Writing the letters A to Z may seem difficult to teach among preschool children, but with constant practice and with the correct teaching strategy, this skill will soon be easily assimilated. An effective teacher must include engaging, multisensory activities to help children learn to recognize and write each letter from A to Z correctly—and with ease and fun!
With creative, engaging, hands-on activities, children will easily remember the shape of each letter as they develop into writers and readers.
How Children Learn Letter Formation
- Students learn letter formation best through active exploration of letter names, the sounds the letters stand for, the letters’ visual characteristics, and the motor movements involved in their formation.
Teaching to All Learning Styles
- It’s important to know that there is a range of learning styles in the classroom: that visual learners learn best by seeing, tactile learners by touching, kinesthetic learners by doing, and auditory learners by hearing.
- It’s a good idea to give every child a chance to engage in all kinds of activities; combining modalities often leads to faster learning.
Working with Learning Challenges
- For students with learning disabilities, we must provide activities that fit a range of learning styles to compensate for limitations. A combination of visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and auditory activities nurtures different learning styles and involves the whole group.
- Children with learning difficulties face many different issues in handwriting instruction.
Disabilities that Affect Letter Formation
- Dysgraphia – It is the lack of control of the handwriting muscles. Children with dysgraphia may:
- write backward;
- use heavy pressure, thereby smudging the paper;
- struggle to maintain consistent spacing within and between words; and/or
- erase repeatedly.
- Fine-motor limitations – Children with these difficulties may:
- struggle to control writing utensils and scissors;
- struggle to button and zip clothing; and/or
- have difficulty copying simple shapes.
- Visual memory/discrimination weaknesses – Children with these difficulties may:
- confuse letter orientation (for instance, b and d, or n and u);
- reverse a series of letters (for instance, saw and was); and/or
- confuse “left” with “right”, and “over” with “under.”
The following steps are a guide to introducing children to each letter of the alphabet:
- Preview the letter on the board before having the children write it. Teach the letter name first, so that the children can have a conceptual peg on which to hang their understanding. Slowly demonstrate each letter on the board as you recite the steps in forming the strokes.
- Have the children trace each letter in the air as you recite the steps again. Demonstrate how to do this by holding your thumb and first two fingers together, as though gripping a pencil, and forming the letter in the air.
- Ask the children to pick up their pencils and try to write one letter on their paper. Circulate around the room and check to see that the children have understood the basic strokes. If they haven’t, take their hands in yours and guide them through the strokes.
- Invite the children to complete one row of the letter. For each child, circle the best letter in the row he or she made.
Commonly Confused Letter Pairs
Children recognize letters by visually analyzing the shape and orientation of each letter. However, with so many similarities between letters, it is common even for grade-schoolers to confuse certain letters.
Use the following visual and auditory hints to help children discriminate between these letter pairs:
A vs. O Like an apple, A has a stem. Like an orange, O does not.
B vs. D Have the children hold their hands in front of them and form a B with their left hand and a D with their right. Have them move their hands together and help them see the “bed.”
B vs. H B has a ball that bounces; H has two legs that hop.
C vs. O C’s mouth is open to eat a cookie. O is closed, like the shape of an orange.
D vs. P D has a tail that stays above water, like a duck. P has a round peso and a tail that goes down, reaching down to put a peso in your pocket.
P vs. Q P comes right before Q in the alphabet; so the bat comes before the ball on P, and the bat comes after the ball on Q.
V vs. Y Y is just like V, but it has a piece of yarn hanging down.
C vs. G C is wide open, but G has a little Gate, or Garage, at its opening.
I vs. J J looks like I, but the bottom part of J Jumps up a little.
M vs. W M looks like two Mountains. W looks like Waves in the Water.
P vs. R P and R look the same, but R has a Ramp on which you can Race down.
U vs. V U is the cUp; V is the Vase.
Index cards are a great resource for letter-recognition activities. Make and laminate a set of 26 cards, one for each letter.
- Give each child an index card with one letter on it. Invite the children to sit in a circle. Play some music and have the children pass the cards in one direction around the circle. When the music stops, each child names the letter on his or her card.
- Play a letter version of Simon Says. Hold up cards that have the letters Jj, Ww, and Ss on them, and have the children jump when they see Jj, wave when they see Ww, and sit when they see Ss.
Ask one child to stand with his or her back to the group. Have the child trace a large letter in the air with his or her finger while his or her classmates try to guess the letter. Invite the children to take turns “skywriting” letters.
Mystery Bag Guessing Game
Here’s a fun way to introduce each letter. Write the letter on a smooth piece of paper using plain school glue. When the glue dries, put the paper in a “mystery bag.” Have the children put their hands in the bag to feel the paper with their fingers and have them try to guess the letter.
Children form the letter Dd with their bodies and distinguish between upper-and lowercase letters.
Jumping Jack J’s
Children respond physically to the shapes of letters and rapidly discriminate between similar letters.
Children use their whole bodies to form the letter Kk.
The L’s are Lost
Children examine the classroom environment for the lines of an L.