This guest blog post is by Tiffani Mugurussa of Rohnert Park, CA. It was originally published in October 2013. If you like what you see here, Tiffani also writes a blog called Time 4 Kindergarten, in which she writes about phonemic awareness, classroom decor, numbers, letters, and more!
Letter Learning with Books and Manipulatives
Hi, I’m Tiffani Mugurussa! So many of my students come to school with very little knowledge of the alphabet. For many, singing the ABC is their only connection to the alphabet. This is why so much of the beginning of my school year focuses on the alphabet. We are very busy learning the difference between letters and numbers, what each alphabet symbol represents, and the sound for each letter.
On the first day of school, I begin with the letter A and introduce a new letter each day until we reach the letter Z. This is just an introduction to the entire alphabet; once we have met all of the letters, we begin our letter of the week focus. This is a more in-depth concentration on each individual letter.
To introduce each letter during my 26-day letter introduction, I use alphabet books, flash cards, and other alphabet materials. I have a very old set of alphabet books with cartoonish pictures that I have used for years. However, when I saw the Letter Buddies Letter Books, I knew I needed to use these. The books have beautiful, real photos. There is something about using real photos when teaching—the students really become enthralled with the pictures, and it makes the content you are teaching relevant.
To begin, I share the book with my class. We discuss each photo. Being that many of my students are learning English, these books are a great resource for building their vocabulary. I point to the beginning letter in each word in hopes that the students make the connection that the beginning letter is the beginning sound and the focus letter. Next we try to name some other items that begin with the letter.
I follow up the books and letter introduction with other letter activities during our daily center time.
Here are two of my students’ favorite centers:
Alphabet Manipulatives: Use Beads, Magnetic Letters, or Letter Tiles
Choose one of these manipulatives to place in a tub of rice. Students sift through the rice searching for the focus letter. I colored my rice to make it a little more fun.
Shaving Cream: Spray a small amount of shaving cream on the table. Students can practice writing the focus letter in the cream. They will love this activity, and—best of all—it cleans up easy and makes your tables really clean.
When teaching the whole group, I like to use activities that get the students involved. Pocket-chart sorting is an activity that I use often with my whole class. Using a set of beginning sound picture cards that I have made, students take turns placing the cards under the correct letters.
First, I pass the cards out to the students. I then have them come to the pocket chart one at a time. They must say the name of their picture, the beginning sound, and then what letter the picture begins with. This activity focuses on several skills at the same time, which are perfect for my for my English-language learners. My students are learning English vocabulary, first-sound fluency, and letter names.
A little bit about me: my name is Tiffani Mugurussa, and I am an alphabet-singing, storybook-reading kindergarten teacher. I am also the author of Time 4 Kindergarten, a blog for kindergarten teachers. I have been a teacher for 23 years, teaching grades kindergarten through fifth. This is my ninth year as a kindergarten teacher. I'm a kindergartner at heart. I love being the foundation of a child's education. Knowing that I am responsible for their first school experiences warms my heart with love, pride, and joy.
Do you know a K–8 teacher whose creative classroom activities could use some well-deserved recognition? Have you, yourself, hit upon a strategy that you think works so well that you'd love to share it with others? Do you have a teaching blog or website with ideas you'd like to spread? Come stand in our Teacher Spotlight!
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Each teacher we choose will get some Hameray "goodies" from a series that fits their classroom needs—early literacy, oral language development, striving readers in upper grades, informational text, or literature.