Tot School – Letter L

We spent two weeks on the Letter L!  We focused on leaves and two books: The Grouchy Ladybug and The Little Lamb.

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We focus on a letter every week and do fun activities based on that letter.  I usually set six “Tot Trays” up for my son to play with and learn as the week progresses.  I had a six-tray set-up in the kitchen, with six trays from Oriental Trading.  Promoting the four Montessori principles: Language, Mathematics, Sensory, and Practical Life.

I have decided to only put out one or two trays out at a time. Some children would thrive with all six trays out, as I was doing up until Letter K, but my son needed less in front of him.  My child thrives with less choice and I have found that one or two trays engages him more than six trays.

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At the beginning of the week, I cut out each of the following from our Tot School ABCs curriculum — this makes Tot School time easier for me, when we are “in the moment.”

  • Numbers: for using manipulatives in 1:1 correspondence
  • Colors: coloring with markers or crayons
  • Shapes: gluing onto a piece of paper

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{Disclosure: affiliate links may be in this post.}

Here is John with his numbers.  He is learning 1:1 correspondence with these adorable bear counters.

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Lauri capital letter peg puzzles.

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I bought four different sized screws and corresponding bolts at the hardware store.  He was very excited about this tray!  He got hard at work with his fine motor pincer grasp skills — it was difficult for him to master, so we will be doing this again!  (I had to keep this one up due to having a crawling baby in the house!)

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I saw this fun magnet stick from Memorizing the Moments and wanted to get one!  It was $2.99 at Amazon!  A fun introduction to magnetism!

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Michelle at Delightful Learning had such a fun idea — to get these links and put them in the holes for lacing cards — John loved this!!

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schedule

I made this schedule to organize our Tot School time, according to the Montessori principles: Language, Mathematics, Sensory, and Practical Life.  I didn’t get a picture of mine from Letter L, but this is what the blank one looks like:

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You can read my post about it and download the free Tot School Planning Form here.

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Bible verse of the week:

Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

We had a lot of use out of this bible verse this week!

We use the ABC bible verse songs from Songs for Saplings.  These songs are so catchy, beautiful, not “children’s music annoying,” and I find myself singing and learning and memorizing the bible verses along with John.  Carisa at 1plus1plus1equals1 has made coordinating ABC Bible Verses posters which have really helped with his memorization as well.

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We put up our bible verse, a Ll small poster from Tot School, a Ll sign from my Kindergarten teaching days, and these wonderful Montessori sandpaper letters.  We put these up on the wall so he could feel the letter every morning and trace his fingers on the letter.

Letter of the week: Ll

Our curriculum consists of 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABC’s.

John has really gotten the hang of tracing!!  We do this with dry erase markers and heavy duty sheet protectors.  Erasing is a handy practical life skill as well!

Check out my recent post about utensil prewriting and letter writing in {Early Literacy Stage 3}.

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Do-A-Dot markers on his L pages.

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Stamping an L on the Leaf!

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For our Leaf shapes, we stamped some leaves on a green sheet of paper and glued our shapes on, while we talked about the shape names!

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Our work for the week on a clothesline in his room:

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And our L magnets and Leap Frog Letter Factory magnets on our refrigerator:

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Book of the week:

We had fun with The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

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John pulled out this book from his shelf and has fallen in love with it!  The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle has a lot of great life lessons in it.  We have learned about night time versus daytime, telling time with clocks, sharing, learning about the circle of life, learning about large and small animals, and the importance of friendship.

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We colored a picture of a Leaf and colored both the ladybugs and the little aphids.  This was very exciting, as this was the first time John has intentionally colored. {Proud mama moment.}

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We also read The Little Lamb by Phoebe and Judy Dunn — so stay tuned for the post on that fun book later this week!

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Working with his pattern puzzles.
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We went on a leaf hunt around our yard.  He had so much fun discovering big and small and dead and alive leaves!

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weeklycraft

We made some ladybugs by cutting a potato in half and doing some good-ol’-fashioned potato stamping!  We then worked with black paint to make all of the ladybugs friendly (“and not grouchy”) because the two ladybugs in the book are friends in the end : )

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I hope you have a wonderful week,

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Check out my posts on the Early Literacy Stages:

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Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!  ♥ 

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{Early Literacy Stage 3} Utensil Prewriting and Uppercase Letter Writing

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 series about {Early Literacy Stages}.  These stages will all inter-mingle with one another, but it is important to define them, and I recommend introducing them in this order.

