Build Children Strong Literacy “House” Block by Block

Parents often panic about their child starting preschool or kindergarten.  Are they ready for school? ABCs for Literacy, a web-based company that involves the child and parent in the learning, would like help ease that panic. How? Well, a parent can schedule a web-cam tutoring appointment to gain individualized advice for their child at this website. Parents can even enter online in a drawing to win a free appointment. Or, read on for some guidance in the  tips below to help a child build lasting literacy skills that makes starting preschool or kindergarten easier. Children start school with a range of skills. According to Child Trend DataBank, about 50-55% of children start kindergarten unable to write their name. Parents may worry about this, but writing is a skill that takes time and practice to learn. Preschool and kindergarten children learn best with hands-on activities that build skills from the foundation up similar to a house being built block by block. Building the skills, block by block, will help make learning easy. All the skills are developmentally appropriate for PK and K, but start with the Learning About Name, Block  and see how your child is progressing before introducing Learning About the Alphabet, Block  and Learning About Words, Block . Practice the skills for just 5-10 minutes at a time to keep your child’s engaged attention, and keep the learning full of encouraging remarks. Praise, praise, praise effort and success, and above all, keep the learning fun!

Try the following proven literacy strategies:

  Learning About Name:
Name Song: Every child’s name is special and deserves a song- a name song. Simply sing the letters in the name, a different note for each different letter (same letter, same note). Point to the letters in the name as it is sung, and Wow! -learning. This strategy can be used for first, then last, and middle name. Think about how many different letters that covers!

Name Puzzle:
Make a simple puzzle of your child’s name with cardstock paper or cardboard making distinct puzzle cuts between each letter: wavy between one letter, jagged between the next… Store the puzzle in an envelope with your child’s name written on it so at first your child can look at his or her name as they assemble the puzzle. The name puzzle helps to teach your child that words are made of letters that must be put together a certain way to spell a very special word-their name. Later, when your child is more familiar with their name, have your child try to assemble the puzzle without looking at their name. This builds your child’s skills, knowledge, and confidence. See the YouTube video below for guidance. The first puzzle should be your child’s first name, then make a last name puzzle, and finally middle name puzzle as your child’s skills grow.

Playdough Name:
Hands-on learning is great for this age.  Get out some playdough.  Then write out some “name patterns” –again, first name first, then last name, and finally middle name, as your child’s skills grow. Make sure to write the name properly with a capital followed by lower case letters as this is how the child will learn to write their name in school. Or Comic Sans MS size 100 on the computer is a simple, child friendly font.  Then help your child form playdough “snakes” that can become part of a letter’s line, or curve, or circle.  Cover the pattern with a page protector and your child can practice this skill many times, which helps with fine-motor skill development as well as learning letter formation.  Up the ante with modeling clay instead of playdough-it is harder to form working fine motor skills more.

Stair-step teaching your child to write his or her name:
First, let them trace their name, written properly with a capital followed by lower case letters.  Then, drop the first letter of their name for your child to write independently (tracing the other letters). Keep dropping a letter, or your child may be ready to try writing their whole name looking at their name. Finally, work up to your child writing their name, from memory, independently.  Again, this strategy can used with first, then last, and finally middle name.
Source:  P. Hamm, Educator & Founder, ABCs for Literacy

 Learning About the Alphabet:
Learning about the alphabet is easier if parents have first concentrated on the part of the alphabet most important to children- the letters in their name. This helps your child have some familiarity with, and keen interest in, some of the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Practice Identifying Alphabet Letters with the Alphabet Song:
Purchase your child an uppercase with lowercase alphabet puzzle to explore putting the alphabet together in order. Your child will likely need help assembling such a large puzzle in the beginning.  Sing the alphabet song with your child, pointing to the letters, after the puzzle is assembled. This is good practice identifying the alphabet letters. And, your child learns to use the puzzle as a reference tool.

