Making an alphabet book is a simple activity that helps develop reading readiness in young children. It can also be used to aid the transition from manuscript to cursive handwriting.
- 26 sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 lined handwriting paper*
- Plastic sleeves that fit into a 3-ring notebook
- 3-ring notebook
- A primary pencil or grip added to a regular size pencil.
- Optional: pictures to cut and paste as word illustrations.
*For each line of writing, handwriting paper has a solid line at the top, a dotted center line, a solid line at the bottom, then a space, and that pattern is repeated. The distance between the two solid lines varies (referred to here as line height). To determine the line height most comfortable for the child, have him write a few capital letters on unlined paper. You may show him letters to copy, but don’t let him write on that same paper. For students making a transition to cursive, just use a sample of their printing. Then, get handwriting paper whose line height is closest to the sample.
- Each sheet of paper should have one letter of the alphabet written on the top line. Write a capital manuscript (printed) letter next to its cursive (or italic) counterpart, and then the lowercase manuscript letter next to its cursive counterpart.Having both forms of each letter allows students to make the association between the manuscript form they read in books and the cursive (or italic) form used in handwriting. Even if you don’t plan to teach cursive handwriting until later, seeing various forms of each letter helps students learn to read cursive, something many children find more difficult than learning to write it.
- Place each sheet of paper into a plastic sleeve and then into the 3-ring notebook in alphabetical order. This keeps the papers fresh looking, but allows the student to remove a single page for practice.
- Students may want to make a fancy cover.
Directions for reading readiness:
- The student should choose one alphabet page to work on per lesson. There is no “right” order. Children enjoy having choices. It will probably take several sessions to complete a page, but the same page does not have to be worked on each day until all lines are filled in.
- Reading readiness involves hearing specific letter sounds and associating them with the correct letter of the alphabet. Show the student how to trace each letter with his index finger (using the hand he writes with). Have him imitate you, letter by letter, putting your hand over his to guide it if necessary. While tracing, have him repeat the name of the letter and its sound. (This multi-sensory approach reinforces both reading and writing skills.)
- The teacher should then say two words with different initial sounds and have the child choose the one beginning with the sound represented by the letter at the top of the page. Use short sounds for vowel pages. The teacher then writes the word on the page in both manuscript and cursive form. (Both forms are written as a reading reference, even though the child can’t read yet.) The student can trace the first letter of either the manuscript or the cursive form, depending on which one the teacher wants the student to learn. Tracing can be done first with his finger, and then with a pencil. If the teacher believes he is able, the child can trace the entire word. As he traces, have him repeat the sound of the letter. Be sure to clip the consonant sound as much as possible (/b/), not adding an extended “uh” (a vowel sound) at the end (/buh/).
- Pictures (drawn by the teacher or from various resources) can be cut and pasted by the student to illustrate the words. If pictures will be used, the teacher should decide whether to place them above, below, or next to the words so that their position will be consistent throughout the book.
- Add additional pages of practice for each letter as the individual needs of the student dictate.
Using the pages as for handwriting in cursive:
- The student should select one page per practice session. It is not necessary for the page to be completed in on sitting, or to be worked on daily until each line is filled. Rather, students should be encouraged to do a perfect job (that is, correct form, size, spacing, and slant). Stop them when they are fatigued, and assure that they are free to try a different letter next time.
- Teachers should first write single cursive capital and lower case letters to be traced, with room for the student to copy them. Once the letter is mastered, words beginning with the letter can be written to be traced and copied. Words beginning with the capital form of the letter should only be proper nouns that always require a capital letter.
- Words chosen for practice can come from spelling or vocabulary lists, or may simply be words the student suggests.
- It is important that anything too big, small, or written with incorrect form should be erased and done again. Because this is a book for all to see, students should be more motivated to include only their best work.
The teacher must be certain to write words with correct form and size since they serve as models. Just as important, no capital letters should be used inappropriately. That is, capitals within a word, or at the beginning of common nouns must be considered wrong, erased, and written correctly.
Children enjoy the idea of making their own books. Here, that interest is simply combined with the real goal: to introduce or reinforce phonics with a multisensory approach, or to enable the student to both read and write cursive.