Learning to read and write is a pretty big deal. Think about it, children learn not only how to identify letters by sight, sound and shape they also learn to string those sounds and shapes together to create words. Those moments when a child learns to write their name, or reads their first few words are some of the most wonderful moments to witness.
But what about those children who struggle with differentiating one letter shape from another? Or those who have trouble processing information when a teacher simply hands them an alphabet worksheet to copy? (Worksheets DO NOT WORK. Just say NO to worksheets!!!) I had one five year old student who was having trouble remembering which letter was which, so we worked together and came up with this fun tactile letters game where we use our five senses to explore the alphabet.
What you will need:
dry erase markers
floor space or a large table
tactile alphabet cards (I found these in the Scholastic book order!)
Sensory learning activities give children a full circle of experiences rather than the one-sided experience of simply tracing over a dotted-line shape of a letter. I would suggest avoiding any activities where young children are tracing pre made letters or shapes because it entirely limits their individuality and if they trace the dots ‘wrong’ automatically makes them feel that they have failed. As adults we each have our own unique hand writing style, we need to let our children have their own hand writing style as well.
Because each child is an individual they will each have their own pace when learning about letters. There is no ‘right’ age when a child should know their letters. Some children begin to comprehend letters at age two, others not until they are four or five. Making sure your child, or children are developmentally ready for an activity like this is very important.
This activity gives kids a chance to use more than one method of learning so that they can create more in depth cognitive connections to their letters.
Auditory/Listening Skills- singing the Alphabet Song, responding to questions like, “Which letter comes next after ‘G’?, rhythm of repetition in questions
Tactile/Feeling Skills- picking up the letter cards, feeling the texture of each picture, writing each letter and then erasing it, placing alphabet cards in order alphabetically, practice holding marker
Cognitive Skills-practice holding marker, beginning of understanding that lines when connected make shapes and letters, connection between tactile pictures on cards and objects that begin with corresponding letters- ‘A’ for ‘Alligator’ and what does the alligator feel like?
Early Math Skills- counting the lines of each letter, beginning to understand that lines when combined make specific shapes, sorting and categorizing letters as they are placed in order, rhythm of singing Alphabet Song
Before beginning this game have your child pick out a different color dry erase marker for them and one for you. Explain that you need their help to figure out what order the letters of the alphabet go in, and that you would like to play a new game with them.
Throughout the game ask questions like, “Can you help me find out which letter comes next?” Or, “We found ‘A’ ‘B’ ‘C’, but I wonder what comes next, can we sing the Alphabet Song together to find out?”
I think it is important to focus on Uppercase letters at first, and once those are mastered then begin with Lowercase. Children can feel overwhelmed when given too many objects to take in at once and this can stress their brains out so much that rather than taking in the information around them, their brains will shut down and close out new information.
1. Lay out the tactile alphabet cards on the floor or table, out of alphabetical order
2. Ask the child to sing the Alphabet Song with you one time through, then ask them, “Which letter is the very first in the alphabet?” If they have trouble figuring out the first letter of the alphabet have them sing the Alphabet Song again and ask them to listen for the very first letter they hear in the song- focusing on auditory learning.
Once the letter ‘A’ is decided upon use the white board and slowly write out an uppercase ‘A’ one line at a time, I usually say, “The letter ‘A’ has three lines.” And count them out while I write them.
Have your child practice writing their own letter ‘A’ next and count the lines along with them.
Once both letter ‘A’s are written ask your child to find the letter ‘A’ card in the pile- using the ‘A’s you have written on the white board to compare. When the letter card is found you can say things like, “A’ for ‘Alligator’, and how does the alligator feel?”
3. Continue with this method for each letter, having your child sing the Alphabet Song, write out the letter in question counting the lines and describing the shapes (letter ‘P’ has a straight line down and one bump at top, letter ‘D’ has a straight line down and a BIG belly etc. ), have them practice writing and search for and feel the letter card.
Have your child place the cards they have found in alphabetical order separate from the unsorted cards.
I played this game twice a week for 30minutes with a child in my class who was having trouble recognizing and sequencing letters. After three weeks this child could make it to letter ‘H’ – singing the Alphabet Song, practicing writing and then finding each letter and placing it in order-without help. I would say that the hands-on Alphabet Game is a success!