letter work · teaching thoughts · topic · Uncategorized · writing


This week I have been writing about writing. Each day I not only shared a story for you to share with your child, but also talked about what writing looks like in the early childhood years. I mentioned, ok often, that there is a difference between writing and penmanship. I linked you to the phases of writing and explained how to help your child get started. You can see these posts here, here and here.

Ok… I keep telling you that writing is not penmanship, so I guess we need to talk about penmanship. Penmanship is the actual skill of putting letters on paper. It is teaching correct letter formation. Before children can begin to write letters on his/her own, they need to: copy horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, draw a circle, draw horizontal and vertical lines that cross, copy a square and triangle. This on top of being able to hold a pencil correctly are the proper all skill children need to have developed before writing.

Now, does this mean that you don’t show children letters, how to form letters or anything like that before they have mastered these other skills? NOOOOO. We want children to play with letter first. Yes, you read that correctly… play with letters. Provide them magnetic letters, and other letter toys. Make letters with Lego, play dough and other toys. Write letters with markers, pencils, crayons, sidewalk chalk and other writing tools.

One skill that many children struggle with is the fact that letters start at the top. Children are egocentric beings and everything comes from me and goes out. They want the letters to start at the bottom and go away from them. This makes letters very disjointed in their formation. Practice drawing lines on paper, in the air, on the sidewalk and drawing top down.

I could go on and on about the skills a child needs to develop before he/she can master penmanship, but I won’t. Yes, children need to learn to write letters. Yes, if you learn to “properly form letters” they tend to be neater. Yes, it is easier to learn to do something “correctly” the first time and not have to go back and reteach it. Yes, yes, yes… this is why I do teach penmanship in my prek and kindergarten classes. When I teach children letters, letter sounds, etc., we practice how to form the letter. I teach this in conjunction with the skill of letter knowledge not as a separate entity.

This is the letter “a” it say /a/ as in apple, astronaut and alligator. The capital A is written like this “start at the top middle, slant down to the bottom, jump back up to the top, slant the other way down to the bottom, cross in the middle.” The lowercase a is written like this “make a “c”, go up just past the top and then down on the same line”. We do the same for all the letters. I choose to teach the letters in order of writing the lowercase letters. (c, o, a, d, g, q, s, l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p, r, m, n, v, w, y, x, f, e, u, z)

  • c, o, a, d, g, q, s all start in the same place, “start like a c”
  • l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p all start with a straight line down
  • r, m, n all start with a straight line down, but come back up and have a curve
  • v, w, y, x all start with a slant left to right
  • f, e, u, z each have their own path

While many teachers and programs have you teach the upper case letter first, I do not agree with this concept. Gasp! Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I understand that in a lot of ways capital letters are easier to copy because there are less curved letters, but, if a child is not ready to correctly write curved letters they aren’t ready to correctly write letters. Also, when you read and write text we use a LOT less capital letters. As a kindergarten teacher, my job the first few weeks of school was to typically reteach children how to write their name. Many children come in and say I can write my name and proceed to write “SIMON” and then get upset when you try to teach them to write “Simon”. So… let’s teach it “Simon” to begin with! It might take an extra few steps, days and even weeks of practice, but you don’t have to unlearn something!

So… play with letters. Work on fine motor skills. Talk about how to go from top to bottom. Work on copying letters, shapes, numbers and such. Do not stress… your child will learn to make letters. Put the focus on writing for meaning and the rest will fall into place!

letter work · phonemic awareness · word work

Twizzlers Letters

Today we will listen to the story Twizzlers Shapes and Patterns by Jerry Pallotta. This story talks about a lot of math terms and describes shapes and other geometrical terms as well as making patterns.

Today we aren’t going to make shapes or patterns as it is Words Wednesday, but you are certainly welcome to try out some of this Twizzlers fun.

But, we will use Twizzlers for our learning today. If you don’t have Twizzlers, you can use chenille stems, yarn, wiki sticks or other long thin manipulatives.

Today use your Twizzlers to make letters and or words. Here are a few suggestions!

  • Say a letter name and have your child make the letter
  • Say a word and have your child make the beginning or ending sound
  • Make word family cards and have your child add the beginning sounds with the Twizzlers
  • Have your child make a letter with Twizzlers and then go on a beginning sounds hunt. You can search for objects around the house, in magazines or just draw pictures

Just notice, I had to hold the candy in shape while taking the picture. Twizzlers do not like to stay in a curved shape, but it is doable!

letter work · phonemic awareness · topic · word work

Beginning Sounds and the Five Senses

Recognizing and naming words that begin with specific beginning sounds is a key phonics skill (when done totally orally it is actually a phonemic awareness skill!).

