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Letter Knowledge

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

For children entering kindergarten, letter knowledge is one of the best predictors for future reading outcomes. The other best predictor is phonological awareness.


Because this skill is more well-known I wanted to focus on the most important skills. Remember, these are skills you can practice before your little is even in kindergarten.


1. Matching uppercase and lowercase letters

You can practice this skill by playing concentration (a memory-match game). Simply write each upper-case letter and lower-case letter of the alphabet on a piece of paper. Lay the papers facedown and have your child flip over two pieces of paper. Let them notice if they are a match or not. Give them think time. You can also lay out a alphabet sheet so your child can independently check if it is a match. When you take your turn, model saying the letter names (and sounds!) so your child can practice hearing those early literacy skills as well!


When starting this activity, you might want to start with only 3 or 4 letters. It should also be noted that some letters will be easier because the upper case and lowercase look very similar (i.e. Xx, Ss, Oo) and some letters will be tricky since they look different (i.e. Bb, Dd, Qq). You will also want to avoid putting letters together that look very similar (i.e. wm, bdpq, IiLl and nu).


2. Matching letters that are written in different fonts/handwriting

Throughout the day we come across many forms of written text. Point out the letters as you go. When in the grocery store, notice the labels and signage. When out for a walk, notice the street signs and maps. Focus on just a few letters at a time and have an alphabet sheet to increase your child's independence.


3. Naming uppercase and lowercase letters

If your child can sing their ABCs, see if they can isolate each letter name. For example, "l m n o p" commonly sounds like "elemenopee". Can you child say each letter like a robot?


Now the next step is can they match that oral knowledge of letter names to real letters. Can they sing the alphabet and point with their finger at each letter (practice with both: uppercase and lowercase)?


Once they can do that, practice without the alphabet order. Can your child name each letter on it's own? Have an alphabet chart available for your child if they need it. For all these skills we want to follow the: I do, we do, you do model where we gradually release the responsibility to the child to solve the questions.


4. Matching the first sound with it's corresponding letter/graphemes

Starting with the 26 letters in the alphabet, can your child match the first sound. I made an Instagram post about this... but make sure it's actually the first sound. Many times official mass produced literacy products use letter's second sound. For example, G says /g/ like golf... but G has a second sound /j/ like in giraffe. Teaching your child that G says /j/ before they know G says /g/ is not helpful for your child.


Once your child knows the single letter graphemes that go with each letter. It is helpful to talk about two letter graphemes. Teaching your child, /th/, /ch/, /sh/, /ck/, and /ng/... unlocks a lot of words for your child because they are in a lot of words.


5. Understanding that letters/graphemes are grouped together to form words

While this is the final skill listed, these skills should all be taught around the same time. We want your child to understand that letters and graphemes are in words and that when we write letters next to each other we form words. You want your child to notice the spaces between words and that words are really just graphemes grouped together. This simple view of reading is really helpful for your child to make sense of how we communicate. You can support your child's understanding of this by saying a word and then noticing the letters in the word.


For example: Parent says, "I see the word cat" points at the word cat. I notice the first letter is C. The C goes /k/. The middle letter is an A. The a goes /a/. The final letter is T. The T goes /t/. (While pointing at the letters) /C/, /A/, /T/... makes the word (while sliding the finger across the letters) 'cat'.


Over time, you will want to transition from modelling this skill to doing the skill with your child, to having your child lead the noticing.


How Latch Onto Learning can Help

If your little one is struggling with any of these skills or if you would like your child to have extra practice with these skills, we offer mini-tutoring sessions that are 15minute virtual-1:1 classes that work on these crucial early literacy skills. These are ideal for parents/kids who are entering kindergarten or are in Kindergarten. Help give your little one that little reading boost! This is one small step you can take to help prevent future reading difficulties for your child.

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