Instead of having all of the children sit on the carpet and learn a letter that may or may not have relevance to them or that they may or may not already know...how can teachers in Full Day Kindergarten classrooms address the need to learn letters?
While reflecting on best practices of teaching with regards to learning letters we know that when a letter has significance to a child's life it is much easier to learn. Most of our children quickly learn letters in their names, in their friends names, or in words that are of interest to them.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at a book about trucks with one of our JK students who is really interested in transport trucks. He had asked if I could read some of the pages to him and together we went through the story. Knowing that he had a strong connection with trucks and that he is in the beginning stages of building his knowledge of letters and sounds I pointed out the letter T in the title of the book (I also knew that each page had a capital T on it).
This student is very kinesthetic and hands on in his learning. I brought to the table magnetic letters and took out the letter T. We learned that the word truck started with "T", he also recognized that "T" is at the beginning of his friends name. Every time he saw a T in the story, he picked up the magnet, matched it on the page and exclaimed "Yup, another T!".
Before opening the story, even with a keen interest in trucks, this student didn't have a clue what this letter was called or what sound it made. In one small teachable moment, he learned a letter. He retained that letter quite easily....why? Not because I taught him the letter T song in Jolly Phonics...but because it meant something to him, he connected to it...and he wanted to learn.
Of course not every letter will have a huge personal significance to children - but if you truly listen and watch I can bet that you can find ways to bring learning letters into everything you do and say with children. Just think....there are still 4 more letters in TRUCK!
I wondered if this student really retained the information or if it was temporary because of the excitement of the story. Over the next week or so, I made sure to call on him to identify the letter. At art when looking in flyers he independently cut out the letter T when he found it and excitedly shared it with his friends.
So...how do you teach letters and sounds? I guess our solution is not exactly clear. There is not template, there is no real single way. All children are different...they know different letters, they need to know different letters...and they will learn in many different ways. So my challenge for myself and for all of the other reflective teachers out there...how else can you make this learning genuine, engaging, and meaningful?