Teaching the alphabet is a huge part of what we do in preschool & pre-k. Every state has different standards for this, but in Texas our kids are expected to know 20 uppercase letters, 20 lowercase letters, and 20 letter sounds by the end of the year. That means I am always trying to squeeze in some alphabet practice anywhere and everywhere I can! Alphabet poems have become one of my favorite tools for doing this during circle time, but I also use them in small groups, centers, and as a home-school connection. In this post, I’ll show you how I use poems to teach the alphabet in my pre-k class and what poems I use to do it.
Letter of the Week?
Before we jump into how I use alphabet poems to teach letters, we need to talk about how I DON’T use them. There’s one thing I want you to hear loud and clear. Do you have a pen and some paper to write this down? It’s OK. I’ll wait while you get some…
Are you ready now? Good! Here it is:
I DO NOT USE LETTER OF THE WEEK!
Now, before you run for the hills, hear me out.
I know a lot of people use a letter-of-the-week approach. You may be one of them, and you may feel like it works really well for you. I’m not one of those people, and here’s why:
- Teaching a skill in isolation is never as effective as teaching it in meaningful and relevant ways. LOTW (letter of the week) teaches one letter at a time without significant connections to things that are important to the kids.
- Research does not support LOTW, and I am all about following the research.
- Not every child needs to learn every letter. If you spend 10 minutes a day teaching the LOTW, the kids who already know that letter have just wasted 50 minutes of learning time that week.
- There are better ways to teach the alphabet, and once you know better, you can do better!
If you really want to dive into some of the reasons why I don’t do LOTW, there is a great book out that talks all about it. It’s called, “No More Teaching a Letter a Week,” by Rebecca McKay. You can grab a copy HERE on Amazon. If you’re still using LOTW, I highly recommend reading this book!
That being said, alphabet poems can absolutely be used in a LOTW format. So if you’re one of the LOTWers, please keep reading! You’ll be able to use every bit of what’s in this post.
Which Alphabet Poem Should You Use?
I use a different alphabet poem each week, and choosing which one to use is a really important piece of the puzzle. Since I don’t do LOTW, I use some other factors to decide which poem to use.
The first thing I look at is the names of my kids. I do a LOT with their names when it comes to teaching letters, so I use this as a springboard into our shared reading time. I’ve got a post coming about how I use their names to teach the alphabet, but for now just know that we use the leader’s name each day to work on letter recognition, letter formation, concepts of print, and phonological awareness. If I have a lot of kids whose names start with the same letter, I choose a poem that also has that letter in it a lot. As we talk about the letters in their names and they start to recognize them, they will naturally be drawn to those letters anytime they see them. So, having them posted in the poem we’re learning is perfect!
The second thing I look at is my data. Yes… I said the dreaded D-word! But data is SO important when it comes to deciding what you’re going to teach. If there’s a letter none of my kids know, I’ll choose a poem that has that letter in it. If all of my kids know a letter, I’ll steer clear of that one. This is especially helpful for me when it comes to the letters that are not in their names or aren’t there many times.
The final thing I look at is what other skills I want to work on that week. Some poems lend themselves to rhyming activities, some to syllables, some to vocabulary, and so on. I always want to make sure I choose a poem that is going to help me hit every skill I’ve got slated for the week.
Using those three factors together has never steered me wrong when it comes to choosing an alphabet poem for the week!
Teaching Using Alphabet Poems
Now that you’ve chose your poem, let’s talk about what to do with it. I use my poems in a shared reading format each week. Shared reading is a time when you and your students read something with enlarged text (like a big book or poster) together in a way that is fun and engaging for everyone. It gives every student the opportunity to feel successful with reading, and it builds a love for reading right from the start when you use it in preschool and pre-k. (You can read more about my 5-day sequence for shared reading in this blog post if it’s something that’s new to you.)
Once we’ve learned the poem and practiced it by choral reading and echo reading, we start using it to learn some letters! Look at this poem for example:
“Lucky Little Ladybugs” is perfect for the letter L. In fact, that’s why I wrote this one! I wanted to spend some time on the letter L with a particular group of kids I had, and I just couldn’t find a poem that would do what I needed.
