Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 2

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Oct 10, 2017 4:30:00 PM

GHaggardbiopic

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the second post in a series about building literacy in early readers. To read the first post, click here.

PART TWO: Introduction of Consonant Blends.

As we begin to think of ways to use the Letter Buddies teaching aids as we help students develop strategies to unlock words as they read and write words, we can go again to Clay’s Becoming Literate. On page 263 she spoke of the importance of the child’s exploring the details in word and letter patterns. On page 312 she added letters, clusters of letters, and word groups to the strategies for unlocking words. On page 314 she shared two ways students can derive sounds and meanings from words. Direct visual attention and spelling were the two ways.

On pages 318 and 319 three ways of learning about letters were cited. These ways were experiencing modeling of letter activities, self-directed learning, and learning by discovery. Page 320 list four sources of information used by the beginning reader.

  • Sentence structure
  • Order of ideas, words, and letters.
  • Size of words and letters
  • Special features of sound, shape.

Each of the above are part of the suggested plans for the use of Letter Buddies.

PREPARATION FOR INTRODUCTION OF CONSONANT BLENDS

Some of the students will need some formal modeling of letter formation before instruction is shared with a larger group. The teacher can study handwriting samples and make a list of students who are not using correct letter formation. Some may still be having directional difficulty. Some may not be using the lined paper correctly. Some may be confusing the visual and auditory aspects of some of the letters. These children can learn and practice using the LetterMats from Letter Buddies.

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Research of handwriting programs share that the most effective programs are those that use oral directives for the forming of letters as students are instructed and practice letter formation. The teacher can use the formation lines and numbering system of the mats to teach directions and encourage students to say the directives with her/him. For example: Capital ‘R”- “Pencil at top of the solid line, move pencil to bottom of line. Lift pencil to top of line and do half a circle to the right. Slant to bottom of line.” To help a student who has difficulty doing this, teacher can place student’s hand in hers and help the student follow the steps. Some students can profit from working at board and using large strokes and then smaller strokes. The Letter Buddies Letter Books have front covers that share the letters in a multisensory way. The students can say the directives and follow with a finger to feel the letter on the front of the books.

Some students may need review of the use of ‘p’ and ‘r’. The Letter Buddies Starters books Put That Here and The Rocket can be used in guided reading groups. The two books could also be part of the classroom library and be read as independent reading and/or read by students in pairs who share oral reading of the books. The writing activities in the back of the two books could be used with the class, or part of the class, after the teacher has read each book to students. Using the letters in reading and writing activities can facilitate the introduction to ‘pr’.

LB.jpgThe Letter Buddies Letter Books ‘p’ and ‘r’ can be used to review words that begin with these letters. As the students name the objects in the pictures, invite them to move an index finger across the bottom of each word and notice what they see as the word is said. The beginning sound should be recognized. Medial and ending sounds can also help the children read the words. They may recognize smaller words or word parts in the pictured words. Remind the students that the beginning sound is not the only part of a word available to help them as they read unfamiliar words.

Help in recognizing words with the two sounds are shared on the last page of each book and on the backs of the handwriting mats.

Use of Letter Buddies Best Friends book Present from the Prince can now be used in guided reading groups or with larger groups. An Elmo projector might be used to display the pages which might be read as a shared reading activity. You will observe that the ‘pr’ in each word is in a different color of font. Discuss also how the pictures provide clues for the reading of the pages. Be careful not to stretch the sounds of the target words in a separated way. Say each word in a natural way and ask the students to listen for the sounds and check the other things that the students notice about the words.

The final page of the book contains some ideas for using the new learning in writing activities. Some of the students will need more help than others as they create story pages. You might work with these students using guided writing as the instructional mode. Other children might profit from an example of a story page.

>> CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS BOOK <<

ADDITIONAL WAYS TO PROVIDE FURTHER PRACTICE AND USE OF BLENDS AS A STRATEGY AS STUDENTS READ AND WRITE

As a teacher, you can remind the students of the uses of the visual and auditory help they can receive from consonant blends. This can be done during guided reading and writing and as you conference with students as their writing is discussed and the child is encouraged to use what he knows as he writes.

During guided reading group-time, the children might identify consonant blends and search for some found in a story.

~~~

Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 

~~~

Click the images below to learn about the Letter Buddies series, which are mentioned in this post. 

