You and your pre-schoolers have had and unusually short year together with closures due to government restrictions as well as individual absences due to quarantine guidelines. There has been no ‘formal’ or carefully planned out curriculum of letter recognition. You’ve been following the children’s lead when planning and prepping activities/projects and if none of them have been particularly interested in letters or words, they may not have featured very much. However, you and the children’s parents would like them to have some concept of words and their use in the world. So, how do we include letters and words into the everyday while maintaining an informal child centred curriculum?
Start with themselves:
As with everything, we look for something that the children are interested in and what is it that interests them more than anything else in the world? Themselves, of course! Exploring their own names is a good place to start. Here are a few activities that you could try out while exploring their names.
- Decorate their first letter: A fun and easy activity to set up is where the children get to decorate the first letter of their name. Using the undying art of bubble writing, draw the capitol letter of their first name on an A4 page (or larger) and let make a unique piece of art as they decorate it with paint, crayons, glitter, scraps of sticky paper or whatever you decide. As the children admire each other’s work they will notice the difference in the sound and meaning of the various letters.
- Scrabble tiles: With the children’s names printed where they can see them, let them seek out and copy their own name using tiles from a scrabble game. A bag of scrabble tiles will not be enough for a large class, so simply type and print out their names and cut out each letter separately to make your own ‘tiles’.
- Picture roll call: A fun way to incorporate word recognition into everyday at preschool is to have a picture ‘roll call’. Take some photos of your happy smiley children. To each photo, attach their printed name. Laminating these will keep them from getting damaged and they can also double as a book mark when they take them home at the end of the year! Each morning, as the children come into the preschool classroom, they can seek out their name and stick it to the special ‘roll call’ board on the wall. As this will be visible all morning to the children, their name (its shape, length, various letters contained) will become very familiar. The photo attached to the name makes it child friendly allowing each child to develop name recognition at their own pace.
Use your neat handwriting (or your laptop) to make labels that can be stuck practically anywhere. Stick the word ‘door’ on the door, ‘kitchen’ outside the kitchen, ‘coats’ over the coat hangers… you get the drift! As the children get used to these various words on various surfaces, they will become aware of words as symbols which have various meanings. You can ad pictures to the words, similar to their ‘picture roll call’, so that each child can take their own time soaking in the concept.
Mark making corner:
Set up a corner of the room with a table/desk, a couple of chairs and various mark making equipment. This equipment could include pencils, paper, notebooks, stamps, markers, stickers, envelopes etc. Let the children chose what they create in this corner. As they become familiar with the concept of words as symbols, they could use these materials to create their own words, as they doodle stories, books, posters, letters to post or whatever they imagine. Their creations may not make sense to the ordinary adult eye, but it will evoke a sense of creativity in the children as they become authors, artists and illustrators!
There is plenty of opportunity for the children to learn to read words when they get into primary school, but for now the concept of the use of letters and words in our world is enough to get to grips with, for most pre-schoolers.