Before children learn words, they learn the alphabet. Alphabet books, puzzles and games are great ways to work on letter identification, but as students learn what letters look like, it's also important to focus in on the sound each letter makes. Each year I get a new group of cute, eager learners with a variety of academic abilities. There are many different and effective early literacy programs available for teaching letters and their sounds; however, at my school, we've used the "letter of the week" approach with success for many years.
Each fall our Kindergarten team sits down and decides the order to teach the letters. We usually begin with B and work our way around to all 21 consonant, 10 vowel and 3 digraph sounds. We use a blend of theme based teaching and typical letter knowledge progression in our choices. Each week I will feature a new letter (after I've taught it and reviewed it at home) and give you lots of great ideas to teach or review the letter at home or in your classroom. These alphabet posts are great for children who are just being introduced to letters as well as children who may be learning the alphabet in a preschool or Kindergarten program already. (I'm actually planning on using them as a review for my son as we go through the letters of the week at school and as an introduction for my 2-year old daughter as she begins to learn them).
B is so fun to teach! It's at the beginning of the alphabet, it lends itself well to back-to-school, bus, and my favorite-bugs. Many children come to kindergarten already knowing B and the sound it makes. (Although lowercase b's can be tricky to distinguish between lowercase d's.)
1) Make A List of Words That Begin With B: Every Monday morning after calendar, I read an Alpha Tale book from a Scholastic series I bought the first year I started teaching. Then as a class we brainstorm a list of words that begin with the letter of the week. The B book is called Bubble Bear by Maxwell Higgins.
Here's my brainstorm list of words that begin with B:
· baboon · baby · back
· backpack · bad · badger
· bag · ball · balloon
· baloney · Bambi · banana
· Barbie · baseball · basket
· basketball · bat · baton
· bean · bear · beautiful
· bed · bee · beetle
· bell · bib · bicycle
· big · bike · bin
· bird · bit · bitter
· black · blue · boat
· bologna · boogers · book
· bottle · bow · box
· boy · brave · bread
· bring · brown · bubbles
· bug · build · bumble bee
· bus · butter · butterfly
2) Letter Detective for B: Look through a magazine and hunt for pictures of things that begin with B. (Parenting and home good magazines are great for this!) When you come across a baby or a basket, cut it out and glue it on a sheet of paper. You or your child can label the picture with a corresponding word to make your very own picture dictionary page.
3) Playdough Letter Practice: Playdough is one of my favorite things. It's great for building hand strength and awesome for creating things, even letters. I've seen cookie cutters for the letters, but what I'm really thinking about is manipulating the dough to make the basic forms of the letters. All of the letters can be formed using big straight lines, big curves, little straight lines and little curves. For example, a capital B would be made with one straight line and two little curves so I broke my playdough into one half and two quarters. I rolled a straight snake out of the half chunk of playdough and then made a small curve out of the two quarters. When the pieces are put together they make a capital B.
You can also practice writing Bb's using different tools such as a chalkboard, dry erase board, erasable magnetic board, or steamy shower glass. My son actually loves to show his little sister the "only correct way," as he calls it, to write the letters. If you're not sure about the correct way to form letters use the top to bottom, left to right approach. For example, capital B is a straight line from top to bottom. Then "frog hop" a.k.a. pick up your pencil and go back up to the top and make your little curve to the middle, then little curve to the bottom.
4) Make a B Bag: I love making the letter of the week bag for review at my house each week. It's really fun to walk around thinking of things that can go in the bag. Simply find a small gift bag, if you're like me you might have about 100 or so of these that you've been saving up after each gift giving time to reuse on others. I found a small little striped bag and perused the toys around my house for B items.
Here are the things I found:
a book, a bear, a ball, a block (with a B on it), bubbles, bacon, a butterfly, a bird, blue, brown and black (the buh-markers as my 5 year old called them). I also had a little toy banana, but it somehow disappeared from my bag after I went through the B items with my son and daughter. As your child becomes more advanced in his/her letter knowledge you could also let him/her find their own things for the bag. I'm anticipating that my son will join me for item hunts later this year.
5) Bubble Wrap Painting: This was seriously so much fun. I think all kids are probably like this because when I say the word painting at school, my students get really excited, but my son and daughter LOVE painting. All you need is bubble wrap (we used two different kinds), large paper, and poster paint. I also strongly encourage smocks and newspaper--this was a little-er a lot messy.
I am planning on turning our bubble wrap art into the background of another project that is coming soon.
6) Butterfly Life Cycle: Last fall we made cute little butterfly clothespins for B week, but this year we took it a step further and made used paper leaf and twig cut outs, markers, rice and different shaped pasta to make the butterfly life cycle. The rice on the leaf is the caterpillar egg. Next a "rotini" caterpillar emerges and eats the leaf. After the caterpillar becomes bigger, he spins a "shell" chrysalis and is called a pupa. After a couple weeks, the caterpillar comes out of his chrysalis and is a beautiful "bowtie" butterfly.
Monarch caterpillars are also readily available on milkweed in September, so not only did we make our own butterfly life cycle, we are watching it in our classroom. There are also many great fiction and non-fiction books about the butterfly life cycle to read to your little one(s).
7) The Wheels on the Bus: A great way to foster early literacy is simply by singing and reading familiar poems and rhymes with your children. The Wheels on the Bus is a great song that has been adapted and is one of my daughter's favorite songs to sing and act out. Read it in a book and show your child the connection between spoken and written word. Plus all the hand motions are just plain fun!
8) Read a Book with Lots of B's: Here are links to some of my favorite 'B' books.
What do you do to teach and review the letter B?