Recognition of letters is a fundamental part of learning how to read. Without it, children struggle learning letter sounds and recognizing words. Children who cannot recognize letter and name them with their sounds have difficult learning how to read.
Letter Recognition Activities and Why Recognition of Letters is Important
Beginning reading instruction has an extensive history of beginning with recognition of letters. The very first schoolbooks brought to America from England, called The Protestant Tutor, started with the teaching the letters of the alphabet, as did the first reading books produced here (New England Primer).
They were not off-base.
The National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) meta-analyzed 52 such studies that had connected alphabetic knowledge, (including letter recognition and sounds generation), with the later decoding ability of 7,570 kids and found a strong relationship between the two.The more letter names the kids knew, the greater their later success in decoding.
What is Letter Recognition?
Letter recognition is the ability to name letters, identify characteristics specific to said letter, and letter formation of all 26 uppercase and lowercase letter symbols used in the English language. That’s 52 letters total.
Letter recognition includes being able to differentiate between different letters and their shapes, and should be taught before, or at the very least, in conjunction with letter sounds.
This means that letter recognition skills are important and should not be passed over for letter sound practice! Children need to know letter names as well as letter sounds to experience ease in learning how to read.
More About Why Letter Recognition is Important
There are many reading skills that are regularity evaluated as predictors of reading success. Letter recognition ranks among the top predictors.
Upon entering school, children come with a range of skill levels and an even wider range of letter knowledge. Most have some experience with the alphabet through singing the alphabet song. Other kindergarteners can spell their names or recognize environmental print.
In order to have true fluency in letter recognition, children must be able to identify letters and say their names in and outside of context and in and out of sequence. It’s not just accuracy, but also automaticity, which is being able to be accurate and fast at the same time, which contributes to later reading success.
In addition, research has shown that learning letters and playing with letters frequently leads to an interest in their sounds and in reading. Many letter names share an auditory link with their sounds, thus effectively doing double duty as it helps bridge the gap between phonemic awareness and letter recognition to other phonics skills.
How to Teach Letter Recognition in Preschool
There are a couple of important strategies to utilize when teaching letter recognition in preschool.
- Explicit instruction in letter naming
- Sorting activities to differentiate letter shapes
- Letter formation
- Exposure to letters in a variety of text formats
- Fluency practice in letter identification
- Fluency and accuracy assessments
When planning letter recognition activities in the preschool classroom, keep in mind the following.
- Preschool children have a wide range of skills and abilities.
- Preschoolers may not all be ready to learn letter names at the same time, and never stay the same rate as their peers.
- Use visuals, such as alphabet cards and beginning sound cards.
- Practice “think aloud” strategies, which means to talk out-loud about the things you want your preschoolers to know and notice about each letter
Letter Sequence is Not Always Alphabetical Order
There are several guidelines to follow when determining an instructional sequence for teaching letter recognition.
Prerequisite Skills for Letter Recognition
- Even before letter recognition, there are a few other skills that should be taught.
- Teach visual discrimination. This helps preschoolers learn to identify differences among lines and shapes. Visual discrimination can be taught in isolation and in “what’s different” or “what’s the same” activities.
- Find visual discrimination activities here, here, and here.
- Practice visual discrimination in the alphabet by sorting letters based on shape. Straight lines, versus curved. Tall letters versus short, etc. Letters versus numbers and symbols.
What Order to Teach Recognition of Letters
Want to Know More about Teaching Letter Recognition to Preschoolers?
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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.