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The Alphabet - Up Close and Personal

Is this a blog?  Am I blogging?

It's been well over a month since my last blogging adventure (I apologize for that!) but with a few SDE conferences, the holidays, and everyday life as a mom, wife, and teacher.... blogging somehow got put on the backburner!

November and December were both packed full of conferences, starting with the I Teach 1st Conference in Nashville, followed by the I Teach Pre K, I Teach K, and I Teach 1st in Baton Rouge.... where I had the most AMAZING time presenting to hundreds of teachers.... eagerly awaiting Christmas break! 

As we reached Christmas break, most of my time was spent with the family at the deer lease, soaking up the last few weeks of deer season.  We also had a pretty good Christmas too, even though it was our first spent without my father-in-law. (Although I'm sure Christmas in Heaven... is a sight to see!)

New Years came and went so quickly because I was back to work on January 2nd!  A couple of work days and my students were officially back this past Wednesday morning!

I kinda had one of those panic moments this past week.... something like this: 
"Oh my goodness... half the year is gone.... where are my students academically?  How much did they lose over Christmas break?  Will they get where they need to be in the next 5 months?"  Something along those lines..... (which happens every.single.year at this point!)

For us to really kick it into high gear.... my students MUST know their letters and sounds for the alphabet.... like HAVE to know it!  Much of the first semester is spent building this foundation of reading; mastering letter identification and sounds, working on blending sounds into words, segmenting words to isolate the sounds, etc.... 

At one of my conference sessions last month, I presented all about the ALPHABET and this led me to really sit down and write a post.... getting up close and personal with the alphabet and just exactly what this may look like in a PreK/Kindergarten classroom.

So here we go....

If you are a Pre-K or a Kindergarten teacher.... then the alphabet is something that you could probably teach in your sleep.  We do it year by year, day by day, and this is one of our goals for our students to master throughout the school year.  Even though the alphabet seems like a pretty simple thing to teach, we always have students who struggle to master letter ID, beginning sounds, often leaving us (the teacher) wondering what else we can do for our students!

Is your current alphabet curriculum working for you and your students?  Here are FIVE tips to think about when teaching the alphabet:

What order are you teaching the letters of the alphabet?  Do you start with A and go to Z.... do you pick and choose what you feel your students need help with the most?  Do you use a researched method of letter introduction? 

This is something each and every teacher who teaches the alphabet needs to consider! 
While the old and familiar method of teaching ONE letter a week seemed to be the way to go.... it's a proven fact that this is no longer the most successful way to teach the alphabet to our students.... for a couple of reasons!

1.  It is taking 26 weeks (that is TWENTY SIX weeks people!) to get through the entire alphabet with our students. 

2. If we want our students to become beginning readers sometime throughout the school year, this method will only hinder them from reading sooner.

3. Some of our students come in already knowing and are familiar with some of the letters in the alphabet.  We are only holding these students further back by taking another 26 weeks to get through the alphabet.

4. A typical school year is 40ish weeks.  If we are taking 26 weeks to teach the alphabet, then we only leaving ourselves (and our students!) approximately 14 weeks to master the art of reading!   And we all know that in those 14 weeks (3.5 months!) ... we have the beginning of school, the end of school, and so many other factors that will limit us the maximum time of those three months.

So.... you know the order that you are teaching the alphabet... but now what?!

Teachers should be introducing and teaching the letter and sound together.  Students need to be identifying both so that they are relating to each other in the child's brain.  This connection is an important step towards reading!
Even if you are not specifically teaching the alphabet in your lesson plan today... your students still need to be exposed to the alphabet EVERY.SINGLE.DAY! 

This doesn't have to be a formal lesson on the alphabet, but it should be included in your day:

- Morning Meeting/Calendar
- Literacy Stations
- Word Wall activities
- Songs/Chants
- Entering or Exiting the classroom
- Fast Finisher activities
- Transitions

If we want our students to be successful... that last thing we want or need to do is confuse them!

When planning the order of the alphabet to teach, be sure similar letters are not taught together,
such as:


Let's take a quick look at what research says about the alphabet!

Do you do this in your classroom?

Research suggests teaching the lowercase letters FIRST because they account for 95% of the text that we read, leaving only 5% of text for capital letters. 

I can definitely see the reasoning behind this as well, because most students come in developmentally only writing in all CAPS, and then we are spending a chunk of time reversing the bad habit of only using capital letters. 

Personally, I teach both capital and lowercase together so that students can visually see and make the connection between letters... but I also agree with the research behind this fact!

Do NOT spend an entire lesson block teaching the alphabet.  It should be quick and painless! 

Here is an example of an Alphabet lesson:

During this 10 - 12 minutes, the mini lesson should include:

1.)  Identifying the letter and sound

2.) Identifying the letter within text (great for your shared reading book, sentences, morning message, etc...)

