Friday, October 14, 2011

Reinforcing the Alphabet

It was only when Ryan started voicing the letter names that we found out that he knew them. Before that, we never tested him - for example, we never asked him to point to the letter "A" or anything like that. When we knew that he knew the letter names, we then gave him materials to reinforce his letter recognition. I'll share these materials in this post. 

These are the items that we used. I am by no means suggesting that everyone must use these items and I am not suggesting that you should not use other items. Neither am I suggesting that you must do things the way we did. There is no magic formula. How you teach your child and what you use is entirely up to you and your child, your preferences and your circumstances.

Ok, again, I stress that Ryan had already learned all the letter names by this time, ie. we did not use these as our first tools to teach letter names. Having said that, we didn't draw a line between these "stages", we still continued to use the items in yesterday's post and we still have most of them out on the shelves for Ryan to play with even now.

First up, the iPhone app. We only had one app when it came to letter names, which was "Fish School" by Duck Duck Moose. This is a fantastic award-winning app which introduces letters, numbers, colours and shapes. I'm sure most parents on the iPhone will have this. Ryan played the alphabet song over and over and over and over again on this app. We installed it when Ryan was about 16 or 18 months, can't recall exactly. Ryan didn't really get into the app until a few months later actually, because we did not give him much time with the iPhone until he was about two years old.

We don't have any apps on the iPad for letter names (we do have some for letter sounds, but that's for a separate post).

We have many many many alphabet stickers - flat ones, foam ones, puffy ones, glittery ones, even those used for scrapbooking. Ryan uses them freely in his artwork; he will select each one, call its name and place it wherever he chooses. Stickers can seem a little wasteful so I always try to stock up when I come across very cheap stickers.

Over at his nanny's place, Ryan's nanny gives him foam letters to play with. She says that he arranges them everyday in straight lines as he lovingly calls each of the letters by name and that he gets upset if anyone messes up his work!

When we are out and about, we look out for letters in our surroundings. Ryan will yell out the letters as and when he comes across them, on the street, in the car park, on the restaurant menus, on the buses passing by our car, etc. Usually he is the one who points them out to us.

Ryan also started showing us that he understood how to construct letters. One of our pre-dinner activities while waiting for our food to arrive at the restaurant, is for Ryan to construct letters using everyday items, like coins, chopsticks, straws, pins, toothpicks, eating utensils, anything really. He also likes to make letters using his arms. This is an "V" and below that, an "X"!

A few months after his first birthday, we started gradually introducing letter sounds, which he enjoyed. We still continued to give him the opportunity to reinforce his letter names and letter construction whenever he could, and we still do.

In June this year, I bought these plastic magnetic letters, upper and lower case. I got them dirt cheap at a Popular Bookstore sale. Ryan loved these and played with them a lot (especially matching up the upper and the lower case letters!). Interestingly, he preferred to play with these letters on the floor. He was not as interested when I stuck them on the magnetic board. He wanted to touch and feel and handle the letters.

I bought them thinking that Ryan could start building words with them. In fact, I bought two sets of the lower case letters so that he could build words like "Mummy" and "Daddy" and "zoo". I showed him "Ryan" and "Elmo" and a few other words using these plastic letters, and that helped him to see that letters make words and have meaning. The first few times I did try to talk about the letter sounds, but he was not interested so I stopped that and I just constructed different words to show him.

As for videos, after we put away the YBCR videos, we generally didn't watch videos until Ryan was about 18 months old, when he started watching Hi-5 and then a few months later, Sesame Street. When he was a little past two years old, I felt that we should emphasise lower case letters a little more so I shopped around and bought this DVD from Leapfrog called The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park, which he enjoyed tremendously. The video teaches letter names and pairs up upper and lower case letters. It also teaches what rhyming words are. This was the thing that sparked his "hobby" of matching upper and lower case letters. Even now he still loves watching this and singing along with all the songs.

He does have a Sesame Street video called "What's the name of that song?" which was (and still is) one of his favourite videos when he was about 2 years old and a couple of clips on that video are about letters. One is an alphabet song sung by the divine Patti Labelle. It is AMAZING. This is not the well-known Twinkle Twinkle Little Star alphabet song - it's a bluesy, soulful tune with the muppets chiming in gospel-style. Ryan loves it! Sometimes he screams and shouts the letters out, as if he were watching the diva live in concert. I love it too and I scream right along! Please check it out on Youtube!

At this point, we also started introducing letter sounds, very gradually. We still continued to give him the opportunity to reinforce his letter names and letter construction whenever he could, and we still do.

We also have the LEGO DUPLO Play with Letters set which has the letters of the alphabet printed on the blocks. We got it at a promotional price at Toys "R" Us. We have a few other LEGO DUPLO sets, but this is the only one we have that is alphabet-themed. You can see them in action in this post. We started playing with these just a few months ago, after we got back from our trip to USA.

Recently also, we got him this book called "How to Build an A" by Sara Midda, which comes with 11 foam pieces which can be used to construct letters, and he enjoys that too.

I mentioned in yesterday's post on learning the alphabet that Ryan enjoys the book, "Colors, Numbers, Letters" by Leo Lionni. We bought it when he already knew his colours, numbers and letters so the first time he saw it, he "read" the whole book aloud. He still enjoys it. Here's a recent video of him "reading" it, which I posted yesterday as my book review.

Ok, I think I have covered everything. Next time (probably next week) I will cover the items that we used to introduce letter sounds.

[This post also appears in our Learning at Home section.]


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