UPDATE (September 8, 2011): Want more activities? Find a whole bunch here!
No doubt most of your 4- to 6-year-olds are learning the letters of the alphabet. If your kids are anything like ours, they’re really really excited by the whole process.
Here are some of the letter learning activities we do to keep that enthusiasm level high!
All of these take more words to explain than to do. Kids don’t want all that much explanation on these sorts of activities anyway, so usually you can just start doing. They’ll get it.
a) Put your finger in the air. If you’ve traced the letter with your finger on the page in the book, stand up! Now trace the letter with your finger in the air! Write it really big! Now write it really small! Write it slowly! Write it quickly! Finished? Nooo! Now write the letter in the air using your toes! Or write with your elbow! Or write with your nose! Or write with your backside! Or write with almost any other body part you can think of! Note that I said “almost”!
(Teachers, if you’re not already, you’re going to become really good at facing the class and writing letters backwards – the letters will be forwards and correct for the students following your finger.)
b) Full body phonics. This is great for little ones who are just learning their ABCs and for older ones who might want a break from writing another page of phonics. The short explanation is that you’re shaping your body into each letter of the alphabet while making the sound of that letter. It’s all easier done than said.
For example, the letter A (we tend to work with the upper case letter for these): Stand up straight with your arms at your sides. Start to turn in place. At the same time, your arms start going up up up, while you say “A-A-A-A-A….” After maybe 5 turns, your fingertips should touch above your head, and you can stop, face each other, and give a little hop so that your legs spread shoulder length apart. There’s your letter A!
Choose whether you want to tackle all the vowels first or go straight through from A to Z. After 5 or 6 letters, we like giving the phonics sound to the students and letting them come up with their own body shapes for the letters.
c) Correct me, please. Spend a minute or two showing on the board how to write the letter of the day. The fastest way to check comprehension is to then start writing the letter incorrectly. Ask the class if it’s correct.
By my 3rd attempt, my kids are usually shouting out the horrendous mistakes I’m making. When I then tell them to write in their books, they’re eager to start, and they tend to make far fewer mistakes than when I skip this process.
d) How far up? Most of our students understand that letters rest on the bottom line when they’re writing. Some students don’t quite understand how far up each letter should go.
Try this: Using your non-writing arm, make the gesture you make when you indicate the height of someone who comes up to your chest; now move your forearm just a bit away from your body. This is the top line of the letter you are writing. Now take your writing finger, and write the letter in the air below your arm.
Variation requiring 2 people: Don’t move your non-writing arm. Place your writing arm below it to create the bottom line, and you have a writing space. Now ask someone to use the whole space to write the letter you are working on. You can make the space as big or as small as you’d like.
e) Fingerspell. I’ve been teaching my kids the American Sign Language alphabet. I simply believe that everyone should know at least some sign language. Learn some sign language in your native language and teach everyone you know.
Comments, questions, or suggestions, please let me know!