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A kindergarten child I am working with cannot remember letter names.

QUESTION
I am presently working with a kindergarten student, who has difficulty with letter identification. He simply cannot remember the symbols associated with letter names. I have ordered some of the materials from Neuhaus and we have been working on identifying five letters at a time. But he still wants to say the alphabet to identify some of the letters. What can I do to help? Do you have an expert opinion concerning what could be his problem?

 

ANSWER
There is research to support the importance of learning letter names in addition to learning letter sounds, and also the predictive value of letter naming for reading disability (Berninger, Abbott, Vermeulen, Ogier, Brooksher, & Zook, et al., 2002; Bond and Dykstra, 1967; Chall, 1996).

This student will need many times the number of repetitions that average learners need, so here are some suggestions for reinforcing letter naming from Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills (Birsh, 2005):

·         Use brief segments, often (5-7 minutes at the beginning of an instructional period)

·         Sing and point to letters using different tunes (Old MacDonald, Happy Birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb etc.).

·         Use multisensory experiences such as:

·         Touching and discussing letter properties using manipulative letters.

·         Categorizing letters into straight line letters, curved line letters, and letters that have both straight and curved, then name them – “A, E, F, H, I, K, L, M, N, T, V, W, X, Y, and Z all have straight lines.”

On an alphabet arc, student identifies the initial letter (A), final letter (Z), and medial letters (MN) of the alphabet, then names and sequences the rest of the letters.
Student uses a mirror to identify vowels (vowels are open and voiced), and consonants (consonants are blocked by the tongue, teeth, or lips). 

·         Alphabet Bingo – Student blindly selects 5 letters, teacher calls letters from her deck randomly. The object to name and place all selected letters on the arc for a “bingo.”

·         Alphabet Battle – Two players draw a letter from a set, place and name them. The player with the letter closer to z wins that hand. Play till letters run out and count and name letters collected.

·         Before and After. Student places both index fingers on one letter and name it. Move the right (“after”)hand to the right and name the letter that comes after. Move the left (“before”) hand to the left and name the letter that comes before.

·         Guess what – draw letters hidden in other material (packing peanuts, sand, pebbles) and name the letter to keep it.

·         Twenty questions – The teacher says she is “thinking of a letter…” The student has a printed copy of the alphabet and asks the teacher questions like, “Is it a vowel?” or, “Does it have only straight lines?” For no answers, student names and crosses letters out, till by process of elimination he is able to guess the right letter.

·         Rapid letter recognition chart – practice 6 letters which are printed on the top line in sequence, but mixed up on subsequent lines. See how many times the lines of letters can be “touched and named” in one minute. Rapid naming charts can be printed from “consumables” in the Instructional Resources section of Reading Teachers Network 

 
Use a mirror to discover the properties of the vowel letters and consonant letters (vowels are open and voiced, consonants are blocked by the tongue, teeth or lips)
 
Also, Wolf, O’Brien, Adams, Joffe, Jeffrey, Lovett et al. (2003) suggest that learning letter sounds concurrently with learning letter names helps reinforce both.