So, uh, how do I teach my 3-year-old the alphabet? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 12:13 AM - Thread Starter
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I have a degree in English. I feel like I should know this. :p


DD has just turned 3, and out of the blue has started learning and pointing out letters. She knows S, W and O, which of course look the same in upper or lower case; she also knows the upper case forms of N and R, sometimes M and sometimes A. We haven't followed any particular rules in pointing out letters, except that her name's Rowan, so we've been paying particular attention to R-O-W-A-N. Not sure where M and S came from!


So which should I be teaching her? Lower case is obviously more common, but upper case is probably more common on signs and movie posters and so on, which is where she often sees and points out letters (with great glee, I might add). Would introducing her to the concept of "big A and little A" confuse her at this point? Or should I just teach her all upper case (or lower case) first, and deal with the other case once she's mastered the first?


She sings the alphabet song, but I'm not sure how strongly she associates it with actual letters. I need to find an alphabet frieze that's adult/pretty enough to put up in our living room... She likes to write letters too - she can do Os, surprisingly good Ss and the occasional zigzag that could be M or W.


I wasn't really expecting to deal with this so early! Any tips? Should I be mentioning phonics already - "B makes a "buh" sound" - or would that just confuse her? I'm not trying to push her, but I don't want to hold her back either. I was a self-directed, though not particularly early, reader (taught myself to read at kinder when I was 5), so I guess it makes sense that she has a thing for letters. Are there any good books on early pre-reading stuff for young kids? At this stage we don't really do any formal sit-down work, except for the occasional craft (more occasional than it should be - rough pregnancy!). We do read together a fair bit though, and she's taken to pointing out "S! Another S! O!" when I read, as well as looking at the pictures.

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#2 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 03:27 AM
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Fridge Phonics, Letter Factory and Word Factory videos,


It is really unimportant that she be very familiar with the letters prior to starting reading instruction, but most kids enjoy the above.


My kids started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons as older -3 and almost-5 year olds.  It teaches the letters as it teaches kids to read with them.


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#3 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 08:16 AM
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I don't think you need to teach her, she'll pick it up naturally just like she has before. I'm a advocate for delayed academics so I wouldn't introduce handwriting or phonics/reading instruction until she asks for it or turns 6.

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#4 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 09:00 AM
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I'm not particularly an advocate of delayed academics but I agree with Mittsy. Respond to your dd rather than directing her. It's hard to make mistakes in guiding a child's education if you're following her lead. Just answer her questions and reciprocate when she wants to talk about letters. Big A - little a won't likely confuse her if she makes the discovery herself and starts asking questions and making the connections herself based on the answers you give and the inferences she draws. Phonetics, by all means, if it flows naturally from her discoveries ... if she notices that Rowan and Rav4 both start with "R," you say "That's right, and you can actually hear the /r/ sound at the beginning of both words. Rrrrrowan, Rrrrav4, hear the /r/ sound? Isn't that cool?" If she latches onto that she'll start making connections and asking more questions. If she's not ready to progress, she'll let that hint go and won't ask more questions, and that's fine. In another few months or a year or two, she'll grow into readiness. That's how you find the sweet spot, the stuff she's ready for, that's meaningful to her, that she gets excited about. You toss out the next logical clue and see if she grabs it. If not, not big deal. If so, she leads you in the right direction for her.


You certainly don't need to come up with a program of instruction, or a set of activities, or purchase resources, or organize her learning in any way. She's already learning the alphabet. Kids are hard-wired to learn. And even niftier: adults are hard-wired to teach. We do it naturally and unconsciously simply by interacting with our children -- if we can just set aside the agendas and anxieties we've been taught to entertain.



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#5 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 06:35 PM
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My DD is 33 months and knows her alphabet without me exerting too much energy. Starfall is wonderful and it's one of her favorite apps. The Nick Jr. app for the alphabet is also very helpful. Sometimes I would print out letter coloring pages. Amongst our library books, I always put an ABC type of book in there. Her favorite is ABC NYC. She also attends school 2 days a week, so that definitely helps along with the songs and stuff. Exposure, exposure, exposure and when she would ask about a letter, I just told her. She was very interested. Oh, and we also have the Kumon Alphabet tracing cards. I got those when she turned 2. She would just scribble over them at first but now she actually traces the letters. I don't structure anything, overtly. I just throw it out there like the rest of the things we do. They're sponges so your child will absorb everything quicker than you can blink. Have fun!