Playdough Alphabet Work:
Print out the lower case alphabet, making simple circle and/or stick letters (or Comic Sans MS on the computer).  Put this in a page protector. Then help your child form playdough “snakes” that can become part of a letter’s line, or curve, or circle, and name the letter when a letter is made.  Talk about how the letter is made: an “a” is a circle and a stick…Focus first on lower case letters as these are the letters are used most in text, and the goal is getting your child to play attention to text, not just to pictures in books.  Once, your child is pretty knowledgeable about the lower case alphabet, print out the upper case alphabet for your child to practice making playdough letters.  Again, as skills build, print out the upper with lower case alphabet to practice making playdough letters both cases at the same time.

Matching to Letter:
See the YouTube video below to get an idea of the many different strategies using matching to build a child’s literacy skills.  For example, play the matching letter game with your child: write out 2 sets, using different colors, of the lower case alphabet. Lay out about half of the alphabet at first working up to laying out the entire alphabet for your child to “match” the different colored set to the laid out set. Name the letter for your child, or better yet, give them a helpful hint, like: “it the letter after “f” in the alphabet”, if they cannot name the letter. Start out by matching lower case letter to lower case letter simply to help your child focus on the finding the letter, then as your child’s skills grow, work up to matching between the letter cases.  Your child can practice matching independently, but may not be able to name all the letters that is why it is important to play with them some of the time.

Writing the Alphabet:
This may surprise you, but learning to write for a child would be similar to an adult trying write neatly on top of their head- not easy at all. Writing takes time and practice and praise. Wiggly letters are great starts! Help your child by encouraging him or her to first trace the alphabet starting each letter at the top of the letter.  Starting at the top is important! As your child’s skills build, encourage your child to write the letter again below or beside the letter for independent practice. Praise little gains like a straight versus wiggly line.

Letter Sound Connection Learned with Alphabet Picture Art:
Learning the Letter Sound Connection with Alphabet Picture Art: Learning the letter sound connection breaks the code of learning to read. Here a child learns to draw a very simple picture for the letters A-D: ant, boy, cat, & dog. Then the child practices writing the letter and word & practices the letter sound in a way that springboards to writing. A-Z alphabet pictures is in the Budding Artist, Budding Writer eBook $20. Order on Lessons eBook Page.

Letter Aa: Ant - 3 circles & some lines

Letter Bb: Boy - circle & rectangles

Letter Cc: Cat - circles & tail

Letter Dd: Dog - ovals & and almost ovals & circles

Practice Alphabet Sounds:
After your child has learned to identify part of the alphabet, teach your child that alphabet letters have sounds using kid friendly pictures that become a reference for your child. Practice the alphabet sounds daily with these easily remembered pictures. Knowing the letter sounds is key to sounding out words.
Source:  P. Hamm, Educator & Founder, ABCs for Literacy

  Learning About Words: 
Play “I spy” with sight words: Moving on up to words- well, isn’t that what a child really wants to learn?  Read your child repetitious, magical children’s books that make learning sight words easy. Parents know from infancy to late childhood to read, read and read again stories every day to their child. Reading to your child will build your child’s vocabulary for speech and later help understand reading and writing. But did you know, for preschool, kindergarten, and into 1st grade to read and re-read later to your child repetitive stories such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin & Eric Carle or Bark, George by Jules Feiffer. Once your child has part of the text memorized, play “I spy” with sight words that are repetitious in the text. To play, write a sight word like “I, a, me, the, go, no” on a post-it note and let the child look at the post-it while searching the text for that word before or after that page of the story is read.
Source:  P. Hamm, Educator & Founder, ABCs for Literacy

Ten Beginner Sight Words

Read these magical, repetitive children's books with sight words:

1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle

ISBN 978-08050-4790-5  board book  age 2 or higher
sight words:  I, see, a, at, me, do, you,  we (2),
and later the sight words  what, looking
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (Sep 15, 1996)

2. Bark, George by Jules Feiffer 

ISBN 0-06-205185-7  hardcover  age 3 or higher sight words: no, go, the, and, a, said, of,
and later practice the sight words now, went, out
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (Jun 3, 1999)

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

ISBN 978-0-399-24745-3  board book sight words: he, the, but, was, a, on age 3 or higher and later practice the sight word one
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Mar 23, 1994)

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