The Flaw in “Letter of the Week” and Why I Did Letter Themed Activities Anyway

I used to do “letter of the week” style drills with LittleMan. I would direct his attention to that letter, read him stories about that letter, have him trace that letter, talk about objects which names started with that letter, etc.. But I found that it didn’t work.
The majority of the time LittleMan seemed to forget whatever letter we were discussing by the time we moved on to the next letter. And even when he didn’t forget the letter, he never really seemed to grasp what it was. C is for cat, d is for dog; to him these were nonsensical statements, abstract ideas which he was unable to wrap his head around.

So I did away with letter of the week and just focused on talking to him, reading to him. I focused a bit more on the phonetics of a new word rather than what letter it started with. I allowed conversations to flow freely and asked him questions to prompt his thinking rather than to run drills with him.
At the time, I hadn’t read anything on it. I was merely trying to do what came naturally and hoped that, when there was less pressure to memorize, LittleMan would actually enjoy being read to. I knew that if I could just get him to like love books, that being a successful reader would just come naturally with time.

After we did away with letter of the week, the difference was almost immediate. His face was brighter when we talked. He brought me books and asked to be read to. He came to me and engaged me in conversations, asking questions. I did my best to answer all of his questions, and if I didn’t have the answer, I showed him how to look it up in a book or online.
One of the biggest differences is that LittleMan finally learned his letters. All 26. He still doesn’t like to call them by their names, and prefers to point out letters by their phonetic sound but the understanding is there. He finally gets it!

It wasn’t until after LittleMan grasped the alphabet, long after we gave up letter of the week, that I came across a blog talking about why letter of the week just doesn’t work. I was shocked. I always thought LittleMan and I were the oddballs for not doing letter of the week drills. Isn’t that what all preschoolers do? Apparently not. I did some more reading into it. And some more reading after that. (If you’d like to do some reading about it, N is for Nonsensical is a great place to start.)
I formed the opinion that I just don’t like letter of the week. And I decided I would not be doing such a program with my children anymore.

LittleMan’s “formal” homeschooling doesn’t start until this autumn, however we have been taking time everyday to work on the same skills any child would need when entering school, be it public, private, or homeschool. I try very hard to engage him based on the things that he shows an active interest in.
Well, all last week LittleMan kept pointing out the letter “c” everywhere we went. He kept trying to write it every time he got a crayon or a paint brush in his hand. His interest in the letter “c” was unexpected and unprompted, and I was unsure how to react.
After everything I’d seen firsthand and read about the flaws in letter of the week, I was not eager to do letter themed activities. But in the end a desire to satisfy my son’s growing curiosity and excitement for the letter “c” won out and thats what led us to having a letter themed day today. (I didn’t want to do a whole week but one day seemed like fun and it made him happy.)

So without further ado, here’s how we spent our “C” themed day…

We started out by running around the house collecting things to make a C-themed sensory bin that would be appropriate for SunnyGirl to play with.

Letter C Activities from Suzy Homeschooler (1)

LittleMan loved the opportunity to play the cool big brother by shifting through his action figures to find the ones whose names started with a “C,” it was an excellent way to get him excited about sharing. The action figures he choose for this bin are C3P0, Captain America, Colossus, Cyclops, and Carnage. Besides action figures we together also added in this bin measuring cups, cupcake liners, cookie cutters, toy cars, toy cow, cow and chicken pieces from the Uno Moo game, “c” tiles from from Scabble game, circles from wooden puzzle, stacking chairs from our light table stash, cat cards from a memory game, checkers, coins, wooden alphabet blocks, Lego bricks, and Boggle cubes which had the letter “c” on them.

While SunnyGirl was playing with her own sensory bin, I brought out a different bin for LittleMan.

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It was a simple bin, just shaving cream and some coffee that I froze into an ice-cube tray. I call it a “Coffee and Cream” bin. Normally I let SunnyGirl play with shaving cream but today she was given the separate bin because I don’t quite trust her not to try to eat the frozen coffee and I didn’t want to know what a 1 year old would be like on caffeine. LittleMan loved this bin, as usual, he loved squeezing the shaving cream between his fingers and watching how it reacted as the ice melted into it. I encouraged him to try to write his name into the shaving cream but after a couple letters he decided he’d rather just draw farm animals instead, and that was perfectly ok by me. Together we talked to SunnyGirl about the different sounds farm animals make.

After the sensory bins were cleaned up, we had a simple C themed muffin tin snack.
Left to right and top to bottom: cheddar cheese, chicken nuggets, carrots, chocolate cookie, corn, chips, and a Cheese-It cracker with the letter “C” printed on it.

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When he was done eating I gave LittleMan the option of using cars to paint tracks, or using q-tips to paint the letter “C” and he choose the latter.

Letter C Activities from Suzy Homeschooler (4)

Finally, after painting (and an impromptu game of tag, as well as some cuddles on the couch with a favorite book), LittleMan did crayon rubbings of coins. I used a thin layer of playdough to help keep the coins still under the paper.

Letter C Activities from Suzy Homeschooler (3)

I had also planned to have LittleMan cut circles but that just didn’t happen today.

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For more literacy activities and lessons, check out our Literacy Pinterest board!
Follow Caitlyn Stock (Suzy Homeschooler)’s board Literacy and Writing on Pinterest.

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