 

Letter Buddies Starters Sales Sheet  Letter Buddies Letter Books Sales Sheet  Letter Buddies Best Friends Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Geraldine Haggard, Double Consonants

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Oct 5, 2017 4:22:33 PM

GHaggardbiopic

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series about building literacy with early readers.

As I pondered ideas for this blog, I decided to visit my old friend, Marie Clay's Becoming Literate, from my days of training in Reading Recovery. Clay reminded her readers that the young reader is not only learning words or letter-sound knowledge, but they are learning how to use each of the sources of information as they read and write. They can then link new strategies to current reading and writing activities and become more successful.

STATEMENTS FROM “BECOMING LITERATE” THAT DOCUMENT THE ROLE OF LETTER KNOWLEDGE

  • Page 41: “Beginnings of literacy is more than learning letters, words, and letter relationships”.
  • Page 53 contains a caution about ‘decentralization’ of letter knowledge and the need for use of continuous texts.
  • Page 87 encourages teachers to attend closely to features of letters in writing experiences.
  • Page 314 cites that there are two variables used by children to derive sounds and meanings from words: direct visual perception and the use of spelling to sound.
  • Page 320: Clay states that young readers use information from sounds, shapes, and layout of text.
  • Page 87: The importance of writing is stressed because of its providing opportunities for students to access letter knowledge in different ways.
  • Pages 322 and 323 stress the importance of providing learning activities as they read and write that enable them to develop the articulate awareness of phonology and print.
  • Page 325 contains this quote from Clay: “My experience in the longitudinal monitoring of progress of the early instruction was that letters, sounds, words, and word analysis were accumulated gradually over a period of time because the child learned different ways of working with print.”

 

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WHAT WAS CLAY SAYING TO US?

Those of us who have taught for many years have seen many changes in the ways that literacy skills are taught. My teaching experiences began in 1949. Basal readers were my only tools. Real writing and composing thoughts were not present in the early years. In the 80’s children were encouraged to share thoughts in writing, but modeling and child’s ability to proof and the analysis of his writing was not often present.

The national and state standards used now in our schools demonstrate the importance of the language arts’ multiple faceted programs: reading, writing, and even inclusion of content areas. Phonology is still important, but taught as a tool for reading and writing.

We model and help the students recognize and begin to use new strategies as they read and write. Letter knowledge is such a strategy. Letter knowledge involves letter identification, letter formations, phonology, word parts, and all aspects of written language. We should model and provide practice for the child as he combines new and already acquired strategies in real reading and writing activities.

Instruction of a phonetic blend is more than learning to produce the sound slowly. It involves vocabulary development and use of the blend in in various listening, speaking, reading, and writing settings.

The second part of this blog will provide ideas for doing this using Hameray’s Letter Buddies.

>> CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS BOOK <<

~~~

Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 

~~~

For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images below or click this link to visit our webpage for the Letter Buddies series.

Letter Buddies Blends Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Letter Learning, Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery, Double Consonants, Kid Writing

Brand-New Letter Buddies Teacher's Guide!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 2, 2017 2:16:00 PM

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Hameray is excited to announce "Letter Learning with the Letter Buddies," our brand-new Letter Buddies Teacher's Guide! This free guide provides ideas to boost your students' alphabetic knowledge with the Letter Buddies

The Teacher's Guide covers every product from the extensive Letter Buddies series:

The skills chart, included in the Teacher's Guide, matches Letter Buddies products to different alphabetic skills. For example, if your teaching goal is to have students identify beginning letters and sounds with accompanying pictures, the skills chart says that you can use the LetterMats, Alphabet Booksand Letter Books. Look no further than the skills chart to decide which product will best suit your students!
 
Libby Larrabee, the author of the Letter Buddies series, offers a multitude of alphabetic activities that you can use in the classroom. The Letter Buddies Alphabet Books are large and lap-sized, lending them well for whole-classroom or small-group settings. Students draw upon their vocabulary knowledge of common settings, such as the store and the classroom. Using these familiar environments, students learn to recognize and identify letter sounds and shapes. 
 
Larrabee offers many ideas for using Alphabet Books in the classroom:
  • "Talk about the features of the lowercase and uppercase versions of each letter.

