For the record, we do not make electronic media (computer, television, DVDs, etc.) available in our home for our children at all. This is a choice that we made years ago, and I am so glad we did it. A lot of folks will say they don’t do electronic media because they want children who read, they don’t want obese children, they want to protect their children from the wickedness on television, etcetera.
We had a variety of reasons I won’t go into because I am not out to convince you about anything, though, as an aside, I will mention that a wonderful side-effect of this is that we have managed to form a family culture that is almost completely untouched by popular culture. I adore that my girls don’t know who Hannah Montana and Dora are, that they like butterflies and frogs and mud instead.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that if there is one edge TV-watching families have over non-TV-watching families, it is that children will usually pick their letters up from a learning show.
No teaching required.
But if you don’t have or use a TV, you might just have to teach letters!
I did, at least.
How I Teach Letters
I have used this method twice now (I did something similar with my oldest, but not exactly the same), and with success. The girls know their letters. This method, though, is not fast. It is not showy. It is not time- or money-consuming.
Slow and steady wins the race.
So here is what I’ve done:
- Teach upper-case letters first by reading an alphabet book every single day. For the girls, I used my favorite alphabet book of all time: A is for Annabelle. I must have read this book hundreds of times. (I also used this book with Neighbor M. last year for her kindergarten.) The only thing I do differently than a normal reading is that I point at the letter and I say the name and then I have the student repeat it. Over time, the student remembers more and more of the names of letters, until finally, one day, she knows them all.
- “Test” the student on upper-case letters using a Lauri puzzle. If the student shows that she doesn’t actually know the letters (at least not out of context), then I will alternate one day with the puzzle, one day with the book, until she knows them. For my three-year-old, I documented our progress. I calculate that, at about three days per week, it took five months to get from knowing no letters, to knowing all of the capital letters.
- Teach the lower-case letters using the Big-Little Letter Matching Game (click the link if you want to know about the game in greater detail), adding a few more letters every day, or every-other-day if review is needed. We skipped doing anything this summer, so though there were five months from when we started the game until she knew all her letters, it actually took only two-and-a-half months for her to learn them.
- Review lower-case letters to make sure the student knows them. I set up a version of the letter-matching game using Lauri’s capital letter puzzle and lower-case letter puzzle. The next day, I set up the regular game backwards, meaning I laid out all the lower-case letters, and she was given a pile of capital letters she had to match to them. On a different day, I read Dr. Seuss’s ABC book to see if she knew the letters on a page. I reviewed for a week, until I was convinced that she knew them backwards and forwards.
Just be sure you don’t start a child too young, and everything should go along smoothly.
What is too young?
It is hard to say, really. I usually don’t start until it is obvious the child is ready. This means that A. started when she was almost five, while Q. started when she was just-turned-three and E. (my oldest) actually started when he was just-turned-two (of course, some of that was desperation on my part because I was on bedrest with a pregnancy and I just needed something I could do with him without getting up).
I have no qualms about waiting until the beginning of kindergarten, or even first grade in more extreme cases.
Better later than sooner, in my mind.
There are really fancy means of teaching letters out there.
This is a way to teach them inexpensively, without overstimulating the child using visual media, in less than ten minutes per day.
Get My Free Binder Guide!
The Teaching Reading with Bob Books method uses a special binder system in order to simply and easily tailor the frequency of review to the needs of each individual child. This free guide explains exactly what you need and how to build the TRwBB Binder so that you can get started teaching right away.