While there is universal agreement that the ability to identify letters and sounds is essential for reading success, educators differ in the way they teach these skills. A common approach is “Letter of the Week” This method generally involves introducing one letter per week through several whole group lessons. Children sing songs, read books, make crafts, and/or generate a list of things that start with the focus letter.
Though Letter of the Week (LOTW) has been used for many years and is even integrated into some state-adopted PreK curriculums, research suggests there are more effective ways to teach letters.
Reasons to Re-Think “Letter of the Week”:
- LOTW is not rigorous enough for all students. Children in your class have different levels of letter knowledge. LOTW requires some students to spend instructional time focusing on letters they have already mastered and causes other students to forget letters they learned in past weeks. (Fountas & Pinnel, 2011)
- LOTW does not capitalize on a child’s intrinsic motivation to first learn the letters that are most important to her- such as the letters in her name, letters in the names of family members and friends, and letters needed to describe a picture she has drawn. (Justice, Pence, Bowles & Wiggins, 2006)
- LOTW does not teach letters in a way that makes sense to young children. Though many prekindergarteners enthusiastically participate in LOTW activities, letters presented in isolation are an abstract concept. Research demonstrates that children must develop letter knowledge “in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences” (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp 2000)
Using a narrow “letter of the week” focus suggests that the most effective way for children to learn letters is in isolation (one at a time) and/or in sequence (ABC order). Children learn most effectively by interacting with letters in context -recognizing and writing their names and names of classmates, reading environmental print, using labeled signs and systems in the classroom, composing writing as a class, pretending to read and write in center activities, singing alphabet songs, and playing letter games. Teaching letters in this way helps children become more competent, successful readers, especially later in elementary school when students must read to learn.
Justice L.M., Pence K., Bowles R., & Wiggins A. K., 2006. “An Investigation of Four Hypotheses Concerning the Order by Which 4-Year-Old Children Learn Alphabet Letters.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 21 (3): 374-89.
Neuman, S., Copple, C., and Bredekamp, S. (2000) Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. NAEYC press: Washington, D.C.
Pinnel, Gay Su and Fountas, Irene C. (2011). Literacy Beginnings: A prekindergarten handbook. Heinemann: Porstmouth, NH.