H and I began our Letter of the Week journey in July 2012 and concluded it in February 2013. She was 3 years and 2 months old when we started and already knew most of the letters of the alphabet and their sounds, mainly through Leapfrog DVDs and toys. Unlike many tots her age, she skipped pre-nursery/playgroup level at preschool, where most kids enrol in at 2-3 years old. So one of my main goals of conducting these lessons were to introduce her to structured learning activities, which she would be doing when she goes to preschool. I also wanted to to assess how much she knew and reinforce what she had learnt on her own.
When I first started looking for ideas on how to start H on Letter of the Week, I was pretty lost and overwhelmed. After attending a phonics training course conducted by a former preschool teacher (more on that in another post), I finally “got it”. It helped that the trainer provided detailed lesson plans, which I adapted to suit us and added in more activities to support each lesson.
So here’s the basic framework on which I based our lessons. It’s meant to be a guide for parents who just do not know where to start, like I did. If any activity mentioned here is not suitable for your child, feel free to skip it or replace it with a more appropriate one. Every child is different. Follow the lead of your child.
Give her a colouring page to introduce the letter, preferably one with pictures. (I used the Tot School Printables by 1+1+1=1.) Since H was already familiar with the alphabet, I introduced both upper and lowercase letters to her at the same time. If the child isn’t familiar with the alphabet, introduce the lowercase letter first. If the child hates colouring or doesn’t know how to grip a pencil or crayon properly yet, use watercolours or finger paint (or anything she can handle) to colour the page.
While she’s colouring, play a phonics rhyme on the CD player (or whichever device you prefer). I used Read With Phonics Songs & Rhymes (Volume 1 – Consonants & Vowels), which was used in the training course mentioned earlier:
The set consists of a CD of 26 rhymes (one for each letter) and a book with illustrations and the words to each rhyme. I believe it’s used in many preschools across Singapore.
If the child is interested, point to the pictures and words in the book as the track plays.
Introduce to the child 4-5 vocabulary words that start with the letter, using real objects or pictures. I mostly used flashcards which had pictures and sometimes words on them. Slot the items into a clear pocket chart, hung in a visible place in the room where the child spends the most time in. I used an 8-pocket chart bought from Daiso; the pockets were roomy enough to hold cards and small objects.
Make an art piece and/or craft relating to the letter. Most of the alphabet-centric art and craft ideas I used were from the phonics course mentioned earlier. Even the materials were provided with no additional charge! Here’s an example:
You may also Google or trawl Pinterest for art and craft ideas; there are literally hundreds out there! Remember to pick those that are age-appropriate and doable for your child.
Do a cut-and-paste activity. This is great for developing fine motor skills and strengthening little fingers. I used the cut and paste pages from Animal ABCs by 1+1+1=1. If your child is too young to handle scissors, cut the pictures out for her, then get her to glue each piece and paste them on herself. Another option is a poke page. Write the letter on a piece of paper, place it on a soft surface like carpet or felt, give the child a toothpick and get her to poke holes through the paper along the outline of the letter.
Do an alphabet do-a-dot page using Do-A-Dot markers, or stickers. We used the dot pages from Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week curriculum. You may purchase Do-A-Dot markers from Amazon and dot stickers from Daiso or bookstores.
Practise writing the letter by tracing along dotted lines first, then freehand writing later when the child is ready. We used the following books:
They’re wipe-clean, so every page can be used over and over again.
This activity may only be appropriate for a child who’s able to hold a pencil with the proper grip. For a younger kid, try letting her trace the letter with her fingertips instead.
Watch YouTube videos of songs or rhymes related to the letter. I recommend using the playlist function on YouTube to create a playlist for each letter of the alphabet, so you can add to the playlists as you come across videos that are relevant to your lesson.
Read picture books related to the letter or vocabulary words that you’re introducing for the week. As an example, here are the books we read for letter A week:
- My “a” Book by Jane Belk Moncure (in the My First Steps to Reading series)
- Hurray for Amanda and Her Alligator! by Mo Willems
- The Adventures of Abby the Alligator by Maria Fleming (in the AlphaTales series)
In my opinion, this activity is one of the most important aspects of Letter of the Week. It helps the child to recognise the letter (and words beginning with the letter) in print and exposes her to early reading skills, such as the order of words from left to right.
The beauty of reading is that it can be done anytime and anywhere, and doesn’t need to be part of the actual LOTW lesson itself. H and I read every night before bed, and before the week is up she’d be memory reading her favourite parts of each book. She loved having “new” books to read every week. It was no doubt her favourite part of LOTW. Even on days when we were traveling, or when she was too tired to work on other activities I planned, we never skipped reading. If, on a busy weekday, you only have time for one activity on this list, THIS should be it!
Lastly, if you have the time and your child is enthusiastic about doing “desk work”, I would recommend adding to your lesson:
- additional activity pages from Animal ABCs by 1+1+1=1; and
- additional activity pages from Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week curriculum.
I bought both of them to expand on H’s learning when she was crazy about doing worksheets at one point of time. (She’s over that craze now.) The packages actually include not only worksheets, but other printable activities such as puzzles, counting cards, Playdoh mats, and more. To save on paper and printer ink, only print out those activities your child would like.
And that’s it! I didn’t expect this to turn out to be such a long post. Please don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you should do everything I suggested. I would like to emphasise that this post serves as a guide only – one I wish I had when I first started out on this journey! The framework I outlined worked for me and my child, and I hope it does for you, too. I would LOVE to hear about how you adapted it for your purpose, or other ideas you have to expand on it.