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Kindergarten “ABC” Strategy That Works

By Arlene Schulz
 | Aug 04, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-509959955_x300Being able to name the letters of the alphabet is the best predictor of beginning reading achievement, even though knowing the names of the letters does not have a direct impact on a child’s ability to read.

As a literacy consultant in more than 100 kindergarten rooms over the past 30 years, I have found many kindergarten teachers befuddled by the fact that their children could name all the letters of the alphabet and a phoneme often associated with each of the letters but could not read or write.

I explain that without meaningful writing and reading activities, children see no reason to go beyond naming letters to writing letters and eventually learning the alphabetic principle (sound to letter relationships). Children actively construct their own literacy learning about phoneme–grapheme correspondences when they engage in the process of meaningful writing  in a writing workshop based on the research of Graves and Cambourne’s Conditions.

Then I proceed to show teachers how children engage in writing and how I guide them during the process. I particularly want to demonstrate a very useful strategy that I devised when I noticed children struggling to remember the formation of a certain letter. I call it the “ABC Song Strategy.” It is sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (see my video here for demonstrations and details).

This ABC Song Strategy has worked almost every time for kindergartners except for directionality mix-ups that require a “moving model” of the letter’s formation. However, the ABC Song Strategy does need frequent reinforcement, especially in the beginning of the year. That is why we practice it every day a few times in the “Alphabet Time” of Getting Ready for Writing Workshop.

“I love the emphasis on singing the ABCs often; one student who I worked with needed to sing the song to find a letter for a sound in almost every word she wanted to write,” says Jeni Tyjeski, a preservice kindergarten teacher. “As the semester went on and she put more sounds with written letters, we sang the song much less frequently, but she knew if she forgot what the letter looked like she could always sing the song. Watching this child develop as a writer from hesitant and reliant on my guidance to bubbly and full of ideas was incredible!”

Although being able to name the letters of the alphabet is important, being able to write the letters at will and connecting them to a sound, also known as “invented spelling,” is even more important. Invented spelling is the very best predictor of reading, and it allows children to begin to know meaning before they know how to actually spell a word.

Arlene C. Schulze is a longtime reading teacher and specialist. She holds a lifetime degree in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a master’s degree in reading from the University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point (UWSP). She has been a K–2 literacy consultant for three school systems in North Central Wisconsin and a literacy instructor in language arts and reading at UWSP for many years. She is the author of the book Helping Children Become Readers Through Writing. Currently she is tutoring struggling readers in northern Wisconsin.

 

1 comment

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  1. Khadija | Aug 10, 2016
    I was a little surprised that this strategy needed an article but then I watched a video and realized this may not be intuitive for many teachers especially new teachers.

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