One of the most important skills that young children need to conquer quickly, is to crack the code of the alphabetic principle! This is not an easy task for most children. In fact, the skill is most easily acquired if it is taught in a strategic manner that is purposeful, and makes sense.
This group of animal friends allows for such strategic teaching! As I introduce a letter a day for the first 26 or so days of school using multisensory cues, I have found that most students learn the majority of letters and sounds in a very short time. Gaining the names and sounds of alphabet letters quickly prepares students for in-depth study of letters, words, and on to reading! And best of all, my students have a concrete link between alphabet letters and the animal characters they learn to love!
I have found that connecting the animals with beanie babies, sign language, and Heidi's Songs becomes a great instructional method for increasing my students' sublexical skills, and involves all the their senses and modes of learning.
To begin the daily routine I begin my introducing the alphabet letter and introducing the animal friend. I really like introducing the letter using this pocket chart I bought at Really Good Stuff.
Next we go through our letter object tub. My students love these! As we talk about each object and page in the letter book, my students are not only practicing the beginning sound of the letter, but they are also practicing important vocabulary skills. Next, we move to constructing our alphabet letter anchor chart.
I ask students to tell me a word that begins with the letter. I keep the alphabet chart, objects, and letter books in full view. This is not a test, I want students to learn to utilize things around them to help them learn!
As the objects are named, I then draw the picture using the "think aloud" guided drawing approach. Now, my art is not professional, to say the least. But students don't care. And creating perfect art is not the objective of the lesson. Rather it is to create an anchor chart to record words that begin with the letter. If there are students that begin with the letter in the classroom, I always add their picture and name to the anchor chart. (I do have students color the pictures sometime during the day).
At the end of our 26th day, I bind the anchor charts together and make a class dictionary that will be available at the writing center all year long.
After constructing the alphabet anchor chart, I play Heidi's Song about the letter. I like to use the video because it gets my kids up and dancing. While they are up, we move to the table to do our handwriting lesson featuring the letter! (I do the uppercase only for writing during this 26 day boost. I do lowercase as we study the letters in depth).
First I demonstrate for the students how to make the letter using sticks and curves. I then have my students make a letter using their own manipulatives. Kids love building letters and go to these often during free choice opportunities. Next we draw the letter in the air and then draw it on our table using our fingers. I then use the typical steps of HWOT. 1) Write with sponge. 2) Flip board and write with chalk 3) Using a small piece of fabric, pinch and erase chalk letter. 4) Move to paper (At this time I use the sticks and curves worksheets. I save the Zoo handwriting worksheets that have upper and lower for my in-depth letter studies that follow this 26 day boost).
I allow about 30 minutes for this important letter study. It is well worth the time, because my students now have a solid link to a letter, an alphabet buddy to remind them of the letter all year long! They use it all of the time. Especially because I try to link every part of the early letter learning to it. During centers on the day of each letter we will make our alphabet headband, play alphabet animal games, and learn to use the word wall at the guided teacher table.
Bonus: I am offering all Alphabet Zoo Clip Art pieces so you can customize anything you want!