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 of the day · story · teaching thoughts

Letter of the day– Oo

When thinking about Oo I was originally going to do octopus, but decided to go with something that will enrich your child’s vocabulary instead… opposites. Why do we teach opposites? Well for a few reasons, one as I already stated it is for enriching vocabulary and stretching those sentences. But that is not all! Many opposites are positional words which help children describe things AND follow directions. Finally… opposites is a way to compare and contrast. Compare and contrast is one of those 21st century skills that you hear teachers and schools talk about. This skill/concept is used a lot in projects, explanations, open-ended questions and so much more in school. So… today we will play with opposites

Jack Hartmann’s Oo song

Printing the letter Oo

Capital O- start like the capital C and close it up (remember teaching how to make the letter C is key to many letter writing)

lowercase o- start like lowercase c and close it up

I tell my kiddos this is one of those easy-peasy lemon squeezy letters!

Today’s activities: Opposites!

The Opposite Song from KidTV123– this song is a bit long in my opinion, but it does repeat itself at the end so you could always stop it early. Using music is a great way to introduce a skill

A Garden of Opposites by Nancy Davis — While this book uses simple pictures and single words it is a great way to review opposites. I would actually turn off the sound on this story and have your child try to determine what opposite is being shown in the picture. Some of the illustrations could be seen a multiple opposites and you might be surprised to see what words your child thinks of… but make sure to also share the word on the page!

Big Bear, Small Mouse by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (They write a book series including the story Bear Snores On… a popular child’s book)– This book reviews opposites, but it is written in story form. I like this to enrich language and show that you can work on opposites while speaking in full sentences. When working on opposites with your child encourage him/her to speak in full sentences — The rock is on top of the table. Now, the rock is under the table. Make sure to model this for your child… the more they hear you speaking in complete and longer sentences, the more they will do this on their own

Marta! Big & Small by Jan Arena– Marta is an ordinary girl, but she has some extraordinary friends. This story watches Marta, una niña, compare herself to the animals she meet. The story teaches: opposites, animals and some Spanish too.

Time to play!

I took some toys outside and played with opposites… here are some examples:

The mini figure is dry, then wet. But, you could also say it is in the pool and out of the pool. He is right side up, and then upside down. He is also on my hand and off my hand. See LOTS of examples just in this pair of pictures.

When looking at the monster truck, you see left/right, large/small, close/faraway and much more.

art · letter of the day

Letter of the Day– Nn

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, outdoor, nature and water
high falls, Asheville, NC

I’m back! It feels like I took a month off, but it really was just over a week. My family and I traveled to Asheville, NC and enjoyed getting away. We did a lot of hiking and visited many waterfalls. This website, allows you to travel to Asheville virtually if you want a chance to check it out yourself.

But, now I’m home again and it is time to get back into the alphabet. We last worked on Mm (which is the 13th letter, so we are half way done). So onto…

Jack Hartmann Nn song

Printing Nn

Capital N– start at the top, straight line downnn, jump back up to the top, slant down, straight up

lowercase n- straight down, back on the same line, curve and down

When thinking of letter activities, Nn was easy… names! Names are so important. We need to learn to respect other’s names, learn to pronounce them correctly, only use nicknames when the child asks, and remember that a name is big part of your identity.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recovits– Yoon recently moved to the United States. She is struggling to adjust and does not want to learn to write her name in English. She loves that it means shining wisdom and the way it looks written in Korean. Over time she learns it still means shining wisdom and learns to write it in English.

Learning to write your names is a big skill in both preK and kindergarten. When your child enters kindergarten, he/she will be expected to write their name with only the first letter capitalized (unless your names has multiple capitals such as McKenna or Daisy-Mae). I teach this starting day 1 in my preK class, but I know it is very common for preschools to teach children to write names all in capital letters. Personally I think this is wrong because now your child needs to unlearn this behavior.

