Teaching alphabets to preschoolers
How Do Children Learn?
It might surprise you to know that we all learn through different modalities. According to Dr. Howard Gardner, a worldwide acclaimed professor of education at Harvard University, the traditional concept of I.Q is far too limiting. In fact, there are a number of different modes of learned intelligence, the most widely recognized are below:
- Visual (spatial) – Pertains to people who prefer learning through pictures, images and spatial understanding.
- Aural (auditory-musical) – Pertains to people who prefer learning through sound and music.
- Verbal (linguistic) – Pertains to people who prefer learning through words, using both speech and writing.
- Physical (kinesthetic) – Pertains to people who prefer learning through use of their hands, through sense of touch and their body.
- Logical (mathematical) – Pertains to people who prefer learning by using logic, reasoning, processes and systems.
- Social (interpersonal) – Pertains to people who prefer learning when in groups with other people.
- Solitary (intrapersonal) – Pertains to people who prefer learning when they’re left to their own devices to study alone.
Research shows that particular learning styles are a result of several influencing factors, including sociological, biological and cultural characteristics. With all these aspects playing an instrumental role in how each individual child learns. Which one are you? Whichever you are, you’re also an individual, as are the little ones you’re trying to teach. So, remember that if one method doesn’t work, you can try another, or a combination of any of the above. Here are few of the basic techniques for the more common strategies below.
- Provide a lot of auditory stimuli like music
- Use verbal reinforcement
- Allow for group activities and class discussions
- Get the kids to read aloud and put their letters/words into a rhythmic pattern
- Give the kids as many visual clues as possible
- Use pictures, charts and videos to stimulate them
- Ask them to complete assignments in writing
- Use bright colours
- Encourage their creative side by drawing and taking notes
- Allow for activities which get the little ones to participate interactively
- Use hand-on activities and include actual body movement
- Provide many opportunities to stand up and stretch out
- Encourage kids to participate by practicing and touching
It’s a good idea to treat each child as an individual and not expect the same learning outcomes from each. You may have children with dyslexia or some other form of learning disorder which makes it hard for them to learn the same way other children do. The Journal of Trends in cognitive sciences says that children with these particular types of disorders have impairments in the fundamental process of learning language, which means you’ll have to find an alternate and individual method for teaching them.
Read to them
There are several tried and tested methods for teaching the alphabet to youngsters but the even the best of these pale in comparison to the effectiveness of simply reading to them. Submersing your kids in language through reading aloud to them not only forms a bond between you both, it actually teaches them more than basic language skills, it teaches them nuance and inflection. Point out the letters on the page as you say the words so they can associate the sound with the letters. According to a research paper from Hill and Diamond, University of South Australia, shared book reading between adults and children has “consistently shown positive impacts on young children’s acquisition of a range of important early language, literacy skills and interaction skills”.
Read, read and read some more! Read rhyming books and picture books, read nursery rhymes and fairytales. Kids especially love it when you make up the stories as you go along, usually using their names in place of the hero of the story. Even reading from cereal boxes or everyday items around you like signs, can make a huge difference in the progress of their language skills.
Teaching Writing Alphabets in Preschool
Create a map or curriculum of how you’d like to teach them letters and stick to it. This is incredibly important because kids need consistency to flourish. If your preschool has a definite curriculum, you need to really embrace it and make it your own. You can always complement the curriculum with your own freestyle learning methods. This is where you can incorporate playful, fun activities that will engage the kids and teach them that learning can be fun! The Journal of Children (Basel) says that “playfulness helps us maintain social and emotional equilibrium in times of rapid change and stress”, which is incredibly important to learn as a child.
There are many theories on what works best but most prescribed curriculum will probably include a letter a day or week exercise. This is where the kids learn their alphabet letter by letter, as in “A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat” and so on. Not all early childhood professionals will use this method and you should note that many children easily learn the alphabet without the rigid structure of this particular technique.