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Here are the 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

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!

Please see my {Early Literacy Stage 1} to read about why I am teaching uppercase letters first.

How do we introduce utensil prewriting and letter writing to our children? How do we set them up for success in handwriting? 

1.   Read, read, read!  Literacy begins from infancy on.  Reading to your child will always be my first suggestion to parents.  Children are opened up to a world of imagination and developmental readiness towards learning through books and fine literature.  If you are unable to invest the time in any of my {Early Literacy Stages} due to time constraints or affordability, please go to your library and check out some books!  Also, the springtime is the perfect time to visit garage sales and buy a library of books for your child for a very low cost.  If you read to and with your child, you are already setting them up for success!!

In addition to making books available for your child, your child should see you reading in the home to know that reading and literacy is an important and worthwhile investment of your time.

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2.  Using markers and crayons: Give your child experiences with writing utensils from an early age.  This is while knowing that every child has different interests — I know some 18 month olds who could draw for hours, and I know four and five year olds who are uninterested.  Every child is different.  Keep in mind that short utensils promote proper finger grip.

Until recently, my son had not been interested in drawing or coloring.  For example, during our Tot School, I have asked him to color the apple on the “A is for Apple” page, and he would scribble on it briefly, but then want to move on.  Lately, he has paid closer attention to actually coloring the object, and he has wanted to do more pages as well.  My advice is to follow your child’s lead and have materials available for them to work with!

Here are some art bin suggestions: {this post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure policy, thank you}

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3.   Proper “pencil grip”: Children aged two to four are working on the development of their fine motor skills (small muscles).  If a child lacks the ability to: pick up small items, lace beads, use a tweezer, or do a knobbed puzzle, then your child’s fine motor skills need to be further developed.  At a very early age, your focus should be on promoting learning, and playing, to develop these fine motor skills, rather than perfecting the pencil grip.  You do not want writing to be a negative time or experience, and you should always teach with the learner’s abilities in mind.  However, with that being said, if they learn (somewhat) the proper grip from day one, it will be that much easier and smoother for a transition into more advanced learning and writing.  Here are some helpful steps and tools:

  • Determine which hand is the child’s dominant hand.
  • Holding a writing utensil requires the “tripod grasp”: using the thumb and index finger and resting the middle finger on the index finger.
  • A trick to learning proper pencil grip: lay the pencil, point facing you, pinch pencil about a half inch up with thumb and index finger, and flip the pencil so it rests on the fatty part of your hand.
  • We have the Pencil Grip Writing Claw which also may be helpful.
  • And I have also heard good things about trying the Pencil Grip Ergonomic Writing Aid.
  • I found another great (and free!) suggestion from Teacher Lisa’s Class about using a rubber band around the wrist and around the pencil.
  • See Handwriting Without Tears 4 Steps to Teaching Writing Grip for more beneficial information.

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Here my son is working on his pencil grip — this is a quadropod grip (which is discussed in the Handwriting Without Tears link above) — and includes holding with four fingers instead of three.  He is, of course, still learning!

4.   Prewriting tracing sheets:

  • There are many free resources from many wonderful bloggers.  We use 1plus1plus1equals1‘s Tot School ABC’s tracing sheets.  These sheets focus on straight lines, while promoting left to right familiarity for reading and writing.  (Below is my son using dry erase markers with heavy duty sheet protectors.)

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The above is from 1plus1plus1equals1’s Nativity pack and Mama’s Monkeys Fall pack.

5.  Ordered letter writing: When it comes time to write uppercase letters, a proper sequential order is needed to set your child up for success in handwriting.  I wrote about the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum in my {Early Literacy Stage 2} post.  Since all of the alphabet letters include either straight lines, diagonal lines, and/or big and little curves, this curriculum helps children learn the letters in a sequence that is easiest.  It begins with allowing children to create their letters using alphabet letter templates.

