Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Classic Post: Letter Learning Made Fun with Silly Hats

Today, we bring you a guest blog post from Greg Smedley with fun kindergarten activities for letter learning. It was originally published in July 2013. For more from Greg   click here for his other posts   and be sure to check out   his blog !

Silly Hats!

One of the first academic skills my students learn every year is their letters. I always set a goal that a majority of my students will know all of their letters and most of their sounds by the end of October. I am always pleased at the end of October when my students have met this challenge. Of course, there will be students who need more time and practice with their letters and that’s OK!  I make sure they get plenty of small-group practice, one-on-one practice, and independent practice in centers!

We use art, music, and some flash-card-type drills to learn our letters. Now, I must admit I don’t do anything in a traditional way. I’m what some people would call eccentric! So, for our daily letter review I use a PowerPoint. All upper- and lowercase letters are included and are mixed in a random order that I change every day. I add in a fun sound effect, and we quickly run through the PowerPoint. This is a quick and different way to go over our letters every day. 

When introducing a new letter or sound, I have another trick up my sleeve. This is something that myself and my students have become quite famous for. When we learn a new letter or sound, we always kick off our learning with a silly hat! Yes, you heard me! A silly hat!

Here’s how our silly hat lesson works:

Let’s say we are introducing the letter   H .   H   stands for hippopotamus, so we will be making a hippopotamus hat. To get my students thinking in terms of   H , we start the lesson with a circle map.  In the middle of the circle I write   Hh . The students then turn to each other and brainstorm words that begin with   H . After two minutes or so of sharing, they turn back to the chart and we share our   H   words. After we have shared our words, we use our   Letter Buddies   book for   H   to see if we missed any   H   words.  We add any missing words to our chart. The great thing about the   Letter Buddies   books is that they often trigger the students to think of more words for our letter! I always make sure that we include the word for our hat! For example, on our   H   chart, I want to make sure we have the word   hippopotamus !

After we complete our chart, I model to the students how to color and assemble their hat. And then the highlight of the morning: I step behind the curtain and slip on my completed hat! I make a big production of revealing our hat! My students love seeing the letter hat on the teacher. And yes, I wear my hat all day! Talk about motivating students! As they get to work on their hat, I can start pulling small groups. The hats serve as a great hook to get students excited about the letter and sound you want them to focus on. The hats act as a great conversation starter when the students are out and about in the building. This allows them the opportunity to share why they have hippo hats on their heads and allows them an opportunity to explain their learning, which is an integral part of the Common Core! These hats are a quick, fun and silly way to introduce letters and sounds to your students!


Z for Zipper                                    Y for Yak!                                N for nest!


My name is Greg Smedley-Warren and yes, I am a bit of a rockstar! I am a male kindergarten teacher! It’s true! We are a rare species, but we do exist! I have been teaching for eight years and I have taught 5 th   grade, 2 nd   grade and kindergarten. My heart is Kindergarten! I believe that every student can succeed and that it’s my job to give them the tools they need. My classroom is full of energy and fun. We are always singing, dancing, moving, and learning. If you were to appear at my classroom door you would see chaos. But it’s really organized chaos. I am famous for my love of all things glitter, all things mustaches, and silly hats! I also write a teaching blog,   Smedley’s Smorgasboard of Kindergarten , which is a peek into my silly and chaotic life as a teacher!

I live in Nashville, TN (Music City USA) with my husband and our Golden Doodle, Butters!


If you'd like to learn about our Letter Buddies Letter Books that partially inspired this activity, you can download the series highlights below!