  • Finger-trace the letters to demonstrate formation using verbal directions from the Child Talk Table (see pages 3–4).

  • Name the letters and give students practice naming the letters.

  • Talk about how certain letters are grouped together to form a word. Explain that there is a word under each picture naming what the object is.

  • Show that the letter at the top of the page is the same as the rst letter in the word below.

  • Demonstrate and practice alphabetical order using the picture glossary.

  • Engage in storytelling and conversation while playing the I-Spy game included" (5)

For more ideas and information about the other Letter Buddies products, read through the free "Letter Learning with the Letter Buddies" at our website!
 
~~

To download information about each Letter Buddies product, click the images below.

Letter Buddies Letter Books Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Blends Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Best Friends Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Starters Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Alphabet Books Sales Sheet

 
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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Teacher's Guides

Make Your Own Letter Buddies!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Nov 10, 2016 4:02:00 PM

 Have you met the Letter Buddies? The Letter Buddies Series offers children an engaging way to familiarize themselves with the alphabet and build a strong foundation for literacy skills. From Blends Books that feature common consonant blends to LetterMats for snacktime exploration, Letter Buddies encourages learning in a variety of settings.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the series, though, is the line-up of Letter Buddy characters. Each letter in the alphabet is personified into a fun, eye-catching creature with a unique personality. Meet them all below!

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You can find a Letter Buddy in every book of the Letter Buddies series. The block-printed letter buddy characters will ensure that your student can recognize alphabet letters in various fonts, an important aspect of letter-shape knowledge.

As an oral language activity, have your student choose their favorite letter buddy. You can find each letter on the covers of the Letter Buddies Letter Books. Discuss that letter’s personality traits (jumpy, loud, kind), and then ask your student to make up a story about the letter.

What does Happy H like to do? Why do you think Happy H is happy? Who is Happy H’s best friendhameray-early-childhood-letter-learning-resources-teachers.jpg

The Letter Buddy characters only feature the 26 uppercase letters in the alphabet—why not make your own class set of lowercase letter buddies? Assign a letter to each student. Brainstorm together to think of a “describing word” (adjective) that starts with their letter but is different from the uppercase letter buddy’s adjective! For example, Chatty C’s lowercase friend might be “cute c.” This exercise will help the students identify different words that begin with a certain letter.

Once the describing word has been decided, have the students write their lowercase letter and illustrate it with hands, eyes, feet, etc. Assist the students in labeling their letter buddy. Compile everyone’s drawings into a class set of Letter Buddies! 

Who is your favorite Letter Buddy? Let us know in the comments below!

~~~

Click the image below to learn more about the Letter Buddies Letter Books series. Visit our website to see all of our Letter Buddies products!

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Beginning Letter Sounds, Letter Learning

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jul 1, 2016 10:01:16 AM

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections - Kathy Crane

One of our frequent guest bloggers, Kathy Crane over at Kindergarten Kiosk, wrote this neat post on teaching the alphabet through connections. She uses lots of strategies: animal buddies, letter books, anchor charts, and an object tub, among other things. Here is an excerpt from her post:

One of the most important skills that young children need to conquer quickly, is to crack the code of the alphabetic principle! This is not an easy task for most children. In fact, the skill is most easily acquired if it is taught in a strategic manner that is purposeful, and makes sense. 

This group of animal friends allows for such strategic teaching! As I introduce a letter a day for the first 26 or so days of school using multisensory cues, I have found that most students learn the majority of letters and sounds in a very short time.

Click here to read the rest of her post, and if you're interested in the Letter Buddies Letter Books she uses in her approach, there are a few ways you can get a better look at them:

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Kathy Crane

Summer Fun with Letter Learning!

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Jul 30, 2015 4:41:00 PM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years.  She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.  The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.

With the summer months here, it is so much fun to be outside enjoying activities with little ones. I love playing camp out in our washing machine box "cabin," reading great books, and mixing up various concoctions. Combining books and concoctions is one way to make summer letter learning fun!

I recently received a set of Letter Buddies Letter Books from Hameray, so my grandchildren and I spent a lot of time looking at the colorful pages and discussing what the objects on each page had in common. We talked about the shape of each letter, the sound at the beginning of each object name, and how we could write, paint or draw the letters. This led us to a search on Pinterest for recipes on sidewalk paint using corn starch, water and food coloring.

summer_funAfter a brief scramble to find paint brushes, then mixing the "paint" and adding color in each of 12 muffin tins, we went outside! Wonder of wonders! This was the best activity of the summer! I asked the children to try making the first letter of their names, then we tried other letters. The oldest painted the entire alphabet! The best thing about this paint is how it brightened to a beautiful chalky appearance as it dried.

After the fun, we came inside to clean up and look at the books that had letters we had made. We also made letters by arranging beans, cereal, raisins, baby carrots and many more edibles, and everyone had a good time!

Using books as a springboard for learning helps children make permanent connections about important concepts. I encourage you to try the paint and a few other things to create your own summer fun!

Recipe for chalk paint:

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. corn starch

1/4 c. water

bright neon food coloring (color to suit your needs)

