Monday, January 23, 2012

Step One Teaching Letters

I spent the better part of four years of my teaching career heavily focused on teaching little ones to recognize letters and their sounds. Most of the children I taught had some sort of learning disability. Now when my own son Cole was 3 and many of his little friends were recognizing their letters with ease and he was not , I started to work with him. As I write this it even sounds ridiculous to me that I was concerned that my 3 1/2 year didn't know his letters, but well in that moment it seemed like the world was passing him by. I want to share some of the strategies here that I have found to have worked with my students and some that worked with my son.

Here are my disclaimers:
1. Children all learn at their own pace!
2. You may spend weeks trying to teach your child something when if you just choose to wait a little longer till they are developmentally ready it will take much shorter an amount of time.
3. Learning should be fun and as integrated into play as possible.

Strategy 1
Letter Sound Cards

This has been the most successful strategy I have ever used when teaching and it is so silly and simple. Basically you are creating a ring of flashcards for your child. I have found it to be most effective though to do it in this way:
  • Start with two letters to learn. One should be the first letter of you child's name and the other should be an easily learned letter such as b.
  • Using a word document program in large font (about size 100) type the letter you will be learning in both upper and lower case, then with your child search Google images for an image that shows an example of the corresponding sound. Make sure your child selects the image to use, it is essential that they are part of this process. I like to use actual pictures of people we know for some letters. So for C we use a picture of Cole. Then simply cut and paste into that word document.

  • Once they are printed, if you are fortunate to have access to a laminator then use it. I then used to hole punch the cards and use a circle ring to keep them together.

  • When you practice with the cards you have the child touch the upper case letter and say the letter name, then touch the lower case and say the sound, then touch the image and say the corresponding word. This way they are learning a few things at once. Even if there is not mastery of each sound, most children will easily learn the sounds for letters such as b, d, and p. Here is the video example of how to practice.

  • Now don't do all drill and practice with these. You can create games such as saying a sound and finding the letter, make double copies and do matching, use movement and call out the sound and have the child run to each sound.

The important part of this lesson is to make your child really successful with each letter before adding more. Only add a few at a time, no more than three. I also like to do the alphabet out of order. First select the letters most meaningful to your child such as the first letters of the names in the family. Then select easy to learn letter sounds such as p, t, and b. Also when teaching your child the vowels, I suggest you teach them the short sound. If you need a refresher on those sounds, check out for a little help.

I will post more tips and how to use technology to help in the next few weeks. This is just one way that I have found helpful to many different kind of learners and I hope it works for you child too.


  1. This is great!! So wonderful to get them familiar at an early age and such a fun way! Thanks so much for linking up to "Strut Your Stuff Saturday." We loved having you and hope you will be back next Saturday to share more of your terrific ideas! -The Sisters

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