As we introduce the alphabet letters and sounds to our kindergarten students, we are setting the stage for beginning reading. Instruction on alphabet formation and sounds needs to move along at a pretty swift pace. Gone are the days of letter of the week. Instead, as we’re moving toward reading, we certainly want to spiral back and continually review letter names and sounds. In this post, I’ll share ways you can do just that.
Pre-Reading Skills including Alphabet Work
In order for children to begin reading, we know they need these pre-reading skills:
- Alphabet Knowledge
- A Concept of Word and Print Awareness
- Phonological Awareness (Ability to hear and identify individual sounds in spoken words)
- Motivation and Interest in Reading
- and General Language Skills (Listening comprehension, Oral vocabulary)
Many children come to school with solid alphabet knowledge, but we often have children with little to no alphabet knowledge. For students in need of intervention as others are moving along, a wide variety of hands-on activities are needed. Here are a few of my favorite alphabet activities you might use for intervention or in your literacy stations. These activities can also work well in small groups and at home.
ALPHABET LETTERS AND SOUNDS:
ALPHABET FONT SORTS:
Font sorts are an effective activity for letter recognition, and this free resource makes it easy to print and go. I split each page into uppercase and lowercase letters, so teachers can choose the letters to review with each group time. There are enough that you could create a letter pile for multiple students and sort several you’re teaching at a time.
LETTER BEAN SORTS:
Another option for font sorting is simply using a muffin tin and liners. Label the liners with the letter you’d like students to match. Then, give them a basket of lettered beans or stones with upper and lowercase letters. Be sure to include non examples too in order to work on visual discrimination. Add a spinner and see who can fill their sorting tray first as they pull X number of beans from the basket. (2 children or more). The Imagination Tree has a TON of great hands on letter activities, so a stop by that site is well worth the time.
One other option with your lettered beans or stones is to first sort upper and lowercase letters before matching them. In the picture to the right, we put the uppercase on the left and lowercase letters on the right.
LETTER CARD GAMES:
One other variation with any type of cards are card games. Two that come to mind for me are I Have, Who Has? or Snap. For I Have, Who Has?, you pass out the letter cards to your students, and let students identify one they have and request one from a friend. If someone has the match, then the child discards both. You continue until someone runs out of cards.
With Snap, you’ll need to make Snap cards to add to the letters. Kids draw from a pile, read the letters, and keep them until they draw a Snap card. Then all letters go back in the pile. Check out this great post on how to pool noodles for lots of letter activities. These pool noodle card holders might be handy for little hands.
PICTURE SORTING BY SOUND:
I can not emphasize enough the importance of sorting pictures. For beginning readers, connecting the sounds they hear to the letter name is the key to reading. The more we can emphasize the beginning sounds of words, the quicker kids make that connection. Once pictures are sorted by beginning sound, I work with students to label the pictures or write the sort. Again emphasizing the sound as I form the letter.
On the same lines as sorting fonts, we want kids to distinguish fonts in printed material as well as within the environment. When students find letters, we can also use this as an opportunity to reinforce the sounds they make and have them brainstorm other words that start with that sound. Here are just a few variations on I Spy:
- Read the Room
- Flyswatter Games like Swat
- Highlighter Hunts
- Using Wicky Sticks to Round Up Letters
- Highlighter Tape to Mark Letters (and words) within poetry, in books, and such.
- I Spy books by Scholastic are fantastic for this type of activity.
- Using Magnifying Glasses to “Spy” Hidden Letters
- Using Bingo Markers to Blot Upper and Lowercase Letters or Letter Mazes.
- Visit the Measured Mom’s site for free printables for each letter.
- Letter Bead Jars (the one to the right has glow in the dark beads for a little added fun. When kids find a letter, they call the letter’s name, give the sound, and words that start with the letter.
Remember, when we make learning letter names and sounds fun like this. It helps kids associate fun with learning to read. Alphabet games are great to use even for preschoolers.
LETTER FORMATION ACTIVITIES:
Letter formation is also an important component with teaching the alphabet. When students learn to correctly form letters, it has a positive impact on written language. Increased writing fluency is just one benefit. One other big benefit is that automatic letter formation frees the brain to focus on creative writing. You may notice that the work speed increases as kids perfect the formation of letters.
As students are forming letters, we can also work in oral activities. I have my students say the letter name, the sound it makes, and a word beginning with letter each time they form the letter. For example, R-rrrrr-Rabbit. R-rrrrr-Robot. Letter name is the start sign, sound is the forming sign, and the word is the signal I’m done. Below are just a few letter formation activities you can try. I’ll embed my alphabet Pinterest board at the end for other great links and ideas.
- Colored Sand or Salt Trays
- Wikky Sticks
- Gel Bags (see example to the right)
- Tracing Books (say the letter name, give the sound, and give key word each time)
- Good ol’ fashioned chalkboard
One activity from this list that I really want to highlight are the gel bags. They are so cheap and easy to make, and they’ll last a LONG time. All you need are gallon sized ziplock bags (freezer), a jar of hair gel per bag (Dollar Tree), food coloring, glitter, and duct tape. You pour into the bag the gel, food coloring, and glitter. Mix it up, and carefully remove any air bubbles. Once they are out, close up the bag and reinforce all seams with the duct tape. These bags are great for letter formation, but also word study and sightword review.
ALPHABET BINDER FOR RTI
Last year, our district added teaching assistants to each kindergarten classroom, and they are such a wonderful support during small group instruction. Students are now able to get tutoring support as well as enrichment when needed. Games are a great way to use your assistants or volunteers if you have them.
One of the tough things with assistants and volunteers can be stopping to explain what you need them to do. A solution to this is having an RTI binder set up and ready to go. I designed the resource to the above with that in mind. Each activity includes a directions page and the materials needed. They can be put in plastic sheets to pull out and go. There is a little prep involved, but once it’s set up, it is perfect for making the most of the help you have.
ALPHABET PAPER BAG BOOKS:
The last alphabet activity I want to share are the paper bag books I designed for my kindergarten team. My colleagues were looking for something simple that they could use with small groups to keep the lessons focused on the kindergarten standards. They wanted to include letter formation, letter identification, and sound work.
Each paper bag book comes with letter formation posters that you can use for reference. In fact, I used them with the gel bag photo above as well as the sand tray. I highly recommend that you use tactile activities to go with the paper bag books for modeling and practice, and for independent letter formation work, use the pages in the book.
The second activity in each book is a font sorting activity. Students cut the letters apart and glue uppercase letters to one page and lowercase letters to the other. Again, you might try the activities I shared for fonts above to model and have the students do the book activity for independent work.
Picture Sorts by Beginning Sounds and Draw/Label
The last half of the book (three pages) focuses on sounds. Students complete a picture sort and glue the pictures and color/mark pictures with the focus sound. Then, the last page is a draw and label page.
These books are great for revisiting and for review if you have a student who struggles with certain letters. You can also use them in tutoring sessions with parent volunteers or with assistants like I mentioned with the Letters and Sounds RTI kit I made. And, when they are all done, your students have the book to take home and review with their parents.
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
With emergent readers, we must explicitly teach alphabet letters and sounds, a concept of word, and phonological awareness in order for our children to move on to reading. For other emergent reader posts, check out these links below:
Word Study for the Emergent Reader
Stirring Up Phonics Fun (Some activities can be adapted to Kindergarten.)
RTI for Kindergarten
Growing Readers with Concept of Word Poetry
Developing a Concept of Word with Animal Poetry
FOR OTHER ALPHABET ACTIVITIES: