Teaching letters to kindergarten students should be organized and follow a routine so students can reach mastery of the alphabet. Here are some tips on how to introduce and teach letters in kindergarten.
As we are introducing the alphabet, we help kindergarten students learn to identify the letters of the alphabet at first by looking at the path of motion. When we designed our Engaging Readers units, we not only planned amazing reading comprehension activities, but we also planned our word study as well. We are often asked about how we teach letters to kindergarten students at the beginning of the year.
When kindergarten students come to us at the beginning of the year, they know the names of objects in their everyday life. If you show a student a picture of a car, they will know it’s a car even if you turn it sideways or flip it so it’s facing the other direction. Same with a dog, a bird, a house… they are still the same object. However, with letters that is not the case. When we look at a letter of the alphabet, the meaning of the object changes when it gets positioned differently. Think about the lowercase letters b, d, p, and q. It is important for students to know the names of the letters and recognize letters in the correct formation. This takes a little retraining for our kindergarten friends.
Experts tell us that is important to think about letter formation and to teach students explicitly as you introduce these letters. Research also tells us that students who are confident with their handwriting skills produce a higher quality of writing than those with poor handwriting. (Ruetzel, R July/August 2015 Findings Primary‐Grade Teachers Will Want to Know The Reading Teacher, Vol. 69, Issue 1)
You can see more on handwriting and the path of motion for lowercase and uppercase letters in this blog post:
How to Teach Letters in Kindergarten: Letter Order
According to Wiley Blevins, there is no consensus on the best sequence for teaching the alphabet. Many teachers believe letters should be introduced in alphabetical order, whereas others believe that a young learner should learn meaningful letters first, such as the letters in their names. When teaching young children letter names and letter sounds, we teach letters that allow them to build words quickly. So, we begin with the letters t, a, b, and h. We then follow a set sequence throughout our curriculum for teaching letters and beyond.
Once students learn about a letter, that letter doesn’t go away. Research tells us that students need 6-8 weeks to build mastery. So, the letter t should show up in your review 6-8 weeks after the introduction.
How to Teach Letters in Kindergarten: Routine
The best way to successfully teach letters to kindergarten students is to be organized and have a routine. When it comes to student learning, routines are critical. Now, I am all about fun and exciting activities to support learning but it’s important that students know what they are working on and what the next step is going to be. We want to teach letters the same way every single time so students can more easily store the information.
During the first 6 weeks, we introduce the entire alphabet. Each week, we introduce 4-5 letters. Many big boxed curriculums provide a letter of the week study. This is not effective.
Research by Jones and Reutzel (2012) showed that letter‐a‐day instructional pacing was significantly more effective than letter‐a‐week pacing in promoting students’ mastery of the alphabet letter names. They attributed this finding to a total of 6–7 distributed reviews of the alphabet letters in a single academic year, compared to only 1.5 distributed reviews when pacing instruction at a letter a week.
So clearly letter of the week is old and outdated. Letter of the day is a better and developmentally appropriate approach. It is also suggested that students NOT spend an hour a day on letter recognition instruction, but rather just 12 minutes a day… 12! Minutes! The instruction should be quick and include activities like letter identification, sound identification, sorting letters, finding letters, and writing letters!
How to Teach Letters in Kindergarten: Quick Daily Lesson
When we begin teaching letter recognition and sound, we provide students with a kinesthetic movement to accompany each specific letter. The movement is listed on the back of our sound cards.
We identify pictures that represent the letter sound and place the sound cards in a pocket chart.
Letters in a Sentence
I read an alliteration sentence to students and we identify the word that starts with the focus letter. I also have students repeat the sentence with me a few times.
During our lesson, students are also working in their phonics journals.
Teach letters and phonics with our ready-to-go lesson plans and resources. You can find our Engaging Readers phonics lessons here:
Letter Recognition Activities
After each letter is learned, I provide students with different ways to practice the letters during their literacy center time. It is important for students to have lots of opportunities to apply their learning and strengthen their neural pathways. Here are 5 alphabet recognition activities that are perfect for centers! You can also use these great ideas during small group.
Alphabet Activity #1: Letter Identification Editable Worksheets
These printable and editable worksheets are a great resource for practicing letter identification. You can simply add which letters you want your students to practice, select the themed activity pages, and print. You can easily differentiate these worksheets to meet individual needs.
Alphabet Activity #2: Alphabet Games
These fun games are perfect for reviewing letter knowledge. Students pull out a card and say the letter name. There are special cards that make this game even more engaging. I love the multiple themes so this activity can be used throughout the year and not lose its excitement.
Alphabet Activity #3: Sequence Letter Identification
Alphabet Activity #4: Kindergarten Literacy Centers Letters and Print Concepts
These literacy centers are non-seasonal, easy to differentiate and follow a predictable format. Perfect addition to your literacy stations!
Alphabet Activity #5: Digital Letter Practice
If you have a technology center, these digital letter practice activities are great for the beginning of the school year. You can use these on Seesaw or Google!
Alphabet songs are also a great way for students to practice letter identification and sounds. Here are a few to check out.
Of course, kindergarten teachers have lots of alphabet books! I have a blog post with some of my favorite alphabet books. You can check out the list and snag some free printables here:
These free alphabet printables are perfect for your little learners! These alphabet posters show letter-sound associations and the correct formation of letters. Plus, they align with our Engaging Readers phonics program and Science of Reading curriculum. Note: There is another set of alphabet posters that show correct letter formation. You get both sets! Just add your name and email below.