~~~ 

 For more information about the Letter Buddies series, click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below to download an information sheet. 

 
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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Margaret Hufstedler

Working with Magnetic Letters—with FREE Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 26, 2015 3:50:46 PM

This is the final post in a series of three posts on letter learning taken from the Letter Buddies teacher's guide by Libby Larrabee. You can read the earlier posts here and here!

magnetic-lettersMagnetic letters can be used on a daily basis to support young children’s development of letter-shape, letter-name, and letter–sound knowledge. This can be accomplished with sorting activities. As they practice sorting, children learn to categorize, recognize, and classify distinguishable features of letters. Their ability to distinguish one letter from another rapidly is a skill that is important for reading. Good readers sample just enough information in print (letters, word parts, and whole words) to maintain meaning while they are reading. This quick visual sampling means that letters must be recognized automatically.

This automatic recognition of letters develops over time. Initially, young children will need to examine the details of individual letters. Your conversations about letters and how they are formed will help this happen. Daily sorting of letters will also support the development of this automatic recognition. Once you have demonstrated how to sort, the activities can be placed in your ABC center. You can also have several different sorting activities available depending on the needs of your children. 

Materials Needed:

  • Several sets of Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters

  • Small baskets to hold letters for sorting activities

  • Letter Buddies Magnetic Whiteboards or any magnetic surface (upright and at child’s eye level)

Choosing Letter Features to Sort:

Initially choose categories where the differences are easy to see (e.g.: short and tall), and use only a few letters. As children become more proficient in sorting, put more letters of each category in the basket. Letter Buddies Foam Magnetic Letters come in three colors, which helps draw children’s attention to the different features of the letters.

Here are some categories of features for sorting letters:

  • Short and tall letters

  • Short and tall letters and letters that fall below the line

  • LB-ZLetters with open and closed curves

  • Tall letters with and without circles

  • Small letters with and without circles

  • Letters with and without hooks

  • Letters with one valley/two valleys (v, w, y)

  • Letters with one hump/two humps (n, h, m)

  • Letters that are crossed/not crossed (t, f, l, h, b)

  • Letters with tunnels/letters with holes (n, h, m, d, g, a, b, q, o, p)

  • Letters with sticks and curves/letters with just sticks (t, l, v, w, z, y, r, u, f, h, m, n)

  • b, d, p, q (done after many other sorts)

Also try using some of these categories to sort uppercase letters!

whiteboardDemonstrating Sorting (best done individually or in small groups):

  • Bring the basket of letters to the upright magnetic surface. Initially use only 6–8 letters.

  • Show children how to place the letters in a group on the magnetic surface just above their eye level.

  • Using both hands, slowly move the letters down into their appropriate groups. (It is important for children to use both hands and have the letters at eye level).

  • Return the letters back to the group and sort again. 

  • Initially (especially for very young children), it is not necessary to name the letters. The focus to begin with should be on the features of the letters.

  • As children become familiar with the task, their speed will increase.

  • When they have learned the corresponding letter names, ask them to name the letters while they sort. 

  • Remember to change your sorts every week or two weeks to keep the activities fresh and the children challenged.

A Note about Sorting:

Make sure to continue telling your students the purpose for sorting. It is brain work! They are exercising their brains so that reading will be easier!

Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

Once your children can recognize the significant features of letters, use the Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters for matching uppercase and lowercase letters. Knowing both the uppercase and lowercase form of each letter is important. You may want to start out with only 6–8 letters to be matched. As time goes on, children will be able to match all the letters of the alphabet.

