I used my kangaroo puppet, Kelby, the 4th and final time through the alphabet. The first time we concentrated on upper case alphabet recognition, the second time we learned letter sounds. The third time through the alphabet we put sounds together to begin writing phonetically, or sound spelling. Along with this we read letter formation poems and practiced correctly forming letters in the air, on the carpet, on each other’s backs, etc.
My goal for the final time through the alphabet was to be sure all children were comfortable with both upper and lower case letters, letter sounds, and sound spelling. I was ready to send home materials to help parents be sure they were reinforcing letter formation the same way the children were learning at school. I always kept in mind that my students were all at different stages of emergent reading and writing. I knew that some children did not really internalize alphabet recognition until the 2nd or 3rd time we studied the alphabet. Some were still gaining confidence with letter sounds by the 4th time through. I felt that this repeated review and reinforcement gave each child confidence and motivation to read and write.
In order to get Kelby to come out of the castle we sang a song:
When Kelby came to visit she always had something in her pocket that began with the letter we were reviewing that day. I had a large collection of small toys and sorted them according to their beginning letter in this case. That made it fast and easy to find something for Kelby’s pocket each day, and I used these for lots of other games and reinforcement too.
By this time the children had lots of schema about letter sounds. The experience of bringing in items from home the previous time through the alphabet gave them ideas of items that might be in Kelby’s pocket. Occasionally someone would guess something that did not begin with the correct letter, that gave me information about that child. When that happened I would list a few things that other children had guessed and help the child see that what he guessed did not sound the same at the beginning.
We also continued with sign language, and learning a few signs for things that begin with that letter. We re-read the big book of how to make each letter and reviewed the poems about how to write each letter. I wrote in detail about this in the posting about Archibald Bertram Cornelius and Letter Formation.
Here are the letter writing poems:
And here is what the large book looked like that I used to model the strokes needed to make each letter – green for the first stroke, red for the rest.
I sent home a small book (1/4 pg.) with each child that contained the letter writing poems and arrows on each letter to show parents what their child was learning. I copied these onto construction paper using the same colors as the original alphabet letters – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. After you run off the pages, if you collate them and cut them into 1/4′s the alphabet is in the right order. I bound them on a binding machine to make it easy to turn pages. Here are the masters for these little books.
I also kept some of these books at school and used them the remainder of the year when children were having trouble remembering how to write a certain letter.
Here is a copy of a letter I sent to parents along with the phonetic spelling books we had just completed and the small writing books.
After I put Kelby back into the castle I modeled the page we would do in our Kindergarten Writing Book. I read the poem and modeled the letter formation for each letter up to the one we were working on each day. This book contained an alliterative sentence that made a connection back to the alliterative book we read when we were learning letter sounds. Some children remembered the stories and made the connection, others just heard the letter sound repeated in the sentence. For example: Amos Anteater ate applesauce. On the page there was also a picture of the character from the alliterative books, upper and lower case letters, a graphic of a hand showing the sign language letter and the writing poems. Then the children would trace over upper and lower case letters, and write 5 letters on each line.
Here are the masters for the Kindergarten Writing Book.
After writing and tracing the letters the children would draw 2 things that begin with that letter on the opposite page, and labeled them with phonetic spelling.
By the time we finished this book I usually thought that my students were very confident recognizing upper and lower case letters, matching letters to sounds, and understanding how to form the letters. Of course there is always a wide variation in the children’s fine motor skills and range of neatness in writing letters in kindergarten!