In my preschool classroom, I have one common goal for every preschooler; to recognize their name in print. I have a multitude of other goals for each child, from forming friendships to speaking up, to more academic ones if that’s what the child needs. The only common goal for my 2-3-year-olds is to recognize their name in print by the end of the year. This starts with focusing on “Their letter.” aka their first initial. Focusing on children’s first initial is where I begin with letters and is the first step in answering the question- how do you teach the alphabet to preschoolers.
Why not A then B, then C?
Because a child’s first initial is meaningful, their name is meaningful, and when we make learning meaningful we give children a reason to engage and want to learn more. Teaching children the letters of their name helps them to do something that fills a need. They can find their cubby, they can recognize which painting is theirs, they can take ownership of things, and feel more connected to the classroom community.
How Do You Teach The Alphabet To Preschoolers?
Well, there are many ways, and my book Setting The Stage for Rock-Star Readers is packed with activities, tips, teaching ideas, and the reason behind each activity. Today I want to share one interactive alphabet song and activity that works well with children’s first initial, but you can easily branch out from there using other upper and lowercase letters and even sight words for children in elementary school.
Interactive Letter Song
Gather your materials. You will need some letter manipulatives, anything works, even paper cards with the letters written on them. Here are some fun options:
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Before you can have fun learning the alphabet with your students, you will need to practice the song. If you grew up on Sharon, Lois, and Bram as I did, you know this song’s tune as the Elephant Song, but if not, you will recognize the tune as 5 Little Ducks. If you are super organized, you can make a spider web out of tape on the floor for you to sit on
One little letter went out to play,
on a spider’s web one day,
they had such enormous fun,
that they called for the letter ( enter letter name) to come.
( as children are called over change the number at the start of the song)
Need help with the tune? Check out this video of me singing.
Alphabet Activity for Preschool
You are all prepped, now it’s time to learn. Invite the children to sit together and hand out the letters. Give each child their first initial if they are just starting out; this may mean that you call multiple kids over at once, that is perfectly fine. For more experienced students, you can use any letter, a mix of upper and lowercase letters, or for kindergarten and up even use sight words.
Sit on the other side of your classroom and start singing the song. Remember, this isn’t a quiz show if a child doesn’t know when to get up, simply call them over. “Jessica, I called the letter B, and you have it, come on over lucky girl!” keep it positive. After doing the activity a few times, you will probably have students helping out, too, calling out their friends’ names. This is great because it makes the group focus on that child, and everyone looks at the letter they are holding. It reinforces that letter to everyone. Group activities aren’t ever going to fit every student in your class perfectly; being encouraging and positive while offering a scaffold is vital for success.
Keep singing until you have called each letter, and your students are sitting with you.
The magic of this song and activity is that it combines so many elements, letter recognition, counting as the calling group gets bigger and bigger, and movement. I find incorporating movement into my circle time routine is what makes it successful.
For more ways to work on letter recognition and so much more check out my book Setting The Stage for Rock-Star Readers, it’s packed with wonderfully playful early literacy activities for preschool and daycare classrooms.