3.) Producing the sound for the letter (teacher will model, students will produce sound)

4.) Writing the letter

The activities that you include per step should also alternate from lesson to lesson, giving students a variety of opportunities to learn and master the letter. 

It is hard for our students to master the letters of the alphabet, without first mastering the letters in their name.   Have you ever (or still have) a student that still cannot master or successfully identify the letters within their own name?  It happens all.the.time.

This is where all of the amazing NAME activities you see on Pinterest and online can come into play!

When you are planning your brief alphabet lessons, literacy stations, small group activities, etc...  keep this research tip in mind!  Our students should be learning the alphabet through play (yes PLAY!), writing, fine motor activities, and songs / chants / motions!

Did you know that when content is put to lyrics or musical form, it is 90% more likely to be retained?!  Trust me... we sing A LOT in our classroom!

That's right ladies and gentlemen.... the letter a week has GOT TO GO!  It's not just me saying it.... this is research based.... classroom tested!
With the diversity of our students and the ever narrowing curriculum that we are having to teach, we don't have time to waste!  26 weeks is TOO long to teach the alphabet to our students!

Sooo.... you may be already doing this in your classrooms (or you may be having a mini panic attack right now because you aren't).

DON'T WORRY!  Do not go back to school on Monday and re-vamp or change everything!  If what you are doing is working.... don't change it.  However, if you see students struggling or not mastering these alphabet concepts sooner, then you may want to gradually tweak what you are doing and try some of these researched ideas out in your own classroom!

Not sure where to start?

If you need to pick an order to teach the alphabet in.... consider one of these:

This is favorite among educators because it has been around for a while!  The order will begin with teaching the letter M, followed by S, F, and so on, then concluding with the letter E.

Another order:

This is one of the popular Montessori methods, although there are a few out there with little tweaks in the order!

Again, your district may already have an order for you or if you lucky and get to choose, try one out throughout a school year and see how your students adapt or find success within that order you are teaching.

Are you teaching one letter a week?  Maybe you are transitioning into trying two, maybe even three (gasp!) letters a week?  Below are some examples of how to introduce and teach the letters when doing multiple letters a week:

This example is introducing and teaching two letters within a week.  This will get you through the entire alphabet is approximately three months, or 13ish weeks.  (still a lot better than 26!)

Want to try three letters a week?

This will move at a pretty fast pace.... but with appropriate planning and activities, your students will master the alphabet in 7-9 weeks.... leaving much of the school year for valuable time to teach and really dig into other areas of need!

Another big question/concern:
Assessing students for progress on the alphabet!

What assessment system do you use?  Do you flip cards and document the correct/incorrect responses?  Do you fill in a graph for letters? sounds?  A simple check list?

If you are looking for a quick, time-saving way to assess your students AND get your data immediately.... I highly suggest you look into ESGI!

ESGI is saving teachers HUNDREDS of hours in assessing their students!

Interested in a FREE 60 day trial?  Head on over to ESGI and sign up for FREE!  If you want to use the whole year.....

Trust me.... teachers everywhere are PRAISING E.S.G.I for saving time AND giving teachers valuable data on their students!

After assessing your students, not only do you know where your students are and where they need to go, but you can use your results and data from ESGI to help you plan and teach your instruction for the alphabet!

Are you looking for alphabet resources?

These three resources are used in my class every week throughout my alphabet instruction!

Alphabet Write the Room is a student favorite!  (and mine!)  Want to see students engaged and up on their feet?  You NEED this!!!

I have included 10 cards for each letter of the alphabet and a recording sheet for each letter!  You can grab the pack on sale now by clicking the picture above or HERE.

Alphabet Tongue Twisters.... yes please!

Again... my students LOVE these!  I have included a color poster for each letter as well as the matching b/w version for your students to get interactive with!  Throughout learning the particular letter, my students will highlight/color the letter throughout the tongue twister, count the number of words, highlight sight words, and much more!  These posters are a must have!!!!!

Click the picture above or HERE for more details!

This is a JAM-PACKED bundle filled with everything ALPHABET!

There are letter sorts, letter writing, intervention notebooks, play-dough cards, tracing cards, stations, and more!  This pack is perfect for your small group interventions and activities that focus solely on the alphabet!  

You can check it out in more detail by clicking the picture above or HERE.

This little alphabet chart is in poster-size in my classroom and we go over it DAILY!  I also include student sheets in my small group bucket and use as a warm up to small groups!  We chant each day, (A, /a/, apple..... B, /b/, bear.....etc.....) through the chart!  It really allows my students to make a visual connection with a picture and the sound/letter. 

You can grab this chart for FREE by clicking above or HERE.

Whew!  That was A LOT..... but I hoped you can take something back to your classroom with you as you start the second half of the school year!  

Just remember.... don't go into your classroom and make a complete change tomorrow!  Find what works best for you and your students and go from there!  Baby steps.... get you success!

As always.... please contact me if you any questions!!!!

 Happy Teaching!

Jessica Travis
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