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  • Becky Carlisle Cothern

Alphabet Knowledge: Activities for Writing Letters

This is the final of a three part series on developing alphabet knowledge in preschool and kindergarten. Research (Reutzel 2015) shows that students develop alphabet knowledge in three areas 1. Identifying the upper and lowercase letter 2. searching for and distinguishing the letter in text 3. producing the letter in written form. As I look at all three areas I will share with you resources and ideas I have that can benefit you and your students in the classroom.

Alphabet knowledge has long been one of the most consistent and strongest predictors of reading success (NELP 2008). Research also shows that alphabet knowledge is most effective when taught in short, repeated, explicit lessons (Jones and Reutzel 2015). These alphabet lessons need to be developmentally appropriate with high repetition and play-based learning objectives (Neuman 2006). When the right components are in place fluency of alphabet knowledge is achieved and ALL students reach a high level of success. The third component for mastering alphabet knowledge is producing the letter. Producing the letter in written form helps connect brain pathways building complete mastery of alphabet knowledge. Below you will find ideas and resources to plan activities and teach lessons that promote alphabet knowledge: Writing Letters.

1. Look at the Pieces-Alphabet Building Puzzles:

Letters are made up of straight lines and curves. To help students understand the lines that create each letter they need to manipulate the lines. These puzzles help students manipulate the straight and curved lines to form each letter. They can experiment with what happens when the move a line from the top to the bottom or the left to the right side. The letter changes and is a new letter. This understanding will help students as they get older with reversals.

2. Develop Fluidity-Alphabet Road Writers:

To build fluency with the formation of each letter and move from the line pieces try these road writers. Young students can use a matchbox car to trace each upper and lowercase letter of the alphabet. This activity encourages fluidity of motion as the student writes each letter. This fluidity of motion is necessary for children to become fluent writers.

3. For Reference-Alphabet Formation Posters:

Learning how to write letters fluently needs practice and direct instruction. These letter formation posters give step by step directions and visuals for writing every letter of the alphabet. Having a reference in the classroom helps students feel capable and successful as they use the alphabet to write letters and words.

4. Increase Fluency- Handwriting Fluency Pages:

To really build mastery one must have fluency of a skill. This is also true for alphabet writing. We want writing letters to come easily and naturally for a child. If the process is too difficult it takes mental energy away from other areas such as how to spell a word or the grammar and syntax of writing. These fluency pages help students write letters quickly and with automaticity.

Let's face it- writing the same letter over and over again can easily become mondain and boring. Although necessary we need a way to motivate students to practice writing the letters until they are fully mastered. This is where the 2016 research from Judith M. Harackiewicz, Jessi L. Smith, and Stacy J. Priniski comes in. They found that, "Interest is a powerful motivational process that energizes learning, guides academic and career trajectories, and is essential to academic success. Interest is both a psychological state of attention and affect toward a particular object or topic, and an enduring predisposition to reengage over time." (Interest Matters; 2016) These pages are simple in design. The teacher or student adds favorite characters on the top of each page to provide the needed motivation. So instead of just writing letters they are showing Batman how many times they can write the letter A or Barbie their best letter B. This makes writing exciting and personal to every student.

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