There are right and wrong ways to teach the alphabet to your preschooler. Read this article to know if you are doing it right.
By Hannah S Mathew
Four-year-old Mona and her mother go to a friend’s birthday party. At the party, Mona’s mother urges her to sing the alphabet song.
Mona confidently sings the song, and everyone applauds.
After some time, Kavita aunty asks Mona, “What letter comes before Q in the alphabet song?”
Mona confidently replies, “yelemenwopee!”
Indeed, most parents can relate to this story. Every parent beams with pride every time their toddler sings the ‘ABCD’ song, but does your child really know the alphabet? Alphabet recognition is the ability to distinctly identify the 26 letters and name the individual letters.
Unlearning can be a daunting task and it is advisable to ensure that your child learns the alphabet correctly, the first time around. Here are some of the do’s and don'ts of teaching him the alphabet.
Try to familiarise your child with the letters of her name from the very beginning. You can do so by hanging toy letters that make up her name, above her crib while she is still an infant. As she grows up, stick an alphabet chart on the wall of her room where she can touch the letters. If possible, use letters made of felt, so that she can feel their shapes and learn by touch as well.
2. Spell the name
Start teaching the alphabet to your child first by teaching him how to spell his name. When watching the video of the alphabet song, point out the letters to him on the screen.
3. Introduce lower case
Once your child learns to identify capital letters, introduce the lower-case letters. Begin with letters that have similar shapes in both capital and lower-case forms. For example, letters like ‘Cc’, ‘Oo’, ‘Pp’, ‘Ss’, ‘Vv’, ‘Xx’ and ‘Zz’. You can move on to other letters when she is thorough with these.
4.Teach one letter at a time
Teach your child one letter at a time over a period and help him with hands-on activities to practise each letter. Expect a varying learning-speed. He might learn some letters quicker than others.
5. Differentiate between letter names and letter sounds
Help your child understand that letter names and letter sounds are not the same. It’s very similar to how the name of a dog or a sheep has little to do with the sound it makes. Introduce her to letter sounds through phonics. You can also use online videos to get her started. Start this activity only after she has grasped the letter names well.
6. Keep it fun
Play alphabet games with your child. Go to the mall and identify letters. Conduct an alphabet treasure hunt in the house. The more fun he has, the more likely it is that he’ll retain what he’s learnt.
7. Make it relevant
At the supermarket, ask your child to get all items in the shopping list beginning with a specific letter. For example, beans, butter and bread. She will learn more quickly if she can relate learning to her day-to-day activities.
8. Read, read
The act of reading need not be limited to bedtime stories. Keep picture story books with large and clear printed letters within reach of your child. This will help him read and identify letters.
9. Make a letter picture book
Celebrate the learning of the alphabet by devoting each page in a picture book to a letter. You can post pictures of her favourite food, place, animals and toys beginning with one letter. Let her jazz it up with glitter, paper art and water colours.
10. Get hands-on
Every child loves hands-on activities. Let your child play with magnetic letters, write with rice, chalk up the sidewalk, paint fabric and make art with rope. Add in foodie games that include alphabet crackers, chips, soups and fries.
1. Depend too much on online games
The Internet is full of videos that can help your preschooler learn. Still, make sure he doesn’t get hooked on to online games. Play the videos as a last resort.
2. Ignore her capabilities
Use your knowledge of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes to your advantage. This information will help you create activities and help her be interested in the learning of the alphabet. Discuss some of the work with her to understand what will work best for her.
3. Restrict hands-on activities
These activities are the best teaching tools at your disposal. Use them liberally. This will strengthen your child’s knowledge of the alphabet.
4. Limit variety
Guide your child to paint, use mould and glue, write and decorate while learning the alphabet. If possible, involve her friends or siblings to add variety to the activities.
5. Get impatient
Learning the alphabet is not easy for any child. A slow learner is not necessarily a poor learner. His ability to recall what he’s learnt may be better than that of others. Allow him to learn at his own space.
6. Avoid silly rhymes and songs
Being silly is a requirement when it comes to teaching your child the letters of the alphabet. Use rhymes and silly songs too. You can even make up a song or two to help her learn.
7. Teach many languages simultaneously
While teaching your child the English alphabet, avoid teaching him letters in another language simultaneously. This can create unnecessary confusion and he may not learn either language well.
8. Have too high expectations
Be realistic. Einstein took his time to learn too! Also, avoid comparing your child with other children. It doesn’t matter if the neighbour’s son can recite Robert Frost. Your child needs to know that you are proud of her accomplishments. Appreciation will motivate her to excel.
9. Give too much work
Let the days not only be about learning letters. Set aside time for learning the alphabet; at the same time allow room for other activities and play.
10. Show disinterest
Let your child know that you are as interested as she is about learning the alphabet. At times, you might have to show more interest than she does.
Just remember that your child needs to know you believe in him. He looks up to you and your appreciation. Your handling of this primary step of learning can, in fact, mould his lifelong attitude towards learning.
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Hannah S Mathew