Reasons to Re-Think “Letter of the Week” – Something to Ponder over Summer

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”:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

Sources

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.

 

Is It Time to Dump Calendar Time and Letter of the Week?

I know – calendar time and letter of the week is a tradition. It’s something you’ve always done. It’s something that you just never want to give up. Perhaps it’s time for you to read about what teachers are doing now and what experts say about making our time with our young students meaningful and developmentally appropriate.

Here is an excerpt from a teacher’s blog titled Say Goodbye to calendar time!  Click Here

Here is a little preview…. “I love what Amanda Morgan says in the Bam Radio Interview  when it comes to what is most important in the process of building a valuable morning greeting/circle time experience: “…an emphasis on meaningful language and having conversations with children because that is really important and one of the big building blocks of literacy that is more important than some of the rote activities that is common in many practices.” In regards to the length of morning greeting time Amanda states, “I don’t think we can put a number on it because it really does just need to be responsive to the children that we have in our group…”

Also, here is an interview to Heather Shumake, an advocate for free, unstructured play in homes and schools.

Here is a preview… “We’ve always done it this way is never ever ever a valid reason to continue practices that have no real value to the children. Trying to force such an adult concept such as time on the little ones makes no more sense than asking them to wear adult size shoes.”

Say Goodbye to Calendar Time!

Recently a fellow Pre-K teacher shared on Facebook a Blog Post that titled Say Goodbye to calendar time!  The title quickly caught my eye as this is something we have been emphasizing in our trainings at Region 13 and during our coaching visits.

Here is a preview of the blog post:

Why I said goodbye to Calendar time? I realized that young children do not truly develop a sense of time in terms of dates, months, and years until well after their preschool years. Yes, they can memorize the months of the year and the days of the week. And yes, they can memorize counting up to 31. And yes, they can see that all these numbers and letters are organized in a neat package on our morning greeting board.

However, when I asked myself, “Is the precious time we spend every day on these kinds of rote drills truly the most meaningful and valuable use of our time?” or “Does calendar time lead to meaningful conversations” or “Does calendar time assist in building a strong community” or “Are the children loving the process?” I had to say “no.”

……

Hello to Greeting time

….. Most of our morning greeting routine is simple and depending on the children’s interest, the entire amount of time we spend together each morning as a community varies. I love what Amanda Morgan says in the Bam Radio Interview when it comes to what is most important in the process of building a valuable morning greeting/circle time experience: “…an emphasis on meaningful language and having conversations with children because that is really important and one of the big building blocks of literacy that is more important than some of the rote activities that is common in many practices.” In regards to the length of morning greeting time Amanda states, “I don’t think we can put a number on it because it really does just need to be responsive to the children that we have in our group…”

 

If you have been doing calendar time for a while and think you can’t give it up completely try to do it gradually and start to incorporate some new activities to your Morning Circle Time. I promise you will find value in doing so!

Want to learn more? Read  Calendar Time: Good Intentions Gone Awry by Sallee J. Beneke, Michaelene M. Ostrosky and Lilian G. Katz