Letter of the Week Series

This year, I'm helping my preschooler focus on one letter each week. He's had a tough time getting his alphabet down, and I think this program is helpful to him.

The concept of teaching one letter at a time has been around a long time - at least since the 18th century, and probably longer than that. The Letter of the Week concept basically consists of exposing your child to a certain letter as much as possible during a set period of time (in this case, about a week). Here's how that might work, using the letter A as an example:

* Write the letter A and tell your child its name and what phonic sound it usually makes.

* Have your child trace the letter with his finger.

* Have your child trace the letter with a crayon or pencil. (Hint: There are lots of free printables online that give children dots to trace to make letters, but I prefer to write the letter with a yellow highlighter pen and have my child trace over that.)

* Watch a video about the letter. (Sesame Street has a YouTube video for each letter, and I find they captivate my children and get them more familiar with the shape of the letter and its name - though, sadly, they don't always include the sound the letter makes. You'll also find other letter specific videos on YouTube - just search for "letter A," or whatever letter you are focusing on.)

* Read books about things that start with the letter; for instance, for the letter is A, you might read a book where an alligator is the main character. (This is mostly for fun; you shouldn't expect your child to truly understand that "alligator" is spelled with an A.)

* Do one or more crafts centering around the letter A.

* At least once a week, sing the alphabet song. I also recommend the DVD The Letter Factory, which is, in my opinion, by far the best resource for teaching children basic phonics.

The idea is always to teach the name of the letter, in addition to the most common phonic sound it makes.

There are opponents to the Letter of the Week concept. They say that "removing letters from their meaningful context removes the meaning and purpose from the letter" and therefore doesn't advance literacy. However, if, during Letter of the Week activities, you keep your drawing or printout of the letter handy and reference it often, you are not taking anything out of context. (After all, we can't expect children who are just learning their letters to read whole words; this would simply confuse and frustrate them.)

The idea is not to focus on things that start with the letter, but rather to focus on the letter itself, and the sound it makes. If, while doing a craft, you say, "D is for dog," you can't leave it at just that. You'll need to explain repeatedly that all letters make a sound; here's what the sound is; and here is a word that starts with that sound. "Hear it? 'Duh-duh-duh- dog. What other words start with the 'duh' sound?"

In addition, most of the research against Letter of the Week took place among low income kids who were rarely read to. And yes, reading, reading, and reading some more is the #1 thing to do to increase your child's reading readiness. But, at some point, children need to know letter names and sounds. That's why I do some Letter of the Week activities - though I do not focus my child's whole life or education around them.

Starting this week, I'll begin posting Letter of the Week ideas - mostly crafts and activities - to help you with your own child's education. I certainly don't expect you to do all the activities suggested; please just pick a few you think will capture your child's imagination. And in between times, read to your child and talk to her about stories, letters you see in everyday life, and the sounds those letters make.

Links to Letter of the Week Activities:

Letter of the Week: A
Letter of the Week: B
Letter of the Week: C  
Letter of the Week: D
Letter of the Weed: E 
Letter of the Week: F
Letter of the Week: G 
Letter of the Week: H
Letter of the Week: I 
Letter of the Week: J
Letter of the Week: K 
Letter of the Week: L
Letter of the Week: M 
Letter of the Week: N
Letter of the Week: O 
Letter of the Week: P
Letter of the Week: Q 
Letter of the Week: R
Letter of the Week: S
Letter of the Week: T
Letter of the Week: U 
Letter of the Week: V
Letter of the Week: W 
Letter of the Week: X
Letter of the Week: Y
Letter of the Week: Z

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