{Early Literacy Stage 1} Uppercase Letter Recognition

The development of early literacy skills progresses in stages.  Beginning concepts should be taught before introducing more difficult ones.  By following a proper developmental progression, we assist the child’s natural learning capabilities.   This is why I have decided to write a new series of blog posts — {Early Literacy Stages}.

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The entire scope of literacy includes the following: reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and representing.  I am focusing on reading letters and writing letters for this series.  However, the other components are very important in developing the whole child towards literacy and becoming a lifelong learner.

Please note: I do not label these stages by age — I have met 18-month-olds who have learned all of their upper and lowercase letters and I have taught 5-year-olds who were still struggling to learn both.  It is important to meet the learner where they are and embrace the child’s pace!

Here are my Early Literacy Stages for childhood learning:

  1. Uppercase letter recognition

  2. Tactile uppercase letter writing

  3. Utensil prewriting and uppercase letter writing

  4. Lowercase letter recognition (and matching uppercase with lowercase letters)

  5. Lowercase phonetic sounds

  6. Lowercase letter writing

There is debate surrounding whether children should be taught uppercase or lowercase letters first.  Some teachers opt to teach them together.  I believe that children should be taught recognition of uppercase letters first.  They should certainly be exposed to lowercase too, (we call them “big” and “little” letters), as they are presented in many picture books together, but at the beginning, the focus should be on uppercase.  Certainly, children who are taught lowercase first, or both together, can also become very successful (for example, a Montessori approach is to teach the lowercase letters first and name them their sound names: “This is aah” and “This is “bbb”).  My decision is based on the following reasoning:

  • learning 26 letters will set your child up for success sooner than trying to learn 52 letters,
  • uppercase letters are more distinguishable from one another,
  • they have many more straight lines, so when it comes time to begin printing letters, children can excel, and
  • uppercase letters represent the majority of letters in print outside the home (on street signs, in the grocery store, etc), so learning these will expose your child to a world of print outside the home.

Now how can we help develop this initial stage of learning in our children?

1.   Read, read, read!  If you can do anything with your child at home, this is it!  Reading to your child opens them up to a world of imagination and developmental readiness towards print awareness and learning.  Reading doesn’t have to become “lesson time,” just enjoy a book with one another morning, day, and night!  Here are more suggestions:

  • Books with no words teach story sequence.
  • Nursery rhymes are especially wonderful for phonemic awareness.
  • Begin pointing out the “Big” letters at the beginnings of sentences.
  • Dr. Seuss is the master — our particular favorite is his ABC book.  This book focuses on uppercase letters while exposing children to the lowercase letters!  We also love There’s A Wocket in my Pocket — Dr. Seuss had an amazing ability to speak to children through rhyme and this book helped my son learn about rhyming.

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2.  Singing songs at home, all day, every day!  There are many songs that introduce letters and sounds.  The Alphabet Song can be coupled with simple ABC books for a fun and teachable daily read-aloud.  Our favorite children’s collections are Songs for Saplings ABCsThe Little Series and Jewel’s Lullaby and The Merry Goes Around.

3.  Point out uppercase letters both in and out of the house.  “The ketchup has a K, K, K, K!” and “The magazine has a P, P, P, P!”  My son gets very excited about this, and he asks, “What’s that?” when he sees a letter he doesn’t know.

4.  When your child has learned the letters “A, B, C” from reading and alphabet singing, move to a simple letter of the week focus (or curriculum)!  Don’t be intimidated, just start small!  Even if you only do one or two of the below, that is enough, your child will learn as he grows!

  • This can be as simple as writing the uppercase letter A on a sheet of paper and sticking it to the bottom of your refrigerator!  Talk about the letter every day.
  • Think about purchasing some magnet letters from Melissa & Doug.  This linked set includes uppercase and lowercase, and again, I would begin with the uppercase letter to set the child up for success at the beginning! Here is our ever growing collection (with many magnets purchased from garage sales — I have one lowercase letter for exposure only)!

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  • Create some tactile experiences for your child with sandpaper letters or Do-It-Yourself puffy paint letters.  Touch the uppercase letter and say its name and sound.  Again, exposure to the lowercase letter is fine, but the focus should always be on the uppercase, so your child has a chance to excel!
  • Consider an uppercase letter puzzle!  Melissa & Doug and Lauri are both wonderful options.  My son got his start in learning letters with one of these.
  • For more tactile fun, print out some magnet pages from Making Learning Fun and have your child put magnets (or pom pom magnets) on the letter and image on a magnetic cookie sheet.

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  • There are many free online printables available from many homeschooling mama blogs to choose from — my advice is to keep it simple so you won’t be overwhelmed.  Choose a couple of pages that you think your child may be interested in.  (We love 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABCs as a model — the below pictures are all a part of her free online curriculum.)
  • Choose an object to focus on for your letter of the week. (A is for Apple, B is for Bug, C is for Cat, D is for Dog, etc!)  Find that object and keep it in a special place — in a small bin or basket or reusable sour cream container! — along with a handwritten or printed uppercase letter for some informal phonemic awareness learning.  Below we are learning “H is for Horse”:

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  • Let your child color on a piece of paper with the uppercase letter, with a corresponding object, like the “H is for Horse” above, with markers or crayons.  (Remember not to expect the child to print the letter or even color in the lines of the picture — that will come later  — when they are developmentally ready!)
  • Do-A-Dot markers are amazing tools.  Write the uppercase letter many small times on a piece of paper and have your child “dot” each letter and say it at the same time!  My son loves this!

