The Problem with Letter of the Week
If you’re following a “letter of the week” curriculum (or considering this approach because you see it all over Pinterest), have you thought about what it really means to “DO” a letter?
What exactly is your toddler or preschooler learning from gluing cotton balls on a letter C cut out of construction paper or eating carrots and cucumbers just because they start with the letter C?
If you’re struggling to get past letter D because it’s just too much prep work, it’s time to give yourself permission to abandon that “letter of the week” curriculum and NOT feel guilty about it!
The next time you catch yourself falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole looking for A-Z activity ideas, keep this in mind:
Research does NOT support teaching one letter a week in alphabetical order using letter-themed crafts and activities.
The “letter of the week” approach is outdated!
This book, No More Teaching a Letter a Week, highlights the gap between good intentions and results in terms of preparing children for learning to read.
The problem with the “letter of the week” approach is that it focuses on letter recognition out of context and in isolation, it often introduces too many concepts at the same time and it doesn't meet toddlers and preschoolers where they are at developmentally.
It's all too common to feel frustrated when your child can't remember the letter name or the letter sound, or gets confused between the uppercase and lowercase letters, or struggles to trace “letter of the week” worksheets because the pencil grip hasn’t yet developed.
And this is assuming that your child doesn’t run away as soon as you bring out the letter worksheet or letter craft that you’ve prepared!
There’s an easier and more effective way to help your preschooler get ready for learning to read and I want YOU to know about it.
The first step is to understand two things:
The alphabet letters are written symbols that represent speech sounds.
Reading requires knowledge of the code between written symbols and speech sounds.
Learning this code is what is meant when you hear the term phonics. Research shows that children need explicit phonics instruction because reading is not hard-wired in the brain.
Getting your child to memorize letter names and letter sounds using a “letter of the week” curriculum isn’t enough because you’re skipping a critical step in the learning sequence. Children who have a hard time learning the phonetic code often have difficulty hearing individual speech sounds in spoken words.
To really prepare your child for learning phonics, you’ve got to start with helping your child become aware of the individual speech sounds in spoken words so that your child will come to understand that letters represent speech sounds.
Being able to hear and play with individual speech sounds is called phonemic awareness. It’s the best predictor of success with learning to read.
Instead of asking your toddler or preschooler to memorize letter names and letter sounds out of context and in isolation, first help your child hear the sounds in spoken words by playing SOUND GAMES together and then do activities to associate each speech sound with its written symbol. Try it and see!
You've only got so much time and energy, and I want you to focus it on early literacy activities that set up your child for success with reading!
About the Author
I’m a Montessori teacher and creator of The Playful Path to Reading™ preschool phonics program. Learning to read can be a joyful process of discovery for 3-6 year old children who have solid pre-reading skills. I’ll show you how to make this happen at home for your child using my child-led learning framework and developmentally appropriate phonics activities.