Monday, October 08, 2012

Learning Lower Case Letters

Lower case letters are introduced in kindergarten, but in first grade we work hard on learning to form them correctly and write them well. I try to dedicate a lot of time to this in the beginning of the year and to give as much guidance as possible so that students do not practice bad habits.

In past years I have noticed that one of the greatest challenges for my first graders is that some letters are small, some are tall, and some hang down. They tend to make all the lower case letters fit in the exact same space.

When I stopped to reflect on this I realized that upper case letters do work that way. My students are quite proficient at writing their upper case letters. I shouldn't be surprised that they assume that lower case letters work the same way.

This year we spent one lesson just looking at the lower case alphabet. I asked students what they noticed was the same about different letters. I tried to highlight what they noticed in different colors but they were noticing so many things! They noticed the little tail on the 'a' and the 'o'. They noticed the round, circular parts of 'a', 'b', 'd', 'g', 'o', 'p', and 'q'. They noticed the tall, straight lines on 'b', 'd', 'f'', 'h', 'k', 'l', and 't'. They noticed the long tails on 'g', 'j', 'p', 'q' and 'y'. It was a great way to start.

Each day as we learn and practice a new letter we inspect it closely. What does it have that is the same as other letters we have learned? What makes it different?

I don't know yet whether or not this will transfer into their independent writing. It's a lot to ask six-year-olds to think of great ideas for writing, stretch out their words to spell them, and form their letters correctly. But they certainly have internalized more about these lower case letters than any of my classes in the past.

This sort of thinking comes from the Patterns of Thinking. When I am thoughtful about my teaching and learning those patterns are so clear.

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