Teachers are always on the look-out for effective letter recognition activities, because learning to recognize letters and sounds is a critical step in learning how to read.
One of the first steps your child will take in learning to read is developing a skill called letter recognition. Before your young learner can start to sound out words, blend syllables together, or master other early reading fundamentals, they’ll need to be able to identify letters.
The Importance of Letter Recognition in Early Childhood
Are you teaching letter recognition skills to your preschoolers? When it comes to pre-reading skills, letter recognition is an important part!
This post is going to share all about recognition of letters as well as loads of letter recognition activities so your preschooler can start their pre-reading journey.
FAQ About How to Teach Letter Recognition
Teaching letter identification is a lot about teaching preschoolers the alphabet. Here are some frequently asked questions about how to teach the alphabet (and letter recognition skills) to preschoolers.
Preschoolers need a lot of exposure to the alphabet. They need explicit instruction as well as plenty of indirect alphabet instruction.
That’s where letter knowledge builds through playful and natural activities in day to day life. To start teaching your preschooler the alphabet, try these things:
~ Read lots and lots of picture books!
~ Point out print around you.
~ Teach your child the letters of his name.
~ Teach each letter explicitly.
~ Do lots of whole alphabet activities, too.
~ Do hands-on alphabet activities.
~ Sing letter songs.
The alphabet should not be taught in alphabetical order. Teaching the alphabet in order puts a big focus on those beginning letters. Those are probably going to be the ones that your child sees and remembers most, since that Alphabet Song is so catchy!
Instead, teach the letters in order of how frequently they appear easily decodable words. Letters like s, t, r, m, n, a, o, and p should be taught first. These are “high-frequency” letters and emphasis on these letters first will allow children to quickly start reading simple words.
Many preschool alphabet activities that are done in the classroom can also be done at home. Beginning sound activities like these Beginning Sound Picture Seek Mats are a good option, as well as these Beginning Sound Fill-in Cards and these Year Long Alphabet Find and Circle Worksheets.
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What is Letter Recognition?
Alphabetic recognition is sometimes called letter recognition or letter identification, but all three terms have the same meaning. Letter recognition activities refer to the ability to visually recognize letters of the alphabet through hands-on learning activities and these have critical importance in early childhood education.
Effective alphabet activities that aid in teaching letter recognition include:
- matching same case letters
- matching uppercase letters with lowercase letters
- naming letters in both cases
- distinguishing between similarly shaped letters like C/G, M/W, d/b and p/q
Some might even go so far to say that true letter recognition also includes the ability to name each letter and match that letter name with its written form, both upper and lower case, and in both manuscript and cursive.
Why do Letter Recognition Activities with Kids?
Letter recognition is important because it enables beginning readers to figure out how printed text is associated with the spoken language.
Having a mastery of letter names can make learning letter sounds easier for young readers. The sounds of many letter names are closely related to the sound the letter makes.
For example, say letter “d” and you will hear the /d/ sound. Say letter “m” and you will hear the /m/ sound. Many letters of the alphabet follow this, so even while focusing on letter recognition, children are also being exposed to and learning letter sound. This increases their overall letter knowledge.
This is why alphabetic recognition is one of the very first skills children learn while they are beginning readers. It parallels phonological awareness and comes before phonemic awareness and decoding.
How Do You Teach Recognition of Letters?
Researchers and seasoned teachers agree that effective letter identification instruction is a careful balance of both an explicit introduction and instruction of specific letters and frequent exposure to those letters in multiple forms, both isolated and within the text.
More simply put, the best way to teach your preschoolers the alphabet is to follow these perimeters:
- explicit introduction of letters
- explicit instruction of individual letters
- frequent exposure to letters in multiple forms
- frequent isolated exposure
- frequent within-text exposure
This kind of combined instruction helps children learn letter names, shapes, and sounds within relation to each other in a fun and exciting way.
Easy Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Following are a few very simple, easy to prepare letter recognition activities to help you get started. You’ll find some free alphabet cards, hands-on activities like sensory bins, and even visual discrimination practice. Use these ideas for providing extra practice for struggling kindergarten students, or for small group practice in preschool.
Sing the alphabet song to your child everyday and invite your little one to join in. If you have alphabet cards at home, point out each letter as you sing.
Here is one of our favorite YouTube playlists of alphabet songs that feature each letter of the alphabet.
Read alphabet books to your child. There are literally hundreds available, some even story like. Invite your child to talk with you about the pictures. Have your preschooler trace the letter on each page, too.
Here are some of our all-time favorite alphabet books by the author Jerry Pallota. Preschoolers love his ABC books because they are centered around a specific theme.
Additionally, you can create your own alphabet books. My interactive alphabet books are one of my most popular products.
Display alphabet cards in your child’s bedroom or somewhere else very visible to your child. Say the alphabet each day, pointing to the letters as you say them. Make it a part of your child’s bedtime or morning time routine.
Give your child every opportunity to explore letters by allowing time to write focus letters. Allow your child to explore writing through sensory play and various writing materials. Try markers, crayons, pencils, finger paints, or writing in various materials such as hair gel, shaving cream, paint, sand, or salt.
Give your child buttons, pom poms, cotton balls, small rocks, bolts, unifix cubes, or another set of counters to place on a letter print out. Letter building is the preferred way to teach letter formation, over pen and paper activities like preschooler letter recognition worksheets.
Create ABC Crafts
Make an animal out of the letter staring with the same animal sound. For example, make a duck out of the letter d, or a moose out of letter m. Totally Tots has a great collection of ideas here. Red Ted has a fun collection of hand print letter ideas that are so fun!
ABCs in the Environment
Point out letters in everyday print, such as product boxes, store signs, and billboards. Click here for my post on environmental print.
Free Printable Letter Recognition Activities
Researchers and educators agree that beginning readers experience more success in reading when they can rapidly and accurately recall letter names before they learn basic phonics. This post was loaded with information on why we should teach the abs, but also will activities to teach the alphabet.
Here are a few more free letter identification printables for preschoolers.
More Resources on Letter Recognition ActivitiesTeaching Reading Sourcebook by CORE Phonics from A to Z by Wiley Blevins Straight Talk about Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.