What Order Should I Teach Letters to Preschoolers?

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When you’re teaching preschoolers the letters of the alphabet, there are a few strategies to keep in mind to encourage success. Learning the letters requires children to identify their names, their physical characteristics, and their sounds. While there are many alphabet activities to help accomplish this, one of your first questions may be: What order should I teach the letters in?

It’s important to note that you don’t have to teach the letters in alphabetical order. In fact, this could actually prove to be detrimental to your child’s success. It’s also key that you don’t introduce all 26 letters at the same time. This can be very overwhelming. Imagine learning a new language and being presented with every letter at once! It’s better to introduce the letters slowly, one or two at a time, and to give your child opportunities to solidify her recall of the letters before moving on to new ones.

To get your child off to a great start and to keep his motivation high, introduce letters of personal significance first. These are often the letters in a child’s name. Children may already have some familiarity with these letters, particularly the first letter in their name. There may be other words your child is familiar with as well. Maybe he’s a huge soccer fan and knows that “soccer” starts with ‘s.’ Or maybe he recognizes the letter ‘P’ because his favorite cartoon starts with that letter. Sometimes children already know a letter, like ‘x,’ because its shape is common and memorable. Your child may even share with you that he wants to know how to spell a certain word or name. Take advantage of this motivation and start his learning from there.

Next, introduce letters that use similar pathways to print them. For example, the letters ‘c,’ ‘a,’ ‘d,’ and ‘o’ are written using common movements. As children are getting comfortable forming letters, sticking with similar pathways is helpful.

Be wary of introducing letters together that can be easily confused. Reversals occur when a child sees or writes a letter backwards or upside down. Common reversals include ‘b’ and ‘d’ as well as ‘p’ and ‘q.’ Some children may mix up ‘n’ and ‘u.’ To help combat reversals, introduce these letters alone and provide your child with enough time to become confident in naming and writing them before introducing their commonly confused counterpart. If your child starts reversing them anyways, consider using an anchor chart or other visual to help her distinguish each letter. For example, some children make the “thumbs-up” sign with each hand and, looking left to right, learn that the left hand shows a ‘b’ and the right hand shows a ‘d.”

When it comes to teaching lowercase and uppercase letters, there are advantages to teaching one case at a time as well as benefits to teaching both at the same time. Some children may learn uppercase letters more quickly because they find them easier to differentiate and easier to print, given their emphasis on straight lines. However, some children are more confident beginning with lowercase letters because they have more familiarity with them given that they are predominant in books. Also, because most writing is done in lowercase, teaching children these letters first will help prevent them from developing the habit of printing words all in capitals. Because of the focus on starting children off with good habits, many educators defer to teaching lowercase letters first. Ultimately, it is your decision and you will be able to assess how your child is progressing with the method you choose.

As you introduce your preschooler to the letters of the alphabet, take his lead on the pace to prevent frustration or overwhelm from setting in. Provide him with opportunities to engage in a variety of letter activities, take note of his favorites, and keep it fun!

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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