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 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.

To introduce the letter, we provide a printable coloring sheet that makes the connection to the theme and allows your child to begin familiarizing themselves with the letter. We encourage you to hang the colored sheet in your homeschool space to reference throughout the week.

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 Montissori 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, 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. This information is from The Logic Of English. You can find all the sounds in this chart or by purchasing this reference sheet from their website.)

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. For each letter, take a blank page of paper and write the letter in upper and lower case at the top. Work with your child to fill the page with pictures or drawings of people, places, and things that begin with this letter sound. Keep the pages in a three-ring binder that you can read through daily. 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.

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:

Describe the motion As you trace the letter, 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!” 

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.

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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