Instead of Worksheets...Do THIS to Learn Letters!

You know how I feel about worksheets and workbooks, right?

You might have been surprised to find out that I bought a handful while I was at the Dollar Tree the other day.  Some of you thought maybe I lost my mind and bought glitter.  But I assure you, I dislike workbooks even more!

It might have been the only purchase from Dollar Tree that I thought I might regret :)

So WHY did I buy them?

I am actually very excited to show you that you do NOT need them!  You can use some of the other treasures I bought from the Dollar Tree to play and learn with letters!

What is wrong with the workbook?

Workbooks/worksheets are close-ended.  This means that there is only one right answer.  For young children (preschool and kindergarten) we should be promoting thought and exploration.  As soon as we tell a child that they are wrong, their motivation is stifled.  Just imagine for a moment, the scenario below: (I am the one who filled this out, I couldn't bring myself to subject my children ;) )
Parent: Write the letter G.
Child: (Copies the capital and lower case letter)
Parent: Make sure you stay on the line.  This G is not touching the bottom line. 
Parent: Circle the picture whose name begins with g.
Parent: Yes, guitar and gum are right.  Mouse does not start with g.  It starts with M.  Why didn't you circle the next one?  It starts with G.
Child: Mmmmm-monkey.

Okay, the child is NOT wrong with the gorilla/monkey and gate/fence examples.  Do you see how this would be exhausting for a child?  Do you like to be told that you are wrong?  This is more of a "testing" tactic versus a learning experience.

Workbooks do not promote active learning.

Active learning requires 5 core elements:
1. A child should have MATERIALS.
2. A child should be able to MANIPULATE those materials.
3. A child should have CHOICE during the activity.
4. The activity should promote child THOUGHT and LANGUAGE (talking about their reasoning).
5. The activity should allow for adult SCAFFOLDING (this is supporting the child's exploration, helping them to the next level).

Workbooks do not meet these 5 core elements.  I'm not even sure they include any of them.  What do you think?  

So what can you do instead?

You are here because you want your child to learn about letters.   How can we give children opportunities to play with letters, but in a more hands-on and developmentally appropriate way?

Dollar Tree is redeeming itself here.  Look at what I bought:

Wooden Letters and Ice Cube Tray
I found the letters in the craft center.  I love including these in my loose parts collection. I grabbed a few ice cube trays just to give my children a place to sort the letters.  Children can come up with their own sorting categories: letters in their name, letters that have straight pieces, letters that have curves, etc.

Pool Noodles and Paper Towel Holder
I took 2 pool noodles and cut them into pieces.  I wrote capital and lower case letters on each with a permanent marker.  I had to squeeze the paper towel holder with a pair of pliers to make it skinnier for the noodles to fit.

After lots of exploration with the materials, you can use this to begin working on the child's name. This is a great way to begin to explore the child's name.  Set out just the letters in the child's name on a tray.  See if they can build a name tower.

Letter Beads
These can also be found in the craft section.  You can include pipe cleaners for the child to string them on.  We actually dropped a few into each ice cube tray and filled with water.  We are going to "excavate the letters" tomorrow.  

Wood Blocks and Tweezers
The small wood blocks are from the craft aisle and the tweezers are in the school aisle.  I used a paint pen to write the lower case letters on each block. We made "alphabet soup" by pouring all of them into a large bowl.  I invited my children to pick out a cube using the tweezers.  A way to extend this is to invite children to write what letter they found on the mini-etch a sketch board. 

Alphabet Stamps
This is not a Dollar Tree find, but you can get the ones pictured here. I love stamps because it is still supporting fine motor development, but it is a little easier than a paper pencil task.  You can obviously use stamps on paper, but you can also stamp into rolled out playdough.  Get a great recipe here

Speaking of playdough, here is another great post with a letter invitation. 

You can see all of these activities in action on this FB video.  Go here to watch it!

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