Teaching about Letters

Children who enter kindergarten knowing many letter names are more successful readers than those who do not have this skill. There are many strategies adults can use when working with young children to help them name letters, beginning with recognizing the letters in their own names.

The following is an excerpt from Teaching Our Youngest.

Children who enter kindergarten knowing many letter names tend to have an easier time learning to read than do children who have not learned these skills. In fact, it is unreasonable to believe that children will be able to read until they can recognize and name a number of letters. To read, children recognize letters and know how to connect these individual letters and sometimes combinations of letters with the sounds of spoken words.

It is important for young children to be able to:

  • Recognize and name letters.
  • Recognize beginning letters in familiar words (especially their names).
  • Recognize both capital and lowercase letters.
  • Relate some letters to the specific sounds they represent

As you plan your instruction, make sure that the children in your care have many opportunities to learn to identify letters, to write letters, and to find out how letters function to represent the sounds in words.

In your classroom, you should have at children's eye level displays of the alphabet, such as large alphabet cards. Alphabet blocks, large plastic or paper letters, and materials for making letters, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, and play dough also should be available. A writing center can be creating in your room where children can go and experiment with different writing tools. And, of course, you should have a collection of alphabet books to read aloud and alphabet songs to teach the children.

Here are some things that you can do to help your children learn about letters:

  • Encourage the children to notice that letters are all around them.
  • Encourage the children to play with letters.
  • Give children plastic alphabet tiles and encourage them to spell their names and other words they like.
  • Say to the children, "See the letters on this keyboard? Press one and watch the letter come up on the screen."
  • Play games with line segments where children try to guess which letter you are writing as you draw parts of the letter one at a time
  • Allow children to experiment with letters, using magnetic letters on the chalkboard.
  • Help the children write letters.

Teacher Talk

  • Here are some crayons and markers. I am going to write my name with the blue crayon. Can you help me write your name? Which color should we use to write your name?
  • We just read a book about Pete the pig. Pete starts with the letter "P". Let's use finger paint to practice writing the letter "P".
  • Look, I made the letter "C" out of play dough. Now, can you make a letter "C"? Good. What other letter should we make together?
  • Please write your names on your picture. I will help you start the "S" if you need help.
  • Help the children learn the alphabet.

Teacher Talk

  • Let's sing "The Alphabet Song."
  • Say the name of each letter as I point to it on the alphabet chart.
  • I'm going to read you an alphabet book. Help me read the alphabet book.
  • Help the children hear the sounds the letters can make.

Teacher Talk

  • Linn, your name begins with an L (emphasize the beginning sound). Who else has a name that begins with the same sound? Yes, Larry! Larry's name also begins with an L.
  • I'm going to read you an alphabet book. On each page, there is a letter and a picture of something that starts with the sound that this letter represents. Let's say the name of the letter first. Then, we'll say the name of the picture. Then, we'll think of some other words or names that start with the same sound. Here we go: A A is for apple). What other words start like apple? Adam. Okay! Adam, your name starts like apple. What else? Animal! Right! Animal starts like apple, with the letter A.
  • Here are some words that begin with the letter M: mother, monkey, mud, map. What sound do you hear at the beginning of those words? (Emphasize the beginning sound.)

"Teaching about Letters." Teaching Our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. 2002. English.

Last Reviewed: September 2009

Last Updated: October 2, 2014