Learning Alphabetical Order

LB-C-QLetter Buddies Magnetic Letters can also be used to help children learn alphabetical order in both uppercase and lowercase. Prepare some strips for matching. You may want to break the alphabet up into smaller groupings before having the children alphabetize all the letters. For example:

  • a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i,
  • j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r,
  • s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z

After working with smaller groupings of letters, children can be challenged to alphabetize all the letters without the matching strip.

Advanced Activities

  • Place pictures of several objects in a basket with the corresponding magnetic letters for initial sounds. Have the children match the correct letter and picture.
  • Practice letter formation. Place a letter on the magnetic whiteboard. Have the children finger trace the foam letter, getting a feel for its shape. Once familiar, ask them to try writing the letter on the whiteboard, next to the magnetic letter, using dry-erase markers. 

For More Practice with Letter Learning...

Download our 12-page Letter Buddies Matching worksheets below, with tracing and initial-sound exercises for each letter of the alphabet.


Learn about our Letter Buddies line of letter-learning products for early childhood by clicking here to visit our website or clicking the image to the left below to download information sheet on Letter Buddies Letter Books for letter learning! To download the free worksheets, click the image to the right.

New Call-to-Action  Letter Buddies Initial Sounds Worksheets

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Letter Buddies, Letter Learning

Working with Alphabet Books—with FREE Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 24, 2015 3:30:00 PM

This is the second in a series of three posts on letter learning taken from the Letter Buddies Teacher's guide by Libby Larrabee. Check back later for the next post in this series! You can read the earlier post here!

Alphabet_BooksLetter Buddies Alphabet Books are great resources that encourage young children to begin learning the alphabet. The large- format, lap-book size (12” x 16”) encourages conversation and interaction by all children in a whole- or small-group setting. During alphabet book sharing, children can learn about letter features, letter names, and letter sounds. The large letters in the corner of each page allow for easy letter-formation demonstrations.

Each Alphabet Book focuses on an environment that is common to a child’s world: home, school, and store. Encourage children to talk about their experiences in each place, using the vocabulary from these books as much as possible. This will promote greater comprehension and retention of new words and skills. 

Your conversation during Alphabet Book sharing is critical. This is the perfect time to encourage oral language development. Explicit talk and questioning about each book will encourage children to make connections to their own experiences and become involved in the reading. This is the time to explain unfamiliar concepts and teach new vocabulary.

Letter_Buddies_VAlphabet_Books_SpreadThoughtful questions and comments will also help children focus on different aspects of letter knowledge. Here are some ways that you can use the Alphabet Books:

  • Talk about the features of the lowercase and uppercase versions of each letter.
  • Name the letters and give students practice naming the letters.

  • Talk about how certain letters are grouped together to form a word. Explain that there is a word under each picture naming what the object is.

  • Show that the letter at the top of the page is the same as the first letter in the word below.

  • Demonstrate and practice alphabetical order using the picture glossary.

  • Engage in storytelling and conversation while playing the I-Spy game included.
  • Finger-trace the letters to demonstrate formation using verbal directions from the Child Talk Table (see below). 

Child_Talk-1

Child_Talk-2

For more ideas, be sure to check out the suggested activities provided at the end of each Alphabet Book!

Add to your collection! Have your students create a class alphabet book (or try it individually). Start the year with a large, empty book with at least one blank page per letter. Each time you have a read-aloud, ask the children to identify 2 or 3 items from the story to be placed in the class alphabet book. 

Alphabet books can also be used to teach initial sounds. Each page of the alphabet books uses a letter to introduce something with the corresponding beginning sound. The items introduced will be familiar to children from the context of home, school, or store. To further help children learn the correspondence between letters and initial sounds, we have included a free 23-page downloadable set of initial-sound worksheets at the bottom of the page.


Learn about our Letter Buddies line of letter-learning products for early childhood by clicking here to visit our website or clicking the image to the left below to download information sheet on Letter Buddies Alphabet Books for letter learning! To download the free worksheets, click the image to the right.

 New Call-to-Action  Letter Buddies Initial Sounds Worksheets

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Alphabet Books, Letter Learning

Classic Post: Letter-Learning Ideas

Posted by Tiffani Mugurussa on Aug 5, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This guest blog post is by Tiffani Mugurussa of Rohnert Park, CA. It was originally published in October 2013. If you like what you see here, Tiffani also writes a blog called Time 4 Kindergarten, in which she writes about phonemic awareness, classroom decor, numbers, letters, and more! 

