Teaching the Alphabet
Teaching the alphabet for the first time?
Here are some thoughts that might prove handy, insha Allah.
As with many things in life, there is no one correct way to teach the alphabet and no set age to begin teaching it. Both of these depend on you and your child. Some children are able to recognize all the letters at 4 or 5. Some children are still struggling to remember "w" at age six or seven. And the time it takes to learn the alphabet varies as well. Some children master recognition of the letters quickly and with seemingly little help from you. This tends to be especially true when there are older children who have been taught in the presence of a younger sibling. Other children take several years to fully recognize all letters.
I cannot offer a sure fire, proven method for quickly and easily teaching the alphabet. However, if you are embarking on the journey of teaching the alphabet (or planning to do so in the future), here are some things you may want to consider when preparing to teach those 26 little (and big) letters.
I. Which sequence should I teach the letters in?
Again, there is no right or wrong answer. Some educators will say that it isn’t good to teach children the alphabet in order. Some will say that you shouldn’t teach letters that sound or look the same too close together. Some will present the letters in a way that you can only guess what their reasoning is.
Here are a few examples of sequences that are taught:
When I first started homeschooling I read that many teachers did not like to teach the children the alphabet in alphabetical order because they felt that the children would not be able to recognize the letters out of order. I think that part of this stemmed form the fact that children were taught the alphabet song. So I started teaching the letters out of order. For me, the problem with this was that I had two separate tasks now: teaching the letters and then going back and teaching alphabetical order, which would be an important skill later on. I now personally think that teaching in alphabetical order is a good idea as in math; we teach children their numerals in order, 1, 2, 3, not 3, 1, 6. I believe that teaching the alphabet in alphabetical order and following it up with simple sequencing exercises (i.e. put the letters in order: c a b) would make it easier for children later on. My oldest still has trouble from time to time remembering the correct alphabetical sequence.
An opposing view:
"Learning sequences is particularly hard for many dyslexics. Months of the year, counting to 20 etc can be a real problem. When coupled with an inability to read well, this difficulty with sequencing can be debilitating to the dyslexic student’s confidence. I found that the best approach with many students was to avoid the alphabet in sequence in any form. The alphabet is little use to someone who can’t read. What’s the point in being able to find something in a dictionary if you can’t read what it says? There’s plenty of time for alphabetic organisation once you can read. Taking groups of letter sounds and building these into words is the way to achieve reading success.
Some other sequences/rationale:
"I usually teach a set of consonants: m,s,p,l,t. Then I teach the vowel A. This way the kids have letter that we can start to put together into words. Those who are ready can start to sound out words. I then teach another set of consonants: b,c,n,f,h. Then comes the next vowel: O. Now the kids have a lot of letters that they can write words with and begin to read. I continue this pattern until all letters have been covered. I don’t think it really matters what order you really teach the letters as long as you don’t go in order. You really can’t read or write any words with the letter a,b,c,d,e…. It would take too onlg before you get to the point where your kids can read and wirte words."
"I use the McCracken order: MSFBTCARLPODGNWIHJKVUZYQXE They
recommend starting with the ones that are easy to hear and say. I’m not sure why they end with E except that it’s such a difficult sound to hear. It hasn’t occurred to me before to change it but next year, I may put E more in the middle."
Kidzone mentions two rationale: reliability and frequency. http://www.kidzone.ws/kindergarten/consonants-order.htm
This of course brings up another topic: teaching just the letters or teaching the letters and the sounds. I had always believed, more or less, that it was too confusing to teach the letter and it’s sound at the same time.The downside was that once we had finished letter recognition, I was sick of the alphabet and had to turn around and teach the sounds, lol. It really depends on what your student can handle.
AVKO has a rationale for sequencing:
ABCD (RST Y) EFGH I J K L M N O P Q U V X Z. (link however is currently not functioning) http://www.spelling.org/Books/Starting%20Ch%202.htm
Sometimes children will seem to be interested in a particular letter or certain word, like pizza. So sometimes I stop my plans and focus on that letter or the letters in a particular word: p-i-z-z-a. Another approach I have used is to start with a child’s name and teach the letters in her name.
II. How to Teach
I personally feel it is better to employ a variety of methods in teaching the alphabet. Sticking to a set process using the same activities can become cumbersome for a child (and you) and lead to boredom and frustration for the student and the teacher.
- Some teachers/parents teach a letter of the week. I have sometimes done this. However, some letters come quicker than others and working with the same letter all week becomes boring for the child. It is, however, one of the most popular methods that I have seen used and you can pick different activities with each letter to make the learning varied. Some teachers use words that start with a particular letter and base activities around those (i.e., M, mittens, so the students make paper mittens, or make cookies for the letter c.)
- A quick drill that is usually popular around our way:
I write as word on the board/paper. I pronounce the word and then ask my child to name the letters in that word (vowels if we gave started identifying those as well. This is usually popular as I pick words that are fun to them or around them (chair, masjid, pizza, candy). If the get the letter wrong, I make sure to correct it. Sometimes they will want to copy those words.
- Sometimes I make up drill sheets that have the letter they are working on plus review letters arranged in several rows of a table. I might draw or place a treat at the end of a drill row.
- Reading A-Z has a nice article: Alphabet Strategies Bank in which they list many activities to teach the alphabet
- I also have an alphabet resource page on my site with a few alphabet pintables (such as a color in progress chart for your little one to chart your his progress and links to online alphabet books, alphabet worksheets and activities.
Those are just a few thoughts and resources that I thought might be handy if you are just starting out teaching the alphabet. Just remember above all to relax, be flexible, and have fun with your little one(s)!
Happy Learning, insha Allah!