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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

N is for No Letter of the Week

October 13, 2010

We can all agree that classrooms are busy places, with little time to spare. As teachers, we have to get the most we can out of every instructional minute. Doing so enables us to structure the day with time for more exploration, discovery, invention, and dare we say play?

There are few things that sap more instructional time than teaching a Letter of the Week (LOTW). I'm sorry to my preschool and kindergarten teacher friends who use these programs, but it's the truth. Teaching a letter of the week is too slow. Too isolated. Too painful to watch.

If you're unfamiliar with Letter of the Week, it typically goes like this or this: One letter is the focus for the week. That letter, and letter sound, are taught all week. Craft activities, songs, books, and snack choices all revolve around the letter. "S" week might involve a spider craft, making salty or sour snacks, using socks as puppets, and singing an S animal song. No doubt there's a lot of fun in there, but a lot more mileage can be gotten out of those instructional minutes.

Pre-K Pages, a blog about "all things preschool" has a good post on the topic that includes arguments for moving away from LOTW, including the fact that focusing on letters and sounds in isolation makes it difficult for students to understand and apply letter-sound knowledge to real reading and writing. Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos describe what the difference between isolated practice and meaningful letter games and sound activities look like in classrooms within Whatever happened to developmentally appropriate practices in early literacy?

There are lots and lots of ways teachers can focus on letters and sounds to promote literacy without using LOTW. Classroom instruction that focus on developing phonemic awareness and phonics skill in students, as well as methods like Word Study in which students actively work with (usually) three letters/sounds at a time, categorizing words and pictures to reveal differences and similarities among words. Words Their Way describes in detail the word study approach.

Letter of the Week has had a long history in our Pre-K and K classrooms. It's time to say goodbye.

Comments

I taught Kindergarten for three years and we used the book called "No More Letter of the Week" The kids LOVE the motions that you learn with each letter and every year almost 100% of my students learned their letters and sounds in 3 weeks! The kids were having fun and by moving faster were able to quickly sound out words. When they were able to start reading words they understood more quickly why they were learning these letter sounds and were more excited to learn more! I FOR SURE agree that teaching a letter a week is too slow. Especially with all the technology that our kindergartners are now exposed to. Kids come in to kindergarten ready for so much more now!

I am using "No More Letter of the Week" this year for the first time. At a time when we'd usually be studying the letter 'K' we are now actually reading BOOKS! The kids LOVE it. And I love seeing the kids so excited about reading. What a difference it has made in my classroom now that I've stopped teaching one letter each week.

Thanks, Katie and Melisa for writing in. Your comments reaffirm my belief that LOTW is not the best way to teach kids about letters and sounds. Keep up the great work!

I use to use the letter of the week concept but really felt that the students should be exposed to print when learning the letters. This would provide a more meaningful experience for them. I came across the following site https://kinderplans.com/p/69/kindergarten-activities. It provides video, a sample reader and other activities of how the students can be introduced to the alphabet in conjunction with learning to read. I have been using the program and have found it to be effective. Enjoyed reading this post and affirmation of other experiences in this area.

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