I will share with you how I would do this as a phonics activity as well as a phonemic awareness activity… two for one!

As I have mentioned in the past, phonemic awareness is how sounds work in words orally. So a great place to practice these skills is in the car! For this one you don’t need anything resources other than what you can see around you, or in this case see, hear, taste, touch and smell! Think I spy. I spy with my little eye something that starts with the sound /m/ (mom, mouse, money, movie etc). But, instead of looking for just one thing, see how many you can list. I smell with my nose something that starts with the sound /f/ (flower, fart, fish etc). You can do this with I hear with my little ear. I touch with my little fingers, I taste with my little tongue.

If your child struggles, then give an example and see if that spurs them to think of more. Often children need a word cue to help them think of words that begin with the beginning sound. I hear with my little ear something that starts that same as bird (bells, bongo drum, boys playing).

To make this more of a phonics based activity, lets get out a sheet of paper! Here is a quick classroom tip, when making activities that you want your child to do over and over, put the paper into a sheet protector (or laminate) then have your child use dry erase makers. Now you can do the activity over and over and not use more paper!

Take a sheet of paper, create a circle in the middle to put the beginning sound. Around the outside divide the paper into 5 sections and label them — see, hear, taste, touch, smell. (Now put it into the page protector or laminate if you want)

Have your child pick a sound to work on. Some fun ways to do this is to roll a letter die, pick a letter out of a hat (magnetic letter or letter flash cards), or any other way to pick you can think of!

Have your child write the letter in the circle. Now illustrate words that begin with that sound in each section. Encourage them to sound out the words to match the pictures.

Beginning Sounds and the Five Senses

Looking for more ways to work on beginning sound and the five senses? Check out my kit at Teachers Pay Teachers for a one page chart and a mini book you can make!

letter work

Visual and Motion clues for letter sounds

Visual and Motion Cues for Letter sounds

When children learn letter sounds we often provide pictures/words to help them remember what sound is associated with the letter. (/a/ /a/ apple) Many children need more than this to remember those connections.

Teachers use a see it, say it, write it approach which adds in the muscle memory of writing the letter while saying the sound. But, even with this there are still children who struggle to make these connections. So what can you do?

I posted on my Teachers Pay Teachers store a kit that has visual and kinetics cues to help children master their letter sounds. In the kit there is a list of the 26 words and the motion to associate with the word (example– /j/ /j/ jump rope while swinging your arms like you are jumping rope)

If you choose to practice letter sounds this way, I encourage you to only use the letter sounds and not their names. That is the key… we need children to connect the letter sound to the visual letter. Providing a cue word and motion is helping with the recall of the letter sound!

art · letter of the day · letter work · STEAM · story

Letter of the Day- Ii

Today we are on the letter Ii. When you work on vowels, focus on the short sound of the vowel, in the case of the letter Ii it is the sound you hear at the beginning of iguana, inch, insect and in the middle of chip, hit, and tin.

Jack Hartmann Ii song

Printing the letter Ii

Capital I- start at the top, go downnn, cross at the top, cross at the bottom

lowercase i- go downnn, jump up above the line and then put a dot (make sure it is not attached– that’s a lollipop, or a big huge scribbled circle… just a visible dot)

Today’s activities: Iguanas!

I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufmann Orloff— Alex really wants an iguana. His friend is moving away and needs to rehouse his iguana. Alex writes his mom note explaining why he should have an iguana.

Write your mom/dad/sister/brother/imaginary friend/whoever, a letter explaining why you need something you really want. This is a great opportunity to practice writing a letter. Let your child write this in any form/method they choose. You do not have to write it for them. Have your child read you the letter and explain what it says. Then write back

6 Insane Iguana Facts

Pick one or more facts about the iguana and use it in a picture of iguanas. Compare these facts to facts you know about other animals, such as a pet you own or your favorite type of animal.

