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When to Teach the ABC names for an Early Reader


mathmarm

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Jr is reading on an early elementary level, but he doesn't know the ABC. This is our fault. We've read him 100s of ABC books, but we called the letters by their phonetic sounds throughout. He loves to write and when he asks how to write something, we show him in ASL. (Jr. is fluent and bilingual in English and ASL.) He recognizes all of the letters sounds by sight/hand sign. He reads but he doesn't know the names and he isn't consistent in knowing the sequence of the letters either.

 

We wanted to avoid confusing him by teaching him "letter name says [sound]" but now we've seemed to have painted ourselves into a corner. We don't know if introducing letter names now might confuse him. Should we just let him continue to read and then teach him later, before he goes to 1st grade?

 

Our biggest goal was to be consistent with what we are teaching him and how. He attends a nonacademic, play based, outdoor immersion school so he won't see this stuff until grade school unless we expose him to it. He has nonEnglish speaking caretakers so he won't learn it from them either. And we don't allow him to watch media....Yikes.

 

Should we teach him "spelling names" now? We didn't want to teach him spelling yet. I feel that's too much for him and it might confuse him that some letter names ARE the letter sounds, but not all of them.

 

We're thinking that maybe our best bet is to ignore the ABC names for another year or so and then introduce spelling-names?

 

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Given that he is bilingual, how about both signing and saying the letter names simultaneously when he asks how to spell something? I am guessing it won't take him long to pick up on it, especially since the names of most letters sound similar to the sounds they make.

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I don't think it would confuse an advanced 3-year-old, since many advanced 3-year-olds successfully go the opposite way (learning letter sounds after learning the names), but I also don't think there's harm in waiting a year if you prefer. I would probably go ahead and introduce the concept that they have names besides their sounds, and then just start saying the letter names along with the fingerspelling. I think knowing the ASL will probably make it easier, because he's already connecting sound, written letter, and signed letter.

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My district's subsidized preschool teach phonics, letters and ASL to kids who are majority from Spanish speaking households. The children didn't have a problem.

 

When you want to teach is up to you. Many toddlers have heard the ABC song and have kind of sequence the letters in their head.

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The book Doodling Dragons covers all the sounds of each letter in the alphabet. That could be a good resource to start associating the "name" of the letter with its sounds.

 

My son knew the letter names, but not the alphabetical order, as he was entering kindergarten. We drilled him and taught the alphabet to him in one day, the day before he went to school. That's the nice thing about accelerated learners, they usually catch on fairly quickly.

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To me the important thing is to teach them the sound before the name. Once they are reading quite fluently I don't think it will confuse them to learn the names. If I were you I probably wouldn't stress about teaching the names just yet. As a pp said, you can teach them the names etc in 1 or 2 days when you absolutely need to, and maybe they will learn them gradually before that. My dd had an absolutely fantastic teacher in England for her reception year, age 4.5, and she was a very strong advocate for definitely teaching sounds before names.

 

ETA - My dd could read really well by the time we came over to the USA and started school here, half way through the K year. She still didn't know all the letter names, but could read chapter books. Most of the kids in her class knew the letter names but couldn't read yet.

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Okay, its good to have the reassurance that it's not too important just yet. Initially we'd intended to delay the names and sequence for a long while, but now that our first year of "real" preK is coming, we're getting jittery about some things and just want to make sure that we're doing things "right".

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They pick up fast. However if you like classroom decor, my district preschool class hangs cards similar to link below along the classroom wall like a border.

 

http://www.classroomfreebiestoo.com/2012/08/word-wall-letters-american-sign-language.html

 

They also have the common colors wall poster and the four seasons poster and months of the year poster. This is in answer to your preK-K thread.

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I'd want it at least introduced before he gets put in a situation where he gets in an argument with a teacher or another student about what "A" is.  I'm sure that he will learn them quickly, and since he's already reading I wouldn't think there would be a problem with telling him each letter has both a sound and a name.

 

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I taught my son letter sounds too. But he picked up letter names form somewhere. Finely I am not sure. It happens organically. Maybe via the ABC song as I pointed to a chart. I did buy him a little laptop that he played with. It was super simple and just did letter names. It was enough. There are a plethora of kids shows that cover letter names. Leap frog comes to mind.

But he didn't need to really know the letter names or orders until about 2nd grade curriculum. That was when he started to learn dictionary skills.

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I taught my son letter names and sounds at the same time, along side teaching animals and their sounds.  So it kind of went like this "cows say moo, and B says buh".  He understood that very well, and had all the names and sounds down pat by age 3.  He didn't find it confusing.  You could try that.

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You could also get him some preschool electronic toys that, for example, sing the alphabet and such.  Or let him play on the Starfall website for a couple of days (okay, I'm not sure they cover letter names in all honesty, but there's a lot of lettery stuffy stuff there, so maybe).  My DS#1 learned the letter names and a lot of their sounds from his toys by 2yo.  DS#3 osmosed them from... ?? I'm guessing our toys and listening in on phonics discussions between myself and his older brothers.  I never gave him any direct instruction in the letter names or their basic sounds, but he figured them out nonetheless.  I like the idea of introducing letter name-sound combos along with animal name-sound combos -- that's a great idea!

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Don't stress about it at all. You can probably teach it in a day when you feel like doing it. Just sing the ABC song and touch each letter as you go. If you're worried that preK will assess him based on letter names, go ahead and do it before school starts. With my older, I personally got tired of spelling for him using letter sounds, so I just started telling him the names. The five-year-old isn't even confused reading in two languages with the letter E called the English letter name A in his second language, and the OO sound pronounced like a long O. 

 

And in general, you don't need to stress about doing things "right." When you're teaching kids things well before they'd actually be learning it, you're setting them up for review. My two never learned complete phonics before moving into fluent reading. ODS is picking up complex phonics while learning spelling. Gaps are filled incredibly quickly with bright kids. Good habits, like holding a pencil properly or forming letters in the right direction, are more important to get right the first go around.

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My eldest child did not learn the letter names til about 2nd grade (when I taught her to alphabetize things) and even now spells mostly in phonetic letters though she can spell and also write words that are spelled using letter names. 

My youngest child is at school and they have insisted in teaching her the letter names - she now mixes them up and is also putting capitals where they do not belong when writing which my eldest never did.

I really wouldn't worry about it. I did teach my child to read initials as the letter names earlier than grade 2 but she didn't always get this correct and also shop names with just letters and abbreviations were sometimes incorrectly read using phonetic letters, but this corrected itself very rapidly.

There is always something more to learn - I remember having to teach both my children how to read dates when they were 5 years old and had already learnt thousands but now were being expected to chop a date into two numbers before reading it - if I had taught dates first then I would have had a similar problem with reading numbers in the thousands. English is just like that - it clicks in the end and they do get it.

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