Learning the alphabet is such a big step for preschoolers, as is learning to write letters. It doesn’t come easily or naturally to all children, which is why I’m sharing five fun ways to teach letters at your preschool writing center.
I need to be honest here. I believe that writing worksheets have a place in preschool, but typically not at the writing center. I’ll leave out a set of letter formation worksheets, but they are used infrequently, which is ok. There are so many other ways to teach writing to preschoolers without traditional tracing!
You see, a preschool writing center isn’t just for learning letter formation. It’s also about using writing to communicate.
The purpose of a writing center is to:
- Communicate ideas on paper via drawings and letters
- Associate print with meaning
- Develop fine motor skills by using the various materials
- Practice left to right progression in reading and writing
- Develop eye-hand coordination
- Learn to form letters
The thing is that a lot of the learning that happens at a writing center is about emergent reading because reading and writing are so interlaced.
5 Ways to Teach Letters at the Writing Center
Since reading and writing are so intertwined, it’s only natural to include a little bit of both in your writing center and your literacy center.
Include lots of letter tracing options
Many preschoolers are not drawn to tracing letters. (Unless they already have a mature pencil grasp, but until then I love to use my fine motor journals to encourage the pincer grasp). But, preschoolers can sometimes be enticed with some fun tracing tools!
These are three of our less-traditional favorites:
- Wipe Clean ABC Activity Cards
- Magnetic Tracing Alphabet
- Etched Tracing Letters and Numbers Boards
Include lots of alphabet toys that encourage fine motor skills
At the writing center, not everything has to be about holding a writing utensil. In fact, your preschooler will resist tracing until they have fairly developed fine motor skills. (They will still be interested in scribbling and drawing, at this stage, just not so much interest in tracing).
Here are some of our go-to activities:
- Wikki Stix Alphabet Cards
- Tactile Letter Formation Cards
- Uppercase Alphabet Lacing Beads
- Playfoam Shape & Learn Alphabet Set
- Alphabet Stamps
Include lots of name writing options
Preschoolers are obsessed with their own names, and they enjoy writing their names more than just letters. So, be sure to offer plenty of ways for them to spell and write their names.
Here are my favorite ideas:
- Name Practice Writing Sheets
- Tape Resist Name and Phonics Booklets
- Playdough Name Practice
- Hot Glue Names for Tactile Tracing Practice
- Name Recognition Trains (FREE printable)
Include materials for story writing
Preschoolers love telling stories, but sometimes it’s difficult for them to write stories. Setting up your preschool writing center so that they have lots of inspiration is helpful. Add thematic pictures to the writing center, as well as word cards, and lot of fun and new writing materials. (These Early Learning Language Learning Cards are a life saver!)
Sometimes I’ll offer only thematic colors of markers and crayons in the writing center like blue, purple, and gray for winter. I like to offer stickers and small bits of paper for tearing and gluing. And my preschoolers get real books to write their stories in. Target usually has packs of eight booklets for $3 around back-to-school time, but if you’re not near a Target store you can try these Blank Booklets for Writing and Sketching.
Include lots of letter formation activities
Not just tracing activities. But activities where children get to practice letter forms. Where they get to shape the letters (while working on fine motor skills, of course), and mold them.
Learning letters comes naturally as children work to form letters. That’s why we include sand trays and hole punching. Preschoolers can practice writing letters in the air, or have your child try writing with her feet. Use play dough to make letters. It’s all about forming letters.
Need Some Printables for Your Preschool Writing Center?
Add these to your preschool writing center. They are not your traditional tracing sheets, but rather all the letter formation fun without the worksheet.
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.