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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Building Community Through a Fun Letter Introduction!

The letters are lost! Look, I found uppercase J!
Look at that face! He's SO excited!!
We then take turns "rainbow writing" the letters found...discussing sticks, curves, both. 
We then "Phonercise" to Dr. Jean's song, but only as far as the letters we've found.  Today we have to stop at Kk.
"Give me an L!" I write each letter as he cheers them. 
I recorded Landon's name as he cheered the letters. His name pocket is facing us just in case he needs a little help putting his letters back together.
Rebuilding his name.
We check our names letter by letter. Notice letters o and d.
He saw it and fixed it himself!
Our newest member of the Name Club!
Which car do you ride in?
As I add the child's name to the chart, the children write the name in their book. We'll use this later by adding a sticky note with a focus letter to the beginning of each child's name to alter the onset. It's interesting to see how some children struggle with this, while others automatically "change" their name with the new beginning sound. 
We add our friend's picture to our Friend Booklet.
I model how to write our friend's name in my booklet.
All done!
Great job!
What an improvement from the first day!!

A detailed explanation...

Beginning our first full week of school I begin introducing the alphabet from A-Z...usually 2 letter each day. This activity works well with our school's newly adopted reading series which also introduces the alphabet from A-Z - 2 letters on most days. Before going further, let me stop and explain my thinking about this. You might be thinking... "K's can't learn 2 letters in one day, they need more time," "This is too rushed," "Why not slow down and go slower".... At this point in the year (the first full week) K's are not ready for an in-depth study of much of anything. They are not used to the level of concentration needed to learn academic material. What they are ready for is an INTRODUCTION to learning...how to listen in a group, how to take turns — but listen while someone else has their turn, following along with the teacher, realizing that what we are doing applies to them, concepts of print, etc. Most of these little guys are used to doing what they want to do when they want to do it. An organized classroom is a shock to their system and they MUST be given time to adjust. What better way than a fun letter introduction using print that is near and dear to them - THEIR NAMES!

Here goes.... First, we read the book, The Letters are Lost. Next, I show the kiddos my box of letters (a clear plastic box with upper and lower case alphabet cards). We then discover that the A's are missing, so we hunt for them in the classroom. When found we add them to a pocket chart and try to sing the ABC song — of course we have to stop at A (but go further each day as letters are added - this builds one to one correspondance). Next, we talk about how the letters are made — sticks, curves or both and compare them with the other letters that have been introduced. Next, I write the letter with a pencil on a chart tablet. Then, I choose children who have that letter in their name (sometimes) to come up and "rainbow write" as we all trace on the rug, in the air or on our backs. This routine continues until the alphabet is complete.

After the letter(s) is introduced I tell the children that as the year goes on we will use these letters to read words, but that I suspect they can already read. The kiddos argue, but I persist that they CAN read. That's when I pull out someone's name card — whoever is first in the alphabet...for example Anna. Those who can read their names immediately are hooked, the ones who are learning rarely need two days to learn which word is their name.

I tell Anna it is her day to become a member of Mrs. Estes' Friend Club.  We help Anna cheer her name (give me an A, etc.) complete with pompoms and megaphone, as I write each letter on a sentence strip. Now, if Anna needs help I help, if not she yells out each letter on her own...whatever she needs. At the end of spelling her name, I cut the word into letters telling the children that letters make words and Anna's name is a word we can read. We name the letters again as I cut each letter. I then put the letters on the pocket chart, mixed up, and we cheer Anna on as she rebuilds her name. If she needs to look at the card for help that's fine. After she finishes we help Anna check each letter in her name one at a time, touching each one. You will be surprised at how many children cannot do this and how IMPORTANT it is that they begin to see how each word matches letter by letter (noticing first, middle, last) - this tells you SOOOO much! To close, we add the letter cards to Anna's name pouch, naming each as we put them into the pouch. Anna receives a certificate for becoming a new member of our Friend Club and I add her name card to the letter line train above the board (she rides the A car - A for Anna). The kiddos immediately make connections/predictions about where their name will go, who will "ride" with them, etc.

Next, the kiddos go to their seat for a much needed wiggle break, to get their marker cups (which hold their glue, scissors, pencil and markers). I give everyone a "My Book of Friends" booklet (a blank book of copy paper with 20 pages) and a copied picture of Anna to glue on the first page. We then write Anna's name together with our pencils letter by letter, talking about lines, curves, etc. It is amazing how the kids immediately begin to see how their names are the same/different and begin to predict who will be next or last, not to mention much needed fine motor practice. Whatever the children are able to write at this point is fine - it is THEIR work.

Now, you can see that we are NOT expecting these kids to name the letters and sounds from this lesson, but to build their awareness of print and what it is used for. You will be amazed at how much your kids learn during these lessons and how they relate their name to other words later. Each child, from the highest ability to the lowest, is gaining something from this activity. Some will learn to read each name quickly, while others will learn to turn pages one by one, hold a pencil and begin to make strokes. This activity builds confidence, camaraderie, and a love of learning in every child!

This activity is a combination of three sources - Hubbard's Cupboard, Pat Cunningham's and Dorothy Hall's Building Blocks, and a few ideas of my own.


  1. Love the friend booklets! Super cute idea and I think it's great that everyone has the chance to spell their friends' name without having to worry where they actually put the letters :)

  2. What a fantastic idea. I do something similair, but you took it much further and made it much better! A couple of questions: what do you do on days when there are multiple names that start with that letter? Also, what does the "Name Club" certificate say? Thanks

  3. Thanks so much for the comments! We cheer for one child each day no matter if there are several that start with the same letter. That format keeps ME from forgetting someone, but it also brings up ABC order which is a plus!
    The certificate has the poem we chant each day to "wrap up" the activity. I have no idea where it came from, but it is not mine. It goes like this:
    Growl your name
    Howl your name
    stretch it until it's long
    Chant your name
    Pant your name
    Sing it like a song
    Clap your name
    Snap your name
    Announce it loud and clear
    Yell your name
    Spell your name
    Tell the world your here!

  4. I love this idea. I do want to make sure that I understand correctly though, if you have two students that begin with A, you would do one on that day and the other the next day? So the name will not necessarily start with the letter of the day? We use SRA Imagine It! and introduce a letter a day for the first 30 days of school with some review days built in. I would love to do this with my students this coming year!!!

  5. I love this idea thank you so much for sharing!!!

    Miss J

  6. Jenny - Yes, we cheer one student each day. The ABC order of the students is to incorporate ABC order into the lesson AND keep ME organized! Your first student might be a "C" name, but you would still start the intro with letter A...does that make sense?

    Miss J - I'm glad you liked it!

  7. I love this idea and I can't wait to try it with my kinders this year! I think I understand the procedure but I have 2 quick questions: 1) When you show the students the letters in the box are they all there with only the letters for the day missing? Or do you put them in order as you go? 2) Do you begin with the students names and the friend books on the first day you start the introduction? Thanks for your help!