Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching the Alphabet by Name, Part 1

This is the seventh of a progressive series of posts that we will be featuring on the Hameray Blog every Thursday for 10 weeks (for the other posts,   click here ). Today's post is on Wednesday due to tomorrow's holiday. It's authored by special guest blogger Paula Dugger, who is an educational consultant with a rich-literacy background that includes serving as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, as well as a Reading Coordinator. Hameray is thrilled to be able to share with you Paula's classroom-tested ideas and experience in helping young learners achieve their early literacy goals.

Magnetic Letters and Cognitive Development

Activities using magnetic letters can help in cognitive development both consciously and unconsciously in young children. The letters are colorful, three-dimensional, and they lend themselves to movement and touch. Letters are a part of the print we see around us in the world. Using soft foam letters (Hameray offers a great set of   uppercase   and   lowercase   foam letters), children can learn many skills:

                  -To categorize by sorting, matching, and classifying

                  -To differentiate colors, shapes, and letters

                  -The concept of letters by name, sight, shape, and sound

                  -The concept of words by sight or by putting together sounds to form words

As previously mentioned, my series of guest blogs is on specific activities that use magnetic letters to help with the cognitive development of preschoolers. No activity should exceed five to ten minutes depending upon the age, ability, and interest of the child. These activities should be seen as fun games, and each will be a little more rigorous than the one before. The blogs will be divided into four groups:

                  -Teaching colors

                  -Teaching similarities and differences (or comparing and contrasting)

                  -Teaching the alphabet (letter names)

                  -Word analysis (making words)


Teaching the Alphabet by Name

There are many ways in which a child will need to know and recognize the letters of the alphabet. Knowing the letters by name and being able to match the lower case with the upper case forms is the subject of this post and next week's. Whenever introducing a task, make sure the child understands what s/he is to do. A great framework is listed below that demonstrates how to scaffold an activity by modeling and gradually releasing the activity to the child.  

  Materials used in this Activity: Foam Magnetic Letters and Magnetic Whiteboard

Activity #7: Matching Upper- & Lowercase letters

I would recommend introducing only a few pairs of letters at one time so that the child won’t be overwhelmed. Which letters should you start with? I would suggest starting with the letters of the child’s name. Anytime an activity has meaning and a link to something of importance, the the chance of learning is greater. Every child should be able to recognize and write his or her name upon entering preschool. It is also best if taught properly with the capitalization of only the first letter. Learning to spell and identify the letters of his or her own name will give the child a feeling of great satisfaction and a desire to learn more. 

Depending on your child’s knowledge you may want to introduce only two letters the first day before adding an additional pair or pairs the next day. If choosing letters from a name or word, it might be helpful to write the word/name as a model for the child as shown in the first picture to use as a guide and reference.

Using the child’s name (Mary, in this example), place one pair of letters out at a time and say, “This is the letter a like in your name (Mary).  This (A) is also the letter A that we sometimes use. Can you say the name of these letters (a)?  Can you also find one of the as in your name?”

Next, place a second pair of letters on the board and say, “This is the letter  M  that starts your name. This is also the letter  m .  Can you say the name of this letter ( m )?  Can you show me one of the  m s in your name?

Finally, you can scramble the two pairs and ask the child to match the pairs and to say the names of the letters. Do not proceed to a new pair until the child is able to match and name the ones already introduced.

Continue with this activity as often as possible until all pairs and letters are recognized and matched.

There are additional activities that can reinforce the learning of the letters, such as giving the child the opportunity to do these things:

- Form or write the letters as often as possible, with markers, crayons, chalk, paint, etc.  he    teacher/parent will need to make sure that all letters are formed correctly by modeling how     each letter is formed. The framework illustrated above may be helpful.

- See and identify new letters in text as often as possible. There are many alphabet books such as Hameray’s   Letter Buddies   series that introduce letters in individual books and provide pictures and words beginning with a specific letter. Specific books such as   Aa ,   Mm ,   Rr , and   Yy      can help reinforce teaching the names of the letters in Mary’s name. They will also allow the child to see and recognize letters in words in print, while learning words that can be associated with a particular letter and beginning letter sound.

This was the seventh activity in the series. If you'd like to see the other lessons,   click here !

- Paula Dugger


Paula Dugger has a B.S., M.Ed., and Reading Specialist Certification from The University of Texas at Austin and Reading Recovery training through Texas Woman’s University. Paula does educational consulting and training through Dugger Educational Consulting, LLC and can be contacted at np.dugger@att.net

Paula and her husband Neil are parents to two wonderful daughters, Alicean and Ashley, two sons-in-law Kevin and Patrick, and grandparents to Carter. She also raises registered Texas Longhorns on the weekends. The longhorn cattle are featured in her first book published by Hameray Publishing Group, titled   Longhorns .

If you'd like to order some magnetic foam letters to try out this activity for yourself, you can find them on the  Hameray website . If you're teaching at this stage of literacy, you might also be interested in the Letter Buddies books. Click on the images below to see some key features of the series!