{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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