Teach your child to spell his/her names while writing it. Putting the name into a song usually helps as it creates an additional connection to the letters. Click here and here for two blogs talking about putting names into songs.

Have your child write his/her name on every paper they use, every artist signs their artwork. Write names with crayons, markers, pencils, chalk, water and paint bush on the sidewalk, colored pencils, MagnaDoodle… and any other medium.

layered crayons
over and over and over

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela thinks her name is too long until she learns the significance of each part of her name.

Teach your child the significance of his/her name. If he/she has a nickname, make sure you teach their given name too.

When your child become proficient at writing his/her first name, begin practicing their last name.

family activity · letter of the day · STEAM · story

Letter of the day- Mm

Today we are half way through the alphabet. I hope your child is enjoying this letter review… and I hope you are enjoying these activities together!

Jack Hartmann Mm song

Printing the letter Mm

Capital M– start at the top, draw a straight line downnn, jump back to the top, slant down, slant up, straight downnnnn (This one is tough as the children want to pick up the pencil between each of the slanted lines. Some struggle with the V shape in the middle and make it more of U than a V.)

lowercase m– draw a straight line down, up on the same line almost to the top, curve and down, trace up the same line, curve and down. (The challenge seen in this letter often is they do not trace on the middle line but make a u shape in the middle so it looks more like a wavy line than an m)

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff — a beloved favorite book. What happens if a hungry moose comes by? You give him a muffin! But, what happens next?

Draw a timeline to show what happened in the story, or make up your own cause and effect story.

Molly the Muffin Fairy by Tim Bugbird– What happens when you make rock hard muffins? Read along to see what Molly and her friends do

Time to bake! Baking with children is a great way to enjoy time together. AND, your child learns math, to follow directions and so much more.

Jam muffins (based on The Recipe Revival’s Peach Jam Bread recipe)

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup jam (I used peach jam)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup buttermilk (don’t have buttermilk? make it— 1 tsp of vinegar in your milk and let it sit for short bit)
  • ½ cup fresh fruit chopped into small chunks (I used blueberries)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs in one at a time while mixing. After both eggs are added, beat for an additional minute.
  5. Add in the jam and vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. Slowly alternate the buttermilk and flour mixture while mixing until just combined.
  7. Fold in the fresh fruit.
  8. Scoop batter into lined muffin pan
  9. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes .
  10. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.

What can your child do to help with this recipe??

  • pick the flavor the the jam and fruit
  • help measure dry ingredients
  • whisk dry ingredients together
  • help chop fresh fruit with a plastic knife (depending on type of fruit)
  • put muffin liner into the muffin pan
  • scrape the mixer bowl
  • help scoop mixture into the pan
art · letter of the day · story

Letter of the Day- Ll

My original thought when I was planning for the letter Ll was to do Lego. Lego building blocks are such great learning tools. When you buy the kit, you are showing your child the importance of following step-by-step directions. When they take it apart, they can engineer the same pieces into a new design and structure. They can be used for math, science, art and so much more.

But, I decided to take detour and go art for a change…. So here we go!

Jack Hartmann Ll song

Printing the letter Ll

Capital L- start at the top, straight line downnn, straight across at the bottom from left to right

lowercase l- start at the top, straight line downnnn

Today’s activity– Lines!

  • Lines that Wiggle by Candace Witmann— all types of lines are used to draw pictures.
    • Have your child draw a picture using lines of a variety of types. There are a variety of ways do complete line drawings, show your child a few different types and have him/her pick one or more to use to create a drawing
  • The Line– by Paula Bossio– a wordless book that shows a little girl playing with a pencil drawn line.
    • This is a great way to show children how they can tell a story with their pictures even if they can’t/don’t write any words.
    • Have your child draw their own story based on the format of “The Line”.
    • Play some music and have your child draw a picture using only lines (or include a person as in the story), based on the feeling created by the music
  • Mondrian Animation— watch the art of Mondrian transform and move
    • Piet Mondrian is a Dutch artist is considered one of the great artist of the 20th century. He is known as a pioneer for abstract art. While he has a diverse collection of art types over the years, most people think of his work with black lines and red, yellow and blue squares.
    • Show your child examples of Mondrian art. Show your child how to use a ruler to draw straight lines. Let your child decide the direction, width, length and intersection of the lines. Then have your child pick a few random spaces to color red, yellow and blue.