Letter Learning with Books and Manipulatives

letter buddies books 250Hi, I’m Tiffani Mugurussa! So many of my students come to school with very little knowledge of the alphabet. For many, singing the ABC is their only connection to the alphabet. This is why so much of the beginning of my school year focuses on the alphabet. We are very busy learning the difference between letters and numbers, what each alphabet symbol represents, and the sound for each letter.

On the first day of school, I begin with the letter A and introduce a new letter each day until we reach the letter Z. This is just an introduction to the entire alphabet; once we have met all of the letters, we begin our letter of the week focus. This is a more in-depth concentration on each individual letter.

letter buddies interior 250To introduce each letter during my 26-day letter introduction, I use alphabet books, flash cards, and other alphabet materials. I have a very old set of alphabet books with cartoonish pictures that I have used for years. However, when I saw the Letter Buddies Letter Books, I knew I needed to use these. The books have beautiful, real photos. There is something about using real photos when teaching—the students really become enthralled with the pictures, and it makes the content you are teaching relevant.

To begin, I share the book with my class. We discuss each photo. Being that many of my students are learning English, these books are a great resource for building their vocabulary. I point to the beginning letter in each word in hopes that the students make the connection that the beginning letter is the beginning sound and the focus letter. Next we try to name some other items that begin with the letter.

I follow up the books and letter introduction with other letter activities during our daily center time.

Here are two of my students’ favorite centers:

Alphabet Manipulatives: Use Beads, Magnetic Letters, or Letter Tiles

Choose one of these manipulatives to place in a tub of rice. Students sift through the rice searching for the focus letter. I colored my rice to make it a little more fun.

colored letters rice 250 white letters rice 250

Shaving Cream: Spray a small amount of shaving cream on the table. Students can practice writing the focus letter in the cream. They will love this activity, and—best of all—it cleans up easy and makes your tables really clean.

shaving cream 250

When teaching the whole group, I like to use activities that get the students involved. Pocket-chart sorting is an activity that I use often with my whole class. Using a set of beginning sound picture cards that I have made, students take turns placing the cards under the correct letters.

pocket sorting 250

First, I pass the cards out to the students. I then have them come to the pocket chart one at a time. They must say the name of their picture, the beginning sound, and then what letter the picture begins with. This activity focuses on several skills at the same time, which are perfect for my for my English-language learners. My students are learning English vocabulary, first-sound fluency, and letter names.

