How Do You Teach Letters and Words?
Learning to make connections with letters and words involves many processes. Multi-sensory lessons where kids use their fingers, eyes, ears, and form words with their mouth are so important. But all of those components aren’t enough. Students also need practice imprinting the “look”, sound and association of those letters and words in a methodical way every day. The following are ways I have implemented repeated practice in my own classroom.
Chant it, Baby!
From the moment I heard a reading initiative trainer state it more than 25 years ago, I knew it! Kids will learn letters by chanting the alphabet chart daily. So we chanted letters every day as part of our morning routine, then again to start small group lessons. It helped with letter naming, but did not progress recognition of sounds as much as I would have liked. Kids also learned to chant without looking at it! Memorization is a super power in kindergarten! Kids can fake learning! So, I began to randomly point to letters on the chart, then handed the pointer to my little junior teachers who ran with the idea! Very soon, kids were attending to the chart better, recognizing more letters at random, and succeeding in recognizing the shape of letters. I added the letter sounds to our daily chants, and voila’! Most students learned letter and sound associations by the end of October each year! This was huge! In previous years, half of my class would still be working on learning them by February! Check that skill off the list!
Here is the chartlet I used. you can grab it here FREE!
For a virtual version of the Alphabet Chart Chant:
Sight Word Chants are Important Too
As a student of the phonics “movement” in the sixties, I can attest to the power of phonemic awareness and how important it is in making sense of reading. However, I did not have a good foundation in learning sight words, which in many cases cannot be sounded out. Because reading instruction did not include a methodical approach to learning these high frequency words, I would ask my mom for help, then write the words over and over as I read them. Said-said-said, which-which-which…This was my way of doing what we now know about learning sight words: kids need routine practice to learn them.
Fast Forward to 2020
We know now that kids need repitition for these frequently occuring words so they can focus on the big words to practice their sounding and blending skills. All of this is balanced literacy. Twenty years ago we used flash cards from our reading program at the time (there were several in my career). Thank goodness for the digital age! Now students can independently practice learning sight words and reading them in context on iPads, Chromebooks, Kindles, laptops, smart phones, and more!
At school, I have a video cued up and ready on a device all day long . Students practice for five to ten minutes independently throughout the day as our schedule permits. This is in addition to our focus on specific words during small guided group lessons and morning meeting. It is fun to hear a student exclaim, “I already know this word from the iPad!” Having it as an independent center helps many students with focus. It’s just the student and a device. Here are the videos I made to use during the day at school, but they may also be used at home if you are needing to teach/learn virtually.
Wherever you are, I hope you have a wonderful year with your students!
More products for virtual teaching!