Complete a direct drawing of an iguana. Here are two options KidArtX and Art For Kid Hub

letter of the day · letter work · topic

Letter of the Day- Hh

Hh is for hair. I picked this topic for a few different reasons… one well I’m sure hair has been a topic of discussion since the pandemic, I know it has been in my house. Two… it is a great way to discuss the importance of seeing, acknowledging, and accepting the differences in people. Often times parents, teachers and other adult say “children don’t see color” this isn’t true… they do. The difference is they do not judge on the color of a persons skin. Prejudice and bias is taught, but so is acceptance and love. When we talk about differences, and show that the things that make you different are the things that make you special, we don’t pretend that people are all the same… we accept, acknowledge and love the differences in us all.

Jack Hartmann H song

Printing the letter Hh

Capital H– start at the top, go straight downnnn, jump back to the top but over to the right, go straight downnnn again, cross in the middle to connect the lines

lowercase h– start at the top, go straight downnnn, go back up half way, curve down and stop

Today’s activities: Hair!

Hair Like Mine by LaTasha M. Perry — A little girl is upset because she does not know of anyone who has hair like hers. Mom explains that everyone is has different hair, nose, eyes and toes. The little girl begins to see mom is right and appreciates difference between everyone.

Bippity Boop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley – Miles is going to the barbershop for his first haircut with his daddy. Miles learns about getting his hair cut and with the support of his dad he is brave enough to get a haircut just like his dad.

Draw a picture of yourself… add yarn, string, cut paper or other items as your hair. What makes your hair special?

What if You Had Animal Hair? by Sandra Markle- This book is part of a fun series that puts animal attributes onto humans. It is a fun combination of animal facts and humorous photos of what it would be like if humans had animal hair.

What if you had animal hair… which animal’s hair would you pick? Do some research of your own to learn about your favorite animal hair.

Crazy Hair Day by Barney Saltzberg– Stanley is very excited for crazy hair day, but he figures out that he got the date wrong… oops! The class finds a way to make him feel better.

Be creative… have your own family crazy hair day. How could you transform your hair for a crazy hair day? Draw a photo of yourself and then blow water color paint for your hair.

art · letter of the day · letter work · STEAM · story · topic · writing

Letter of the day- Ee

E is for elephant. I picked this topic for two reasons. One I wanted to share the story Elmer by David McKee, and I wanted to share some nonfiction research, yes research.

Jack Hartmann’s Ee song

Printing Ee

Capital E- start at the top, straight line downnnn, across at the top, across in the middle, across at the bottom

lowercase e- across from left to right in the middle, up and around like the letter “c” make sure you touch the straight line on both sides. (This is a tough letter for kiddos to form. They want to make it very disjointed. the biggest pieces is to get them to go across first and then up and around AND getting them to go in the correct direction)

Today’s activities: Elephants!

Elmer by David McKee (read by David McKee!)

Elephants by Victoria Marcos

Elephants 101 by Nat Geo Wild

Live streaming elephants. These are live streams, so you may or may not see the elephants depending on the time of day

Watering Hole in Mpala Research Centre in central Kenya— I had to scroll back in this feed when I checked it out. I saw elephants, rhinos, guineafowl and more

SanDiego Zoo elephant Cam

Elmer by David McKee is a story about a patchwork elephant. The other elephants love his humor, but laugh at him also for being different. One say Elmer leaves and the other elephants realize they miss not just his humor, but Elmer himself. The other elephants realize that the things that made Elmer different were the things that made him special. Have your child draw an elephant (or copy a blank elephant) and then decorate that elephant in a way that represents what make your child special.

Elephants Can, Are, Have– Can, Are, Have charts are a great way to collect facts and information learned about a topic. These are also used in later grades to help form paragraphs. You read the chart by stating Elephant can ____. Elephants are ____. Elephants have ____.

art · game · letter of the day · letter work · math · story

Letter of the Day– Dd

D is for Dots! I chose this topic for two reasons. One I had a few good stories to share that will get you and your child talking AND being creative. Two, this leads itself to math in so many ways. If you follow my blog on a regular basis you know the importance of dots and math skills. Children who develop a strong understanding of subitizing, the ability to perceive at a glance the number of items in a group, are able to utilize this skill in learning addition, subtraction and later math skills. The most common configurations are found on dice and dominoes… dots!

Jack Hartmann’s Dd song

Jack Hartmann’s subitize songs Subitizing up to 5 and Subitizing up to 10— these are more of an interactive game than a song as he shows sets and has the children yell out the answer, then the correct number is shown.

