Beyond the Basics: Fluency with the Alphabet

While there are an endless supply of amazing ABC books available for parents and teachers to read to children, it is important to diversify the letter learning experience.  Hearing and seeing isn't enough, kids need to be actively "doing" in order to gain a meaningful understanding of letters and the alphabet.  At Smarten Up we achieve this goal by blending high-tech with low-tech to achieve a just-right balance that is effective, and more importantly fun!  Here are a few of our favorite tools ...

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Letterschool teaches little ones about letters and numbers in four different stages.  First they hear the letter name and sound paired with a word that begins with the selected character.  When a child selects "R" for examples they will hear a catchy jingle - "This is the letter R, like r, r, robot."  Then, children are able to learn more about the letter in three stages.  First, kids begin by tapping a series of buttons to see the letter traced.  After that, they have the opportunity to trace the letter themselves.  Lastly, children will write the letter on their own (with helpful arrows as necessary).  But what makes Letterschool truly unique is the great graphics and animations that keep the user guessing; sometimes in the tap stage the letter will be appear as a rocket ship or electric rainbow, and the trace stage will be a train track or soapy bubbles.  This engaging app is a great way for children to learn about letters with complete independence. 

Fun in the Kitchen

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Most kids love to get a bit dirty (so long as they know the can wash their hands afterwards!).  A super fun way to practice writing is to fill a baking pan with a substance of your choice, and have children practice writing their letters.  You can use shaving cream, whip cream, salt, sand, rice, the options are limitless!  When first beginning, It's best to do this activity with a printed alphabet somewhere nearby for support, and then phase it out as your child develops fluency with letters and their structure.

Another great kitchen activity is to raid the fridge, cabinets, and drawers for a beginning sound scavenger hunt!  Using a sound chart for support, challenge your kids to track down foods or tools that begin with the same sound as a letter of your choice - for example, kids could look for salt, snap peas, or soy sauce for the letter S .  You can also organize the selection of a daily snack based around the letter of the day.  The above letter-food chart is a free printable resource, but encourage your kids to think of other snacks that would fit with each letter sound.

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Lastly, there are tons of great paper-based beginning sound activities.  One of our favorites is the Smarten Up Monster Lunch Beginning Sounds book.  On each page kids have to "pack lunch" for a different monster who will only eat foods that begin with the first letter of his name.   You can also make beginning letter sound collages by going on picture hunts in newspapers and magazines, play beginning sound I-Spy, the possibilities are endless!  

What are you favorite apps, resources, and activities for teaching students about the alphabet and beginning sounds?