Yesterday, we began working on something that seems really simple but has proven to be a powerful learning tool with many of the younger students whom I have tutored. It takes a tiny bit of prep work on a parent/ teacher’s part, but the payoff is great, and you’ll find that it can be stretched to different learning levels, making it a worthwhile project for Maddy (5 yrs), Owen (3 yrs), and Cora (22 mos).
- Alphabet Book: Making the book is what requires a bit of prep, and there are many ways of doing it. Here’s how I did it–I took 13 pages of plain white paper, folded them in half (land-scape) then in half again. I piled all of the papers together, seam sides touching and I then created a binding for the book by punching two holes on the fold side and tying it closed with a ribbon so that there were 26 loose pages.
On each cover, I wrote “(child’s name) Alphabet Book.” Maddy wanted to write her own, and that was fine.
Now, here is where the fun began. I gathered a bunch of old magazines and told Maddy, Owen, and Cora that we were going on a letter hunt, that they were “letter detectives,” and that today it was their job to find pictures for two of the letters in their alphabet books. I wrote “A a” on the left-hand side of the first page of their books, and we began our search for pictures that began with the letter “a”. As we searched through the pages of the magazines, we talked about what words we knew that began with “a” (airplane, aligator, apples, etc.) so that our searching had some focus.
While Maddy was thinking in a more sophisticated way (“Look, Mommy, she’s doing arts and crafts! Arts starts with ‘a’! or the occasional, “Hey! Here’s an otter! Otter starts with ‘a’!!”–yikes!), Owen really did well with more guidance. My focus with Owen was helping him find a page with a picture that worked, then ripping the page out and drawing a big black box around the picture with a marker. Following the black lines not only gave him practice with his scissors, but it made him really feel like he was making his own book.
With Cora, my main goal was to find one or two big, clear pictures that began with the letter. I ended up finding four, and I let her choose her favorite. She helped glue her pictures and put them on the page. We ended up only doing two letters–a and b–but I feel pretty confident that everyone will look forward to continuing work on their books throughout the next few weeks. I’m sure we’ll make these books a part of our learning in the every day for quite a while. . .
**This activity is one that is completely and totally worthwhile for several reasons:
- The children are the authors–the creators–of their very own book. They feel ownership over the book, the pictures they choose, and they will feel more proud than you ever thought possible after they finish all of the letters.
- This can be one of the first books that your child learns to read fluently. Fluency is improved by repetition. Your child can read this book, even though it is just letters pictures. Model for them how to read it: Point to the capital ‘a’, as you say the letter, then the lowercase ‘a’ as you say the sound it makes, then each of the pictures your child chose: “A, ahh, apple, aligator, airplane, artichoke.” Start by reading your book together each time you begin work on it.
- Keeping the book close as your early writer tries new words can help him/her remember which letter makes what sound. It can be a super tool for guided writing.
- This tiny book can grow with your learner. New pictures can be added to pages as your child sees fit or when he or she comes across a “good one” on a different day. In that way, your child will continually be thinking about letters and letter sounds.
Ehri, L., Nunes, S., (2002). The role of phonemic awareness in learning to read. In A.E. Farstrup & S. Samuels (Eds.) What research has to say about reading instruction (pp. 110-139).
Samuels S. (2002). Reading fluency: Its development and assessment. In A.E. Farstrup & S. Samuels (Eds.) What research has to say about reading instruction (pp. 166-181).