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#6 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by pigpokey View Post

Fridge Phonics, Letter Factory and Word Factory videos,


It is really unimportant that she be very familiar with the letters prior to starting reading instruction, but most kids enjoy the above.


My kids started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons as older -3 and almost-5 year olds.  It teaches the letters as it teaches kids to read with them.


seriously, don't overlook those - the videos and starfall taught things effortlessly to mine! We picked up from there with Sonlight's reader <K program ...

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#7 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 09:34 PM
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I wouldn't actively try to teach her at this age. However, books that we read to our son which helped him self-teach the alphabet are:

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#8 of 12 Old 05-10-2011, 10:06 PM
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Read alphabet books.  There are endless varieties.  I especially like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, which focuses on lower-case, but the beginning and end of the book have upper- and lower-case side-by-side.  So start and end the book by singing the alphabet song while you point at the letters.  Pause in unexpected places, so she'll point and call out the next letter.  But if you read to her, she will pick things up on her own, as she's she's already doing!


I prefer to teach kids the alphabet song a bit differently.  Instead of the usual verses, which smoosh L-M-N-O-P together (some kids think they're just one or two letters), I use the same "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" tune, but group the letters this way:

A-B-C-D, E-F-G (pause)

H-I-J-K, L-M-N (pause)

O-P-Q, R-S-T (pause)

U-V-W, X-Y-Z

I hope that is more self-explanatory than it looks, without music!  Singing it this way makes it easier to point out individual letters while you sing, because it goes a bit slower.


IMO, there is never anything wrong with teaching things to kids!  Just because many kids aren't reading until they're 5 doesn't mean it's BAD for your daughter to learn earlier, or to be told the difference between upper- and lower-case, or the sounds that letters make!  If she's not ready, you won't be able to interest her in it.  If she IS ready, my goodness, why hesitate?  At this age, everything is fun!  Everything she learns makes her feel more like you and therefore impressed with herself.  Don't hold back!  


I read at 2 and I have never for one minute of my life felt pressured or negative about reading!  Incidentally, no one thought to teach me the alphabet or phonics at that age, so I learned by recognizing whole words and kind of noticed phonics after the fact, from the patterns of letters and sounds in different words I knew.  The general consensus seems to be that learning letters and phonics first is have at it!

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#9 of 12 Old 05-11-2011, 06:18 PM
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We looove Chicka Chicka Boom Boom here.  On the first and last pages which show the whole alphabet, we play "find the letter" games.  I did "big A, little A" from the beginning and DD didn't seem confused.  She's only now starting to ask about the sounds that go with the letters (she started learning the alphabet around 2 when she became interested, she turns 3 tomorrow).  She knows sounds for B, P, L and sometimes A (but vowels are so confusing).  She can recognize and point out all the uppercase letters and most lowercase (most of the time, anyhow).  She's just started noticing numbers, too.


Other favorites here:  The Dr Seuss alphabet book, and  She adores starfall....

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#10 of 12 Old 05-11-2011, 07:02 PM
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eeboo makes some really lovely alphabet wall art cards. And these montessori style sandpaper alphabet sets are really great, using multiple senses at once :)

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#11 of 12 Old 05-12-2011, 07:59 AM
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Best thing I've found is the LeapFrog "Letter Factory" DVD.  All of my kids have learned their letters (and sounds) after watching it a few times.  For lower case letters, I really love the book "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom."


Oh...and for helping kids figure out that L-M-N-O-P isn't one letter, check out the Hooked On Phonics alphabet song on YouTube.

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#12 of 12 Old 05-13-2011, 06:49 AM
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I wouldn't worry about teaching her the alphabet, but if she's interested in letters, I'd get some letter related toys and books for her.


Leapfrog's stuff is very good.  The library is full of ABC books.  Magnetic letters and alphabet puzzles can be fun too.


Don't stress about it!  Just have fun and answer her questions. joy.gif

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