A Great Way to Help Kids Learn Letters and Sounds

Most researchers, teachers, and parents will agree that letter and letter sound knowledge is a basic component to be weaved in while children are beginning to learn to read. In this article you will be provided with great examples of how a teacher creates and hooks into children’s prior knowledge when presenting new letters and letter sounds.
The Class (or family) Book: A very effective way to draw the learner’s attention to the initial letters and sounds in their names and the names of their peers or families.

Materials

o Individual class pictures or family pictures
o Card stock paper
o Glue
o Permanent marker

Procedure

On one side of each page attach a picture of a class member or family member. Under the picture write some simple predictable text such as, “This is {name}.” Highlight or make bold the first letter of each name {Joey}. Over each picture attach a flap of colored paper (that the children cannot see through) to hide the picture. The children make predictions about whose picture is under the flap by the letter and letter sound beginning the name. Put the pages together and bind them into a book.

Instruction

o The teacher reads the entire text to the children.
o The book is left out for the children to explore.
o When introducing a new letter/sound the teacher will zero in on The Class Book page with the student’s name that begins with that letter (later they can zero in on final and lastly medial letters.)

For example the teacher would point to the books and say “This is ‘S’..” and pause, allowing children to make predictions about whose picture may be under the flap based on that first letter. Lift the flap and confirm or negate their predictions.

o Place the child’s name, beginning with the featured letter which was found in The Class Book on the word wall.
o Have the children practice forming the featured letter with clay, in the air, on the floor, each other’s backs etc. Make sure they are not reversing the letter!
o Student should then record the featured letter in his/her own personal alphabet book. The children draw a picture of the child whom they have been reading about in the class book. S/he may also draw or write any other words s/he knows that begins with that letter. Don’t insist on any one way, let each child find their own way to demonstrate the letter in a way that is meaningful for him/her.
o When teaching letter formation, it is important to provide the students with a consistent way for them to recall how to form letters easily. Emphasize that almost all letters start at the top and go down. Teach the exception, some letters are formed by first making the letter ‘C’: such as, O, Q, G, etc.
o Some teachers find it helpful to have a clock on display and make reference to the starting place for those ‘C’ letters as “2 on the clock.”
o It may also be useful to leave pages at the end of the class book for possible letter combinations that may come up (Sherry).
o As letter confusions arise they should be dealt with. Most letter confusions will not disappear with the passage of time in your lowest readers and writers.

They will only become habituated and increasingly problematic for the learner. The most common confusion and most important to get under control due to the frequency with which it occurs in both reading and writing is b/d. The most useful approach I have found is to simply record these next to their corresponding uppercase letter and have it prominently displayed for frequent reference by the learner (Bb, Dd ). For older readers still exhibiting this confusion it sometimes helps to ask the child if s/he can make an uppercase ‘B’. If the student does this without reversing them, explain that all they need to do is picture (or write) an uppercase B and remove the top loop and presto! It’s a lower case b!

Children will learn at a markedly increased rate when you foster a “can do” attitude in them. You are creating “prior knowledge” in them in your making of the class book. Research shows that hooking in to prior knowledge is invaluable for all children’s learning in all subjects. Many children come to school without a lot of prior knowledge so it is imperative that the instructor find ways to create that for them. The Class Book is one great way.