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These templates can be found for free from the following two sites — I made mine out of colorful paper-foam: Build-A-Letter Templates (includes mats) from Tired, Need Sleep Blog or Magnetic Alphabet Builders from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  

I highly recommend the Handwriting Without Tears book “My First School Book.”  It includes arrows as well as large, thick prewriting lines and circles to help your child succeed.  The following is the recommended schedule for learning to print letters:

    • Vertical & Horizontal Lines: L, F, E, H, T, I, U

    • Magic C: C, O, Q, G, S, J

    • Big & Little Curves: D, P, B

    • Diagonal Lines: R, K, A, V, M, N, X, Y, Z

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Further resources, to use in addition to or in place of purchasing the “My First School Book” by the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum:

  • Erin at Royal Baloo created an amazing free printable series called Zoomin’ Movin’ Alphabet. These truck printables include pre-writing pages to prepare children to write their letters as well.  You could use her wonderful curriculum with your child using the letter sequence above.

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  • ABC Jesus Loves Me has a wonderful Learning to Write series for free individual (not classroom or commercial) download pre-writing and letter practice.  I recommend the letter sequence above, as written by the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.

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  • Carisa at 1plus1plus1equals1 created Raising Rock Stars Preschool which includes wonderful printing pages.  You can also buy them from Teachers Notebook. She recommends an order similar to the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.

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It is difficult to find printables that only include uppercase letters.  Here are two additional letter writing free printables that may be helpful to you — from Homeschool Creations and 123Homeschool4Me:

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What are your challenges with teaching your child to write?  What other resources have you found helpful?

Check out all of the Early Literacy posts: 

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Happy teaching and learning,

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Please check out my Link-Up page to see where I may link this blog post.

{Early Literacy Stage 2} Tactile Uppercase Letter Writing

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 series about {Early Literacy Stages}.  These stages will all inter-mingle with one another, but it is important to define them, and I recommend introducing them in this order.

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Here are the 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

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!

Please see my {Early Literacy Stage 1} to read about why I am teaching uppercase letters first.

How do we further develop uppercase letter recognition through tactile experiences?

1.   Read, read, read!  This was my first suggestion for my first stage of learning as well.  A child must have experiences with books morning, day, and night.  Reading to your child opens them up to a world of imagination and developmental readiness towards print awareness and learning.  Here are more suggestions to promote tactile exploration in book reading:

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2.  Use shaving cream on your tabletop: experiment with prewriting straight and curved lines by first showing your child how to write with his/her pointer finger.  The goal is exposure and not perfection!

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This is my son exploring shaving cream, but when he is ready, he will use his pointer finger and try to write his letters.

3.   Put a shallow amount of sand or sugar in a bin: prewrite straight lines and curved lines and write the letter with a finger.  

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Here is a friend working with blue sand in her outdoor water table.

4.   Tape a squishy bag to a table top or window and have the child write straight and curved lines and the letter with a finger.

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5.  Use a push-pin-pen with a letter page and poke the letter to get a feel for its straight and curved lines.   Small push-pins are not safe for children to use, but I love this concept, so I taped a push pin to a marker very securely.   You can get these sheets from Confessions of a Homeschooler individually, by letter, or you can print the uppercase letters from Alphabet Printables.

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6.  Use Do-A-Dot markers to write the letter.  Here are some awesome printables and ideas from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

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7.  Learn how letters are built using alphabet letter templates.  This is an advanced step and should be taken closer to when you think your child is ready to begin writing uppercase letters — this will also be a part of my {Early Literacy Stage 3}: Utensil prewriting and uppercase letter writing.

All of the alphabet letters include either straight lines, diagonal lines, and/or big and little curves and these awesome letter builders help children to grasp the parts of the letters.  You can buy wooden ones from the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.  I love their no-fuss approach to handwriting.  They recommend the following schedule for learning to print letters:

  • Vertical & Horizontal Lines: L, F, E, H, T, I, U
  • Magic C: C, O, Q, G, S, J
  • Big & Little Curves: D, P, B
  • Diagonal Lines: R, K, A, V, M, N, X, Y, Z

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These templates can be found for free from the following two sites — I made mine out of colorful paper-foam: Build-A-Letter Templates (includes mats) from Tired, Need Sleep Blog or Magnetic Alphabet Builders from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

How have you taught your child the alphabet?  What tactile experiences have you used to help your child learn and write letters?

See {Early Literacy Stage 1}

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{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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