art · letter of the day · STEAM

Letter of the day– Kk

Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height! Who doesn’t love a bit of Mary Poppins music to start the day? Kites are a great activity for children. They love to fly them, they love to make them… children love kites.

Jack Hartmann Kk song

Printing Kk

Capital K– start at the top, go straight downnnnn, jump back to the top and over to the right, slant in to the middle and then slant down to the bottom

lowercase k– start at the top, go straight downnnn, go half way down and over to the right, slant in and out

Kk is a tough letter to write. It requires your child to be able to cross the midline. This skill means your child can move arms and legs across the middle of his/her body. By the age of 4 your child should be able to fluidly move from one side of the body to the other (left to right as well as top and bottom). Crossing the midline songs and exercises to try at home: brain gym, Dr. Jean Jump up, turn around, Jack Hartmann Crossover, Centercourt Sports Crossing the Midline

Today’s activity– Kites!

Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand (read by Will Hillenbrand) Mole and Bear work together to construct a kite, watch to see what happens

Create a paper kite. (Did you know that kite is a math term? A kite is a quadrilateral (4 sided shape) with two distinct pairs of a equal adjacent sides– meaning the top two sides are equal and the bottom two sides are equal)— YES, I would point this out to my students!

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers –Floyd’s kite gets stuck in the tree… wait until you see what he throws at the tree to get the kite down!

What would you do to get your kite down? Draw a picture and write about it. OR Draw a picture of what the tree looked like when Floyd woke up the next morning

Let’s Make a Kite from SciShow Kids

Make a kite as described in the video… and/or make a plastic bag kite: take a plastic bag you get from the grocery store. tie a string to the two handles. take it outside and run with it… it should fly up behind you when he catches the wind.

art · letter of the day · STEAM · story

Letter of the Day- Jj

I decided that today would be a good day to do some gross motor activities. As early childhood teachers, we look at a child’s total development: gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, and much more.

A child’s gross motor development is very important in their learning progress. Core development helps a child to sit, stand and move. Most fine motor development begins with gross motor development.

Jack Hartmann j song

Printing the letter Jj

Capital J– start at the top, when you get almost to the bottom, curve to the left, back to the top and put on a hat (some people do not add a hat)

lowercase j– go down and curve left, go back above and add a dot (just like with i, the dot should be up above and not be a scribbled dot)

Today’s activity: Jumping!

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jumping Mouse by Misty Schroe- Native American Folktale

No Jumping on the Bed by Tedd Arnold.

Today’s stories deal with three different jumps… jumping into the pool, leaping and jumping on the bed.

Get outside and jump! At the age of 3, your child should be able to jump forward with both feet together, landing with both feet together. At the age of 4, your child will begin to start hopping on one foot 3-5 times (he/she may be ore successful on one foot than the other). At the age of 5, they should be confident on hopping on one foot for 5-8 times and then switch to the other foot and do the same. They also start jumping and turning 180 degrees in the air

Teach your child how to do jumping jacks. Start with your arms and legs making an X (arms up and legs out). Jump into an I (arms at your sides and legs together). Repeat. X,I,X,I. This is a developmental skill. Not all children at this age can get their arms and legs to work together, and this skill requires both sides of the body to work together as well. Do it slowly to start and practice over time, he/she will get it with practice.

Make your own jumping frog (or draw it as a mouse, a person, or whatever you want to jump). View this video to make the cardboard jumping frog. If you follow my Instagram, you saw that this mouse can actually jump!

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.