Monday, September 3, 2012

Challenging Methods of Developing Children's Recognition of the Alphabet Through Workbooks

Words have a power all their own
Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)
by Dr Shazia Akhtar

Would you like to give your 4-5 year old children or pupils challenging activities for learning to recognise letters of the alphabet and their sounds through the use of workbooks?

Whether you are using commercially produced or handwritten materials, they will contain the following popular activities in which children are asked to:

  • identify pictures that begin with a particular sound and colour them in;
  • write over letter templates to practise forming them appropriately;
  • identify and draw pictures that begin with a particular letter;
  • copy words that begin with the letter being taught.

Whilst these are valuable activities, children need to be given more experience in identifying and using the letters taught in written contexts. Many commercially and personally produced materials will consist of the activities listed above but do not provide activities that allow children to use them in real written contexts such as story writing.

This is usually because devising activities that go beyond the conventional norm will be deemed too difficult for children. However, children are capable of learning and adapting to really challenging activities provided that the teaching adult gives them the opportunities to do so, gives lots of encouragement and uses positive reinforcement.

Many teachers provide able children with simple activities when they are capable of tackling more challenging tasks. Below are a list of challenging activities that particularly able 4-5 year old children can engage in to develop their understanding of letter sounds and how they are used in words and sentences. These activities are best implemented with the support and guidance of the teaching adult for maximum learning:

  • Labelling pictures with words. Children look at a picture, select a word from the given list and write it underneath the relevant picture. This activity provides an opportunity to develop word recognition. Even if a word is long or has never been exposed to the child, this activity can enable him or her to see words that begin with or contain the taught letters and allow them to use this information to 'guess' what it says. This encourages the child to explore how sounds are used in words.

  • Shared storywriting. Provide a picture of something that begins with the taught sound. With the child, devise a story about the picture and use as many words as possible that begin with the sound. It is not necessary for the story to sound logical, as long as many words that begin with the taught sound are used. This activity allows the child to apply the taught letters in the real context of story writing.

  • Copying stories that contain the taught letter in many of the words. In this activity, children are encouraged to learn to read the story, identify the taught letter in the words and then copy the story out in the same format. This also enables learners to develop their skills in the writing process - writing from left to write; beginning with a capital letter; using spaces in between words; ending with a full stop; and forming the letters appropriately.

  • Finding words that begin with the taught letter in a wordsearch. It is not necessary to use simple words in this activity. Enabling children to locate longer or unfamiliar words in a wordsearch is an effective means of encouraging them to observe and identify the individual letters that make up a word in order to locate them in a wordsearch grid. It is a great activity for encouraging children to look at a word as a whole and in individual parts.

It is important for teachers to provide children with a variety of opportunities and activities to develop not only their letter recognition but also understand how these letters are used in words. The more that children are exposed to these types of challenging activities, the more they will be able to adapt and extend their thinking in language.

If you would like specially designed workbooks that contain all of the simple and challenging activities explained in this article as well as other interesting activities not mentioned here, then please visit to purchase.

Learning Workbooks is where you will find a workbook for each letter of the alphabet. You can purchase all 26 workbooks for a reduced price. When visiting, select 'Primary Education' from the left hand side and then select Language > Primary 1: Age 5 > Alphabet A-Z.

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