Printing Dd

Capital D– start at the top and go straight downnnn, jump back up to the top and curve right and down the bottom. (often times children make the curve too flat or curve in before they get to the bottom)

lowercase d– make a “c”, go upppppp and then straight back downnnn on the same line (this helps make that little tail that we think of when you see a lowercase d)

Today’s activities: Dots!

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Dot by Patricia Intriago (I like this version too. They made the book active, which is cool, other than there are no words to see.

“The Dot” is about Vashti who believes that she can’t not draw. Her art teacher shows her differently by framing her “dot” just one dot. This inspires Vashti to show that she can do better than that, she can make better dots. Encourage your little artist to create his/her own dot pictures. These can be done in any medium (chalk, crayon, rocks, markers, watercolors, whatever). Then challenge him/her to try a different way. Each way should look and feel different, but they will all represent a dot or dots. Each time have your child explain their dot picture and then help him/her label it.

“Dot” takes the concept of a dot and changes it to show opposites. So, lets play a game with opposites. Say or show your child one part of the opposite and see if he/she can determine the other. I say hot, you say cold. I go in, you go out. Learning about opposites is the first step in learning to compare and contrast. What makes things the same and different… in the case of opposites, different.

Teach your child to play dominoes. While children love to set up and knock down domino trains, which is a great fine motor, motor planning and engineering activity, learning to play the actual game of dominoes is a great number sense activity.

Number matching– provide your child with sets of dominoes that add up to a few numbers. I drew out sets of 5 and 6, but you can choose to do more. Have your child count all of the dots and determine where to sort the domino. You can continue and test out additional sets or introduce addition in the sense of 1 and 4 more makes 5, 2 and 4 more makes 6. (if you do not have dominoes, you can make them out of paper for this activity)

letter work · topic

Topic Tuesday— Letter of the Day activities

Since I did not set up a theme for this week, I am going to take today to provide you with a few things you can do over the summer as a fun way to practice letter recognition and sounds.

Letter of the Day- pick a letter each day to focus on.

  1. Have your child write the letters in chalk on the sidewalk.
  2. Search for the letter in the story you read that night.
  3. Make the letter out of rocks, sticks, or other natural objects.
  4. Alphabet snacks
  • A- apple slices, ants on a log, avocado
  • B- blueberries, blackberries, bananas, bread, beans
  • C- carrots, cookies, cantaloupe, cucumbers, clementine
  • D- donuts, dates, danish
  • E- eggs, eggplant, English muffins, edamame
  • F-fish (goldfish), fruit salad, fries
  • G- grapes, graham crackers, gummies
  • H- ham, hot dog, honeydew melons, hummus, honey
  • I- iceberg lettuce, ice cream (I can’t think of a food that starts with short i, if you know of one, please share!)
  • J- juice, jello, jelly
  • K- kiwi, kabobs — kids love things on a stick!
  • L- lemonade, lollipop, lettuce
  • M- mushrooms, meatballs, melon, muffins
  • N- nuts, nectarine
  • O- oranges, olives, oatmeal
  • P- pear, pineapple, popcorn, pickles, peach, papaya, plum, peas, peanut butter, popcorn, pretzel…. lots and lots of p thoughts
  • Q- quiche, quinoa, quick bread
  • R- raisin, raspberry, rice cake, raddish
  • S- strawberry, shrimp, s’mores, salsa, sweet potato
  • T- tomato, tortilla, tuna, tangerine, toast, turkey
  • U- uncooked?, upside down? — U is hard!
  • V- vegetables, vanilla wafers, vanilla
  • W- watermelon, water, waffles, walnut, whipped cream
  • X- good luck with this one!
  • Y- yogurt
  • Z- zucchini
game · letter work · word work

Word Work Wednesday- backyard

Today I thought we would work on beginning sounds a bit. Here are a few ways to do this in the backyard.

Letter cards/magnetic letters

Give your child 5-7 consonants. Find items in the backyard that begin with that sound. For example:

b- bird, d-dandelion, g- grass, h-hammock, s- sunshine, t- table, w-wheelbarrow

Show your child how to make an acrostic poem about the backyard

  • Bunny
  • Apple core
  • Cardinal
  • Kites
  • Yellow flower
  • Ants
  • Rainbow
  • Dandelion

Children enjoy making acrostic poems using their name as the first letters

  • Leaf
  • Onion grass
  • Robin
  • Inchworm

Have fun playing with beginning sounds. This is a great skill to work on in the car. What letter does sign start with? Can you find something that starts with /t/? How many items can we count that start that same as car /c/?