How to teach the letter of the week in Level 1

For all of the Learn + Live Letter levels, we strive to make the activities in each unit meet your child at a place that is developmentally appropriate for their age. One way we do that in Level 1 is by including a letter of the week in most of the units. This letter links to the unit theme and has a natural, organic connection to other topics you will learn during the week. (Subscribed members can view a list of where to find each letter in Level 1 here.)

To introduce the letter, we provide a printable instructional sheet, a sheet to add to your phonics alphabet book, and a coloring sheet. The goal is to help your child to begin familiarizing themselves with the letter name, the sound it makes and how to draw it.

But what do you do with your letter of the week besides coloring it in and displaying it? 

We have combined our favorite ideas from resources like the Logic of English and Learning without Tears to focus on two different skills: learning the sound the single letter makes and learning how to write the letter. Throughout Level 1, we take a multi-sensory approach to writing, incorporating both Montessori philosophy along with the science-backed methods we discussed in our IG LIVE with Kristen Palen from Coastal Connections Pediatric Therapy. Level 1 focuses on pre-writing skills until your child is ready to write letters. 

Ready to get started? Here are ten ways to incorporate the letter of the week into your homeschool in an engaging and age-appropriate way. 

Activities for learning the letter sound

Say the letter and its sound. At the beginning of the week, you will introduce each letter along with the various sounds that letter makes in the English language. (Note: Don’t worry if you don’t know them all—in each unit, we will provide you with the single-letter phonogram(s) for each letter.)

Start by printing our Letter Guide and coloring sheet included in the Letter of the Week section of each Level 1 unit study. Remember, the letter guide isn’t a worksheet! The first sheet serves as a guide for you, the grown-up. Use it to introduce the letter name, the sounds it makes, and as a letter writing map (the arrows and numbers on the letter guide you as you demonstrate the standard way to draw each letter). Have your child color the coloring sheet as you introduce the letter sounds. Display it in your school area along with the letter guide to reinforce the lesson throughout the week.

Make a phonics book. A phonics book is a simple, hands-on way to bring the letter sound into the real world for your child. Use the second sheet in our Letter Guide printable to create a phonics book that is uniquely meaningful for your child. Print, cut out, and glue (or have your child draw) pictures of things that start with the letter A that are familiar or important to your child onto the blank space on this sheet. (You may also want to laminate it for durability.) Next, put the page in a folder or thin binder that you will use specifically for your phonics book. Each week as you learn about a new letter, add the new phonics sheet to your book. Review the book a few times each week until your child has mastered these phonics. When you have created pages for all the letters, put them in alphabetical order. You can also watch our IGTV to learn how our co-founder created her phonics book with her child.

Sing the sound. Music can be a great tool to help a concept stick in your child’s mind. Let’s modify a children’s song “Farmer in the Dell” to learn all the sounds the letters make. Here’s a sample of our co-founder singing our version of this song—simply sub the letter you are learning to make it work for each letter of the week. The Logic of English also sells an audio with songs for each letter.

Learning how to write the letter 

Watch this video to see some examples of pre-writing activities that can help your child learn to write the letter of the week, then read on for a deeper explanation of each activity.

Describe the motion as you demonstrate how to write the letters. Give your child mental cues to follow its shape—but make it personal to your child’s life and experiences. For example, if your child loves race cars, call the starting point of the letter “the starting line.” You could also use a sticker to show the starting point of the letter or find another way to explain that each letter formation begins at one designated place. 

Next, describe the strokes in a way that makes sense to your child. For example, you could say, “down the mountain,” “down the escalator,” “down the hill,” or “down the slide.” You get the point—there’s more than one way to describe a motion, so do what makes sense to your child in their world. When the letter requires that they lift the pencil, that also needs to be described. You can say, “Jump up like a frog!” or simply, “Jump up!” Anytime you demonstrate a letter, say the same thing to help them remember. When your child is ready to start writing letters, continue to use the same verbal cues to describe the motion of writing the letters.

Build the letter by hand. Learning how to write the letter starts with recognizing the shapes in the letter. Build your child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by using these hands-on ideas to form each letter:

Pre-writing play. Once your child sees how the letter is made, practice “writing” the letter with their finger. Try these ideas:

Using tools. Before they are ready to pick up a pencil try these tools:

  • a paintbrush dipped in water on a blackboard
  • a short piece of chalk on a blackboard
  • a stick for writing in sand or playdough 

Get outside. Kristin from @coastalconnectionsot recommends taking your learning outdoors by writing on the ground or in the dirt using chalk, wet brushes, and/or sticks. 

Whole body movements. Write out big letters on the ground with chalk or use masking tape on the floor to get the whole body involved in letter making. Ask your child to walk or jump out the letters. They can also ride their bike over them in the driveway. Try using Pilates, ballet, or yoga poses to create the letter with their body. Use items around the house or in nature like ropes, pinecones, rocks or sticks to form large letters. This is great for kids who enjoy kinesthetic feedback and it assists in the visual motor aspect of letter formation. It also really helps with the motor planning.

Ready to write with pencil? Follow these tips: 

  • Be sure to use lined paper. (Position the paper properly as described here.) 
  • Demonstrate the letter first, describing the letter strokes as you write. 
  • Follow their lead and let them practice as many times as they would like. 
  • Remember not to over-correct. Make a mental note of any letters they are struggling with and go back to pre-writing practice.

Remember: These are very complex skills that your child may be tackling for the first time, so don’t worry if everything doesn’t click right away. Continue to practice these activities throughout the week and year to help deepen your child’s understanding and set them up to read and write confidently down the line.

Do you have a left handed writer? Read this article by Kristin from @coastalconnectionsot for 8 tips for left handed writers.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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