Oh the alphabet. It is one of the first songs that most children learn. By the way, the name of the tune that you sing that song to is called “Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman” from 1761, and it’s French. Anyway, I once heard that there was no reason for the letters of the alphabet to be arranged in the order that they are. I did some research and the truth is, there is a reason for the order of the alphabet, but no one knows what that reason is.
Years ago I worked for one of the best child development centers I had ever seen. In the preschool classrooms I noticed the alphabet was put up on the wall in a different order. I asked why the letters were not in order and the teachers told me that they found children understood and learned reading better when they were taught the letters in relation to their sounds rather than in their place in the alphabet (like learning the letter B then the letter D because they have similar sounds). The idea intrigued me.
I spent some time in the Pre-Kindergarten classroom and found that many of those Pre-K kids were further along in letter comprehension than other Pre-K kids I had been around. It wasn’t long after my time at this school that I ended up taking a job elsewhere in management, followed by several jobs with 18 month and 2 year old kids, not letter ready kids. I never got the opportunity to see if phonetic letter learning was better than ordinal letter learning.
Good news for me: I now have my only little person to experiment on. I was going to wait until Princess Pea was older. I mean, we sing the alphabet song, I point out the first letter of her name to her everywhere we see it. She knows the letters B, M, and D, but she’s 2. Developmentally, I should not be pushing her into things she isn’t ready for.
Enter story time at the library. We go at least once a week. I love the library. Pea does too. Our library has a great kids section. There are all sorts of toys, puzzles, activities, and of course books. Pea gets excited come library day. When she was younger, we went to baby time. Baby Time was filled with bubbles, songs, wordplays, and board books. But soon Baby Time was dull for Pea. She was ready for something more. We started going to Toddler Time. Toddler time is geared for children 2 to 4 years old. Like Baby Time, there are songs and wordplays, but it has more of the traditional story time as well. The librarian reads 2-3 stories on the theme of the week, with songs and dancing in between, as well as flannel board stories. Another thing they do is the letter of the week. They put up a big felt letter and then go through pictures of things that start with that letter. The children draw the letter in the air with their finger, and then we move on (we also sing the ABCs).
Lately I noticed Pea acting agitated around letter time. She wanted to participate; she shouted out the wrong letters then seemed down that she was wrong. I figured she may be ready for learning her letters. I now have an excused to try phonetics alphabet learning.
We went to the dollar store. I found bright pink poster board as well as cardstock colored letters. I made this huge poster with the letters in order on one side and with the phonetic order I came up with on the other side. I had to come up with this order myself because after weeks of searching, I could not find anyone who had a phonetic order for the alphabet. I think I sat there for two hours making letter sounds to figure out which sounded related, I felt silly, but I eventually got it worked out. I wrote the phonetic order on the back so I wouldn’t have to figure it out again.
I lumped all vowels together (Y is on here twice because it is both a vowel and a consonant). I put B, D, P, F, and V together. Q, K, C, S, X, and Z are together. M and N are one group while G, J, and Y are another. The last group is W, R, and H with T and L by themselves. My plan is to do a letter each week, focusing on the consonants for now. Each letter will have its own activities to promote not just memorizing the shape and name, but the sound that goes with it. We’re starting with B, but because it’s not ordinal, you can start with any letter you want.
Two is young for worksheets and letter tracing, so I will probably minimize those activities for now. She is still developing those fine motor skills.
Anyway, stay tuned for our B curriculum.
How have you taught your kids the alphabet?