *serious* talk with my students about the rules of using chalkboards…aka NO FINGERNAILS ON THE BOARD OR YOUR TEACHER WILL LOSE HER MIND…jk…sort of…
- Letter Books – Again, I’m going to make a longer post on this activity (I had it started here originally, but it was sooooo long!). So, I will give you the abridged version! After we practice making our letters with the chalkboards, the kids do their letter books. In there they practice the upper case letter, trace over the lower case letter, and then draw a picture of something that starts with that letter (I put the SMARTbook page with all the images up so they can use it for reference). When they are done they put up their hand and I come around to check their work. I often ask them to show me their best letter or the one they are proudest of, and I put a sticker or stamp on it (I’m that dorky teacher that always has the sticker or stamp coordinated to the letter we are doing…aka we just did M, so I had Mickey Mouse stickers from the Dollar Tree for their books). Another thing I do while we are working on our letter books is play the Sesame Street letter songs. I inherited this CD forever ago and the kids love it (as do I)!
- Letter Art – For every letter we learn, I do a piece of art which we glue into our letter books. The art always coordinates with the letter (obviously) and is a fun way to enhance our learning. It’s also a great way to practice cutting and following directions (can I just say the first few letter art activities are always a bit of HOT MESS (because 99.99% of 4 and 5 year olds cannot follow directions at the beginning of the year)…and done in small groups during play time). At the beginning of the year, I print out these letter outlines for each student (plus a few spares) and they are the bases for our letter art (heads up…the letter Y is in the middle of the document, I’m not sure why…I’m the one who scanned it after altering it to match HWT…maybe I didn’t have enough coffee that day). Depending on the art/time, we may do the art right after we do our letter books, or we may do it another day (or the teacher may completely forget about it until someone asks “Ms Leslie, why didn’t we do any art for the letter U?”…oops, really wish it had been “I” so I could have said is was “invisible”.
- AlphaTales books – this is a great series for when you’re teaching letters and sounds! They are also nice and short!
- Letter Hunt (aka Write the Room) – this started a few years ago when I realized how much my kids loved anything with a clipboard and finding “hidden things”. After doing a different write the room activity, I decided to make my own for the letters of the alphabet. There were others on TpT I could buy, but at that time they were mostly clip art and I really wanted something with “real” pictures. Many, many hours (and google images searches) later I had made a Letter Hunt for each letter of the alphabet using Microsoft Publisher. What I really like about this, is I can easily swap out an item for a child’s picture and add it to our hunt! The kids are SO excited when they come in and see those little cards posted around the room! I literally have to corral them to the rug so they don’t find all the words before I hand out the clipboards! It’s definitely a fan favourite in our class! This is an example of the hunt I made…because I used google search for the pictures, for copyright purposes I don’t think I can share the whole thing…)
- Little Letter Books – I have to admit, I have been really bad at doing these this year (even though I printed all of them and a couple of lovely EA’s cut and assembled them for me back in September). A fellow K teacher shared these with me so I don’t have the copyright to them, no clue where they came from, and therefore can’t exactly share them…I’ve tried googling them to see if I could find a link, but no luck. I think they are fairly old – but there are tons of little letter books on TpT – what I do like about these is that they are different than the typical letter book (instead of each page saying “B is for…” they have a little story that has a similar sentence structure on each page with simple sight words and repetitive text), and I have no idea where they came from or who originally made them! They are super simple easy readers. When I remember to do them with the kids, we read the books together starting with a picture walk. We talk about the familiar words we know and use the pictures to help with the ones we don’t (to be honest, some of the illustrations are a little…interesting). After we’ve read the book a few times, the kids colour them in. Last year I kept the books in their book bags with the intent of doing Daily 5 every day…which totally didn’t happen. So, this year after we’ve read it a 3-4 times and they’ve coloured them, I send them home.
And that’s it (haha….oh god it seems like SO MUCH when I type it all out!). I don’t do this all in one day, and some parts are quite quick (like the letter tubs or the Little Letter books). Other parts do take longer, especially in the beginning. BUT – the more you do it, the better the kids get at the activities and the faster they go! I hope you’ve found it helpful! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment!
Thanks for reading!