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How to Teach Letters without Letter of the Week

Raise your hand if you were (or are) a Letter of the Week Teacher ✋

I’m raising my hand because I once taught preschoolers using LOTW.

LOTW seems so logical. You teach one letter a week and by the end of the year – boom all the letters are covered. You know you covered all the letters – good to go right?

Well…. It turns out that what we know now from the research is that LOTW isn’t as effective as we wish it was.

Why Letter of the Week isn’t best…

    👉 Research is telling us that when we teach letters in isolation children have no way to connect those letters to something meaningful and relatable.

Think about it…Just because you may relate A to Apple with LOTW, doesn’t mean that children make a meaningful connection to apples. They may not even like apples. So, A is for Apple may not reach all students.

Or, if you pick something like S is for Skunk. Maybe they have never really seen a skunk or all they know about skunks is they stink and want to just stay away from them – skunk is just not relatable.

  👉 Letter Learning isn’t linear and is different for every child.

As much as we’d like letter learning to fit on a nice little line – just like our alphabet strips – research tells us that the way children learn letters is not linear and it’s not the same for every child.

It’s going to look like all your children picking up different letters at different times – on their own path because they are learning letters that are meaningful to them – which is not the same for each child.

  👉 Letter of the Week doesn’t lend well to differentiation.

With LOTW, all children have to be working on the same letter at the same time – whether they are ready for letter learning or not. And whether they already know that letter or not.

So to recap – 

  1. Children need meaningful connections to letters 
  2. Letter learning isn’t linear
  3. LOTW doesn’t support differentiation

For those three reasons I want you to really think about if LOTW is really working for students. 

Will you have children that pick up letter knowledge from LOTW – yes, I’ve seen it. But, question yourself – is this because they already have a meaningful connection to the letter or did they already know the letter?

So how do you teach letters without Letter of the Week?

You start with the most meaningful letter for each preschooler – the letter starting their name!

Why? Because their letter is meaningful. The letter that starts their name represents them and with our preschoolers being at a very egocentric stage – this works well!

And since there are 25 more letters to learn, we move onto focusing on classmate’s letters. Since children share the same space in the classroom, play together and become friends – this makes it meaningful.

We use whole group time to focus on the first letters of classmates. We use transition time to focus on first letters. We do small group activities and songs all focused on first letters.

Then, we move to any known sibling and family member names. We compare names, count letters and just become interested in these things called letters.

Later we start looking at the rest of the letters in the children’s names. We look at letters around us and read letter books.

Is it messy? Yes.

Is it worth it? Yes. Because not only are we helping children learn the letters they need to know – we are doing it in a way that doesn’t feel like work. We are doing it in a way that feels natural and fun.

And when we help children learn their way, learning happens quickly and we are not only helping them learn letters, but also feel that love of the learning.

And helping children feel that love for learning is what will keep them learning long after they leave our classroom.

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