tiffani mugurussa~~~

A little bit about me: my name is Tiffani Mugurussa, and I am an alphabet-singing, storybook-reading kindergarten teacher. I am also the author of Time 4 Kindergarten, a blog for kindergarten teachers. I have been a teacher for 23 years, teaching grades kindergarten through fifth. This is my ninth year as a kindergarten teacher. I'm a kindergartner at heart. I love being the foundation of a child's education. Knowing that I am responsible for their first school experiences warms my heart with love, pride, and joy.

~~~

Do you know a K–8 teacher whose creative classroom activities could use some well-deserved recognition? Have you, yourself, hit upon a strategy that you think works so well that you'd love to share it with others? Do you have a teaching blog or website with ideas you'd like to spread? Come stand in our Teacher Spotlight!

We're looking for teachers with unique, fun perspectives to feature on our blog. At least once a month, possibly more often, we want to inspire the teaching community with the innovative work of teachers who have a true passion for what they're doing. We'll broadcast your ideas here on our blog, distributing them through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Each teacher we choose will get some Hameray "goodies" from a series that fits their classroom needs—early literacy, oral language development, striving readers in upper grades, informational text, or literature.

To nominate yourself or another teacher, tell us a little more here.

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Topics: Teacher Spotlight, Making Learning Fun, K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Tiffani Mugurussa

Working with Magnetic Letters—with FREE Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Apr 25, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is the final post in a series of three posts on letter learning taken from the Letter Buddies teacher's guide by Libby Larrabee. Check back later this week for the next post in this series! You can read the earlier posts here and here!

magnetic-lettersMagnetic letters can be used on a daily basis to support young children’s development of letter-shape, letter-name, and letter–sound knowledge. This can be accomplished with sorting activities. As they practice sorting, children learn to categorize, recognize, and classify distinguishable features of letters. Their ability to distinguish one letter from another rapidly is a skill that is important for reading. Good readers sample just enough information in print (letters, word parts, and whole words) to maintain meaning while they are reading. This quick visual sampling means that letters must be recognized automatically.

This automatic recognition of letters develops over time. Initially, young children will need to examine the details of individual letters. Your conversations about letters and how they are formed will help this happen. Daily sorting of letters will also support the development of this automatic recognition. Once you have demonstrated how to sort, the activities can be placed in your ABC center. You can also have several different sorting activities available depending on the needs of your children. 

Materials Needed:

  • Several sets of Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters

  • Small baskets to hold letters for sorting activities

  • Letter Buddies Magnetic Whiteboards or any magnetic surface (upright and at child’s eye level)

Choosing Letter Features to Sort:

Initially choose categories where the differences are easy to see (e.g.: short and tall), and use only a few letters. As children become more proficient in sorting, put more letters of each category in the basket. Letter Buddies Foam Magnetic Letters come in three colors, which helps draw children’s attention to the different features of the letters.

Here are some categories of features for sorting letters:

  • Short and tall letters

  • Short and tall letters and letters that fall below the line

  • LB-ZLetters with open and closed curves

  • Tall letters with and without circles

  • Small letters with and without circles

  • Letters with and without hooks

  • Letters with one valley/two valleys (v, w, y)

  • Letters with one hump/two humps (n, h, m)

  • Letters that are crossed/not crossed (t, f, l, h, b)

  • Letters with tunnels/letters with holes (n, h, m, d, g, a, b, q, o, p)

  • Letters with sticks and curves/letters with just sticks (t, l, v, w, z, y, r, u, f, h, m, n)

  • b, d, p, q (done after many other sorts)

Also try using some of these categories to sort uppercase letters!

whiteboardDemonstrating Sorting (best done individually or in small groups):

  • Bring the basket of letters to the upright magnetic surface. Initially use only 6–8 letters.

  • Show children how to place the letters in a group on the magnetic surface just above their eye level.

  • Using both hands, slowly move the letters down into their appropriate groups. (It is important for children to use both hands and have the letters at eye level).

  • Return the letters back to the group and sort again. 

  • Initially (especially for very young children), it is not necessary to name the letters. The focus to begin with should be on the features of the letters.

  • As children become familiar with the task, their speed will increase.

  • When they have learned the corresponding letter names, ask them to name the letters while they sort. 

  • Remember to change your sorts every week or two weeks to keep the activities fresh and the children challenged.

A Note about Sorting:

Make sure to continue telling your students the purpose for sorting. It is brain work! They are exercising their brains so that reading will be easier!

Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

Once your children can recognize the significant features of letters, use the Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters for matching uppercase and lowercase letters. Knowing both the uppercase and lowercase form of each letter is important. You may want to start out with only 6–8 letters to be matched. As time goes on, children will be able to match all the letters of the alphabet.

Learning Alphabetical Order

LB-C-QLetter Buddies Magnetic Letters can also be used to help children learn alphabetical order in both uppercase and lowercase. Prepare some strips for matching. You may want to break the alphabet up into smaller groupings before having the children alphabetize all the letters. For example:

  • a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i,
  • j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r,
  • s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z

After working with smaller groupings of letters, children can be challenged to alphabetize all the letters without the matching strip.

Advanced Activities

  • Place pictures of several objects in a basket with the corresponding magnetic letters for initial sounds. Have the children match the correct letter and picture.
  • Practice letter formation. Place a letter on the magnetic whiteboard. Have the children finger trace the foam letter, getting a feel for its shape. Once familiar, ask them to try writing the letter on the whiteboard, next to the magnetic letter, using dry-erase markers. 

For More Practice with Letter Learning...

Download our 12-page Letter Buddies Matching worksheets below, with tracing and initial-sound exercises for each letter of the alphabet.


Learn about our Letter Buddies line of letter-learning products for early childhood by clicking here to visit our website or clicking the image to the left below to download information sheet on Letter Buddies Letter Books for letter learning! To download the free worksheets, click the image to the right.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Letter Buddies, Letter Learning

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