Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Archive for the ‘Teaching letters and sounds’ Category

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Letters leap out at me  – whenever I walk, wherever I walk…

A 'v' spread onto the beach sand

A ‘v’ spread onto the beach sand

The stick 'r' was found on the beach

A stick ‘r’ was found on beach sand

An f was found on the sand too

An ‘f ‘ was found on beach sand too

A 'Y' is easy to find in trees

A ‘Y’ is easy to find in trees

Letters from nature are also found on driveways and streets…

After rain, worms wriggled onto the driveway

After rain, worms wriggles onto the driveway

Not quite what Cheri spoke of – but fascinating for young children learning letters  on their literacy journeys…

Trawling for ‘t’ words?


Two tall tulips


Two turtles talking, on a tyre

Alphabet Letters in Nature

Creating a nature photo story An April Alphabet got me thinking. Since being on leave, I’ve had the luxury of more time to explore my natural surrounds–to walk and wander on nearby beaches, fields, forests and trails–and to become more aware of letters (and numbers) in nature. I’m reminded of the times children brought in a curled up witchetty grub that looked like an ‘o’, a caterpillar lying straight on a leaf that looked like an ‘l’ and a stick in the shape of a ‘t’.

Finding letters in nature is a fun way for children to learn the look, names and sounds of letters.

Questions arise…
Some letters seem to appear more often than others, such as c, j, l, o, t, v and y. And I wonder why?

What are some of the letters made of?


The stick ‘r’ was found on the beach

An ‘f’ was found on the beach sand, too

This ‘E’ was a special find on the beach


A gum leaf ‘c’ became a common find on treed paths and walkways

Plants and plant pieces:

‘l’ or ‘i’ was a frequent find after high tide

A ‘v’ spread onto the beach sand


‘Y’ is easy to find in trees

And now for something different: worms

After rain, worms wriggle onto the driveway

What letters or numbers have you seen in your natural environment?

An April Alphabet

I made an alphabet. A photo alphabet. After an amble in the area in the afternoon. I downloaded the photos… and alphabet possibilities tumbled out:
b for blackbird, d for daffodil, e for evergreen, f for fungus….

A relevant alphabet. Meaningful. To me anyway.

Click here  to view my powerpoint, ‘April Alphabet’, (takes a few seconds to download).

And so to the classroom… Imagine the relevance of alphabet cards and alphabet books that you and the children make together – for use in your classroom.

Digital photos make literacy easy. Children suggest pictures for letters. Take the digital photos. Download. Add text. Print alphabet cards – or alphabet book. Use!

A friend emailed about a few children who struggle with letters and sounds. To help solve this problem, she has the children take the photos to make a class alphabet book (with her help). What a great idea!

She says, “On top of what I’m already doing, I’ll get these children to take photos to create our own class alphabet book.  It will be their project to present to the class.  I work with them for…  to create it and share it, then most importantly constantly refer back to it when they are struggling with the sounds.”

Such a group-made alphabet book is relevant to the children. Personal. Meaningful. About the children. Their classroom. Their school. Their community.

I’ve done this with children in two ways: drawings and digital photos.  After discussion, the children draw pictures to represent the letter, e.g. z for zucchini in a vegetable alphabet book; c for crocodile on animal alphabet cards. At other times, children suggest an object for each letter and I take the photos, e.g. c for computer, d for door, p for pencil.

Once, a six year old made A Car Alphabet by drawing a car with the name for each letter, A a for Alfa Romeo, B b for Buick, C c for Cadillac…. Guess what his main interest was at the time!

Early childhood classrooms usually have alphabet cards. These are on a word wall with additional word cards that the children use in their writing.

Alphabet cards as part of a word wall

Early childhood classrooms have alphabet cards for children to use when learning letter formations and phonics. These are beneath the whiteboard for proximity to the children – not above the board and out of reach.

A low alphabet for children to trace and touch

And of course, every classroom needs a basket of Alphabet Books.

Store alphabet books together for convenience

Have you made class alphabet books? How?

Football fun with Fish?

Today my Year 1 class played AFL football with a footballer nick-named ‘Fish’. Coincidentally, we are doing ‘f’ this week, so that fitted nicely. Fish worked on their fitness in a fast and furious fashion – which the children said was ‘fun’!  I took photos (ph – not ‘f’) and we made a class book entitled: Football Fun with Fish.  It WAS fun!

'Fish' gives footballs to the children.

Back in the classroom, the children talked about how much fun they had with the footballs. Our shared writing became: We had fun with Fish at AFL football.

Shared writing about our time with 'Fish'.

 The children drew about playing football with ‘Fish’ and I scribed their sentences.

A child's drawing of 'Fish' and the scribed story.

We made a class book of photos and sentences entitled: Football Fun with Fish.  This became another home-reading book.

Our class book, 'Football Fun with Fish'.

We added ‘four footballs’ to Our F  f Book.

Four footballs for 'Our F f Book'.

It was a fantastic Fursday!

How do you use school experiences to add to children’s literacy and numeracy?

Alphabet – ‘does order matter’?

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?

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