Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Beginning teachers often ask, “Coral, how do you choose which letter to introduce? Do you follow a particular order or use a specific program like …?” I tell them, “I connect the letters with ‘real life’ and the interests of the children. For example, one year we started with ’j’ because there were 6 children in the class with names that started with ‘J’.”

Free dress day connects us with the letter ‘f’

Last Friday, our school had a free-dress day and we raised money for people in floods and cyclone Yasi. The children came to school dressed in everyday clothes rather than their uniforms – and each donated a gold coin for the privilege!

Free dress poster.

That morning our shared writing became:  It is free-dress day on Friday, February 18th for people in floods and cyclone Yasi.

Almost immediately, Pia said, “f could be our new letter.” Our shared writing about free dress day suddenly offered an opportunity to introduce and explore the letter ‘f’. It was one of those ‘teachable moments’. Brian Cambourne describes them as ‘hit-and-run-and-never-let-a-chance-go-by’ moments. I proceeded to capitalize on Pia’s observation…

The children found ‘f’ words, double letters, little words in big words and special endings.

The letter 'f' emerges from our shared writing.

I wrote a giant ‘f’ on the board, talking about the name and the sound and we added the ‘f’ alphabet card to our word wall.

Alphabet card on our word wall.

We’ll continue our study of  ‘f’ next week:

  • Model the shape of ‘f’.
  • Talk about its name.
  • What is its sound?
  • Brainstorm ‘f’ words.
  • Draw and label five pictures of things that start with ‘f’ in alphabet books.
  • Take alphabet books for home reading. Parents help children paste/draw more ‘f’ pictures.
  • Next morning, share and celebrate the ‘f” words in the alphabet books.

Find out more…

See Alphabet Activities in Teaching Strategies for Literacy in the Early Years (pp. 1-3) including  11 extensions.

How do you introduce alphabet letters?

Comments on: "Alphabet – ‘does order matter’?" (2)

  1. Coral –

    I love what you say about connecting what letter you focus on using “real life” goings on and “teachable moments” to help make the decision for you!

    I use a similar concept as a speech pathologist when teaching a child how to correctly say a sound. One of the factors I consider when choosing what letter to teach is considering what words or names have sounds that they are going to use a lot; how can working on a certain sound impact their daily life most quickly?

    Also, instead of using cards that have their target sound for practice I use the same “real life” and “teachable moments” idea and use words with their sound that come up naturally in play or our activity. For example, to follow your initial letter ‘f’ idea if the child is doing a fish puzzle we could incorporate: fish, fin, find, found, fishing pole, fishing, fast, fit, four, five, for, finger, funny, fell, face etc.

    I do have a question though about your letters – do you have a list of all the letters and then cross them off as they come up and you work on them so that you know which ones you have and have not done?

    Also on your shared writing example above, I could make connections for all the markings made except the “in” having a square around it. Can you please share what you were looking at with that?

    • Hi Laura,

      I am happy to hear that you, as a speech pathologist, use ‘real’life’ for children’s learning, too – such meaningful learning!

      When we have ‘done’ a letter, I put the alphabet card on the word wall – we can tell at a glance which letters have been studied.

      In the shared writing, a square is around ‘in’ because one child recognised the word ‘in’ – and that was an accomplishment for him.
      Thanks for your insightful comments.


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