Many early childhood educators actually prefer the Carnine Order of teaching the writing alphabet to preschoolers. It’s different to the traditional alphabetical order as it teaches the alphabet phonetically and is based on the research of Carnine and associates. This method separates the teaching of letters that are often confused visually, such as b and d. It also draws a distinction between the letters that are similar in sound, for example a and u.
Using this technique means you’ll be teaching the most frequently occurring letters first. It teaches both upper and lower-case letters. The upper-case letters that look similar to the lower-case version are taught at the same time. With the upper-case letter that don’t look the same as their lower-case counterpart are introduced after the lower-cases have been taught. The Australian newspaper reported that a Brisbane school which gave free phonics lessons to kids in daycare elevated its NAPLAN scores by giving kids a huge head-start in reading.
Instead, you might choose to teach your little ones the letters in their names first. Since kids have seen the letters in their name and listened to the sound of those letters for their entire lifetime, it makes a certain kind of sense to start there.
It’s a fantastic idea to add some music and movement when you’re teaching writing alphabets in preschool. The kids will absolutely love it if you make it a musical medley that they can learn and repeat in their gorgeous little sing-song voices. You can even get them to sing the song backwards once they’ve learnt it whole and are growing bored with the repetition. Put some fun or funky actions to the song and you’ll have a hit on your hands! The beautiful thing about this technique is that you combine kinesthetic, auditory and visual learning by teaching them an alphabet with letters and actions. It also helps with memory retention.
Another great method is to create your own picture-sound-action cards which, as the name suggests, has the letter coupled with an associated sound and accompanying action. Get them to sound out the letter while doing the action and it’ll become a game to them. If you make it playful and fun, you’ll be guaranteed of their attention. It’s all about keeping their attention and focus at this early stage of learning. You need to engage them wholeheartedly in the activities associated with learning their letters and movement with music is a terrific way to do that.
Children absolutely love arts and craft, so include some time during the day where they get to use paper and scissors, paint and glue, crayons or felt pens to design their own letters. You can make alphabet bracelets with the letter of the day/week on it. It’s something that they can take home to their folks and proudly display. The kids will love doing interactive alphabet workbooks that they’ve made themselves. They can cut, glue and stick together all types of little flaps which will reveal each letter.
Most kids have access to a computer or tablets by this stage so encourage them to go online and download apps (with Mum and Dad’s approval) with word games. There’s a whole heap of fun games they can access online so why not utilize what’s readily available, especially during those times when you’ve run short on paint and glue, due to the kids making too much slime, which is the craze at the moment!
10 Fun Ways to Teach Writing Alphabets in Preschool
Here’s 10 playful alphabet exercises for preschoolers!
- Singing the ABC’s in an easily recognizable tune
- Cut out letters and paint a giant monster picture that they can feed them to
- Use scrabble tiles to build letter towers
- Write the alphabet in chalk and the kids can jump on each letter and scream it out
- Make letters from pipe cleaners
- Practice writing in sand
- Do a Letter Hunt – It’s like an Easter Egg Hunt only with letters
- Get the kids to type onto a keyboard and shout out the letters they type
- Make a sensory bag with an apple in it for A, ball in it for B or a cape in it for C etc.
- Play musical chairs where you sing an alphabet song and the kids have to stop on each letter.
Ways to Interact with Preschoolers
It’s quite simple to interact with preschoolers or kids in general. You simply need to know how to have fun! Play with them, read to them, be interested in them and what they’ve got to say. You might be surprised at how bright and curious their little minds are. They’ll drive you crazy with questions that have no answers but it shows that they’re learning so encourage them to ask. Use the alphabet exercises and create worksheets they can track their progress on. Write and draw, paint and play, sing and dance, just engage in a meaningful way. Practice their reading and writing but don’t forget to make it fun so they don’t see learning as a chore.
How to Become a Preschool Teacher
To make a career out of early childhood education, you need to understand and interpret the unique and dynamic needs of each child. To fully comprehend that task, you should be prepared to undergo some training and education.
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