To get my kids focused on the letter L while using this poem, I start by holding up a card with the letter on it. We talk about the name of the letter, what it looks like, and we may even sky write it for some fun writing practice. We also look to see if anyone has the letter in their name. I’ll post the letter card next to the poem and ask if anyone can find that letter in the poem. I let them use one of my fun pointers to show me where the Ls are.
As they point to an L, we talk about whether it’s uppercase or lowercase and how they know.
The next step is to highlight all the Ls. My favorite tool for doing this in a large group setting is highlighter tape. We use one color to highlight the uppercase letters and a different color to highlight the lowercase letters. After we’ve found and highlighted them all, we count how many uppercase and how many lowercase there are. This also gives me an opportunity to sneak in some math by writing and comparing the numbers and quantities.
Once we’ve gotten really good at recognizing the letter, we talk about the letter sound. We go through some of the words in the poem, and my kids tell me if each word begins with the sound or not.
Practicing Letters Using Alphabet Poems
Once the kids are familiar with the poem and have started recognizing the letter, it’s time to give them some ways to practice. My favorite way to do this is in a center with some sticky notes.
This activity has become a favorite over the years! I cut apart sticky notes and write the letter on each one. I try to use the same colors as we used to highlight the letters during circle time, but if I can’t it’s not the end of the world. However, I do make sure the number of sticky notes I make is the same as the number of times the letter is in the poem. That adds a self-checking feature to this activity. If they still have sticky notes left, they haven’t found all the letters yet. And if find a letter but don’t have a sticky note for it, they’ve put one in the wrong place. These fun little pieces of paper do have a tendency to lose their stick after a while, so make sure you have some extras ready to go just in case.
I always make poster-sized versions of my poems as you can see. I’m fortunate to be at a school with a poster maker, but if you are not as lucky, you can always have them enlarged at your local office supply or printing store. You can always make your own posters by writing the poems on chart paper and laminating it.
I hang the poster in one of my centers and stick the little sticky notes right to it. I add some pointers to it as well, and it is ready to go. My kids can use the pointers to practice reading the poem or to point to the letters, and they can use the sticky noted to mark the letters they find.
They always love using this activity during centers, and it is super easy for me to prep. It also gives me an opportunity to do some on-the-spot assessments while they are playing. At the end of the week, I put the poster away and add an 8.5″ x 11″ poetry cards to the center so they can keep reading that poem during centers.
The final step in teaching letters using alphabet poems happens in small groups. I give each kid a black & white copy of the poem. We read it together, point to the words, and talk about the meaning of the poem to get some comprehension going. We talk some more about the letter and letter sound. That’s when the fun begins! I give my kids highlighters and let them highlight the letter on their copy of the poem. I like to use the skinny highlighters so the tips don’t mark larger areas than we want them to. (If you don’t have enough highlighters, yellow markers or crayons work just as well.)
After we’ve highlighted all the letters, we add the pome to our poetry folders. (Plastic folders with brads work best for this so they last all year.) Our poetry folders live in the library center so that the kids can get theirs any time they want to read their poems. They can pull them out during centers to read on their own, with a partner, or even with a small pointer.
As a home-school connection, I make an extra set of copies of the black & white version of the poem to send home. They can practice reading the poem with their families, and they can hunt for the letters together. It’s a great way to get the families connected to what we’re doing at school because the kids are always so excited they can “read” the pomes, they can’t can’t wait to show off their skills at home!
No Prep Alphabet Poems Set
Now that you are ready to start using alphabet poems to teach letters in your classroom, I want to make it as easy on you as possible! Now, hear me clearly… You can spend time scouring the internet looking for poems to use for each letter. You can type them and write them yourself without spending a dime.
BUT… I am all about making your life easier without asking you to spend a ton of money. And that’s why I took all my favorite nursery rhymes, poems, and original Mrs. A’s Room creations for teaching the alphabet and put them together into this easy-to-use file of alphabet poems. There is a pome for each letter in both color and black & white, and they are ready to print and use. Plus, the price is right!
You can grab your set HERE in my store!
Get the free guide!
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