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  • Use uppercase letter stamps and stamp on a picture or a piece of paper or project.
  • Print out or make large uppercase letters and have your child jump from letter to letter (or throw a beanbag or other object) as you call them out for a review.
  • More tactile exploration can come from a letter sensory bin.  Include a base (beans, lentils, rice, etc.) and add the letter and objects corresponding to that letter.  Below is a “G Sensory Bin” — I included one lowercase “g” in addition to many uppercase ones — please keep in mind that sensory bins can have only a few objects in them and children will love them just the same as the extravagant ones!:

DSC00339How have you taught your child the alphabet?  Did you focus on uppercase or lowercase first?  What made you choose?  Or did you teach both at the same time? 

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This post is linked to the Carnival of Homeschooling at Teach Beside Me!

Featured at The Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up at The Homeschool Village

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25 thoughts on “{Early Literacy Stage 1} Uppercase Letter Recognition

  1. Pingback: Carnival of Homeschooling — Joanne Jacobs

  2. I have to admit that I couldn’t decide which way to go (either lowercase or uppercase first) – so I just went with starting from Aa and saying “this is the big A, this is the little a”…probably not really “right” but so far it’s working and hopefully R get’s it and if not, we’ll change to just teaching uppercase or lowercase first. PS – that photo of your husband and son reading is really cute (but is dad more into the book? haha :-D ) xx

    • We say, “big A, little a” too — I just think that it is a lot to process to learn 52 letters and think that 26 letters (the uppercase) could give more chance for success — but every child needs something different! Thanks — about the pic — it’s hard to get a pic of us reading to him because the camera distracts him ♥

  3. Pingback: Preschool Parade, April 27, 2013 | Following In His Footsteps

  4. My mother in law got dd a puzzle bench with the letters of her name as the pieces for her first birthday. We started with that and fridge magnets. We haven’t distinguished between capitals and lower case, but she can identify most letters. I decided it was time to start being a bit more intentional last week when she sight read the words book and bear. We haven’t done it yet because we have been dealing with a nasty cold, but she is nearly over it now. These are some good ideas, I’ll have to add them to our plan!

    • Thanks for visiting, Sarah! I wanted to start an intentional letter per week before my son was ready, so it’s great that you’re following your daughter’s lead — and sounds like she is advanced — no “reading” over here yet :)

  5. Pingback: Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up #16

  6. What a great look at how children learn! So helpful and well explained!

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! I will be sharing this on Twitter & Facebook this week. Hope to see you linked up again tomorrow!

    Have a great day,
    Beth =)

  7. Pingback: Welcome to the Room of Possibilities! | That fun reading teacher

  8. Pingback: Tot School – Letter K | wildflowerramblings

  9. Hello Amy
    Thank you for being the first person to visit and leave a comment on my new blog! I am honored. I can see that we have common interests. I love that you have reading to your child as number one on your list in this post, and singing as number two. Your tactile activities are fantastic, too. I’ll be back for part 2!

  10. Pingback: {Early Literacy Stage 1} Uppercase Letter Recog...

  11. Some great ideas! My son has a high level of spatial awareness and when he learned all his shapes (in many different situations) a little after 2 with minimal guidance and instruction through play I figured it was worth a shot to introduce the letters to him. I was an elementary teacher and have a reading specialist license and also struggled with knowing whether or not to introduce upper or lower or both first. I went with the letters of his name (only 4 letters) and I decided to do both upper and lower by having the Melissa and Doug magnets on a cookie sheet. He was so into it that he learned all 8 letters in just one week and kept asking for “new letters.” I just went with his excitement and he learned all letters upper and lower in about a month (of course he does still mix up lowercase b and d, but not bad. The biggest thing is go with your child’s interest and ability and let them guide you. I am looking forward to some of your ideas on introducing sounds as we have just started introducing them and I am sure this will take longer.

    • Wow, that is so impressive! My son is 2 1/2 and not learning nearly that fast, but you’re right, every child has different interests and abilities! I am trying to get the rest of this series up every Tuesday, starting tomorrow :) Thanks for taking the time to comment, Alaina.

  12. Pingback: {Early Literacy Stage 2} Tactile uppercase letter writing | wildflowerramblings

  13. Hi,
    Your blog is well-written and I enjoyed this how-to “article”. I teach and I’m going back into the PreK classroom. It’s been 8 years (I was moved up to first grade) and I’m beyond excited to go back to the littles :)

    I make a long colored wall and divide into 26 spaces. Upper + lowercase letters are at the top of each space, then seceral pictures for each letter. The students go along every day and point to each picture. It’s sounds like this “a a astronaut…a a apple…a a ant….b b book…b b boat…” They go all the way to z every day, using rulers as pointers. All 14 of my PreK’s new every letter sound (upper + lower) and how to write every letter before Christmas break. They started Kid Writing in January (phonetically sounding out sentences) and I ended up being “looped up” with those students. Very fun classroom with excited kids. Dying of excitement to go back to pre-K!

    • Thanks for a great idea, Shauna, sounds like you’re a wonderful teacher :) I love letting children write their stories phonetically — I called it “Writer’s Workshop” in my kindergarten classroom. There is certainly a time to teach spelling, but letting children write according to their thoughts and allowing them the liberty to sound it out rather than spell everything properly is a great way to help them become life-long writers :)

  14. Pingback: {Early Literacy Stage 3} Utensil Prewriting and Uppercase Letter Writing | wildflowerramblings

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