Big Idea: Teach Letter Name Fluency with a Simple PowerPoint
Hi Teacher Friends, How did your students do in their midyear DIBELS 8 kinder tests? Did you feel a great sigh of relief that they got it? Or, did you think, “uh oh I have to do it differently in the winter term.”
If you said the latter, you’re not alone. Letter name fluency can be tough. Many of the kindergartners still don’t know enough letter names to pass the DIBELS 8 expectation, and some of the first graders are still working on that too. What to do?
Why Letter Names Anyway?
First, let’s quickly review what letter name fluency consists of, when it’s tested, and why. Standard kindergarten expectations all over the country state that kids should know their letter names by the time they arrive in kindergarten, but everywhere, a lot of them don’t. They come in not knowing the names of the letters, or the sounds, and on top of that, they often don’t have the first notion of how to be in a classroom.
I well remember subbing in kindergarten in the first weeks of the year a couple years past, and telling them “this is school. This is not your home, and it is not a day care center. We work here. We have a job. It is called, “learning.”
The Wild and Woolly Kinder West
Wild and woolly kinder west, I guess. But it happens in the east as well.
By December most of the kindergartens are settled down. The white of the teachers’ eyes aren’t so prominent. But the problem is that the time that was supposed to be used for teaching them letter names was used teaching them to stay in their seats and listen.
And now the just showed up on “red” in DIBELS 8.
First Things First: Letter Name Fluency
So, first things first. LNF.
When looking at your students’ LNF scores, how many of them didn’t make the benchmark?
If you have less than 50% of the class at below benchmark, you can work on letter names in small groups.
If you have over half the class below expectations, you should do a letter name intervention whole class. This will be more efficient. In a couple months, when more of them know their letter names, you can go to small groups.
High Rep Kids
I’m assuming a lot of these are high rep kids. They can learn the materials, it just takes them longer. These kids need a way to daily reinforce the letter names into their memories. And it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t wear the teacher out. Because the teacher has a lot of bases to cover.
But it’s not that effective to repeat the list of all the letters over and over in the same sequence. I’ve done that, of course, in my class back in the day. After they are able to recite the letter names in a pattern, it’s time to give them the letter name practice in random order.
PowerPoint for Greater LNF Retention
The students need to understand the concept of alpha order. And they need to understand that there are lower case and capital letters. They also will memorize the letters more quickly if they are introduced in order at first. But then you’ve got to switch the order up. So at first, teach them in order, then randomize the letters before class and throw them a curve. I’m not too sure about the practice of introducing the upper and lower case letters next to each other. I think it’s best for each letter to have its own card.
An order of instruction might go like:
- Lower case powerpoint in order (2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
- Upper case powerpoint in order (2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
- Lower case PowerPoint, randomized ((2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
- Upper case PowerPoint, randomized (2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
- Lower and Upper Case Powerpoint, in order (2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
- Lower and Upper Case Powerpoint, randomized (2 weeks, daily, for 3 minutes)
Practice Should Make Perfect … Or At Least Pretty Good
Either way, if you start with the PowerPoints in the first week of January, by the end of March, most of the students should be firm on letter name.
You might ask: Mrs. C, isn’t doing this repetitive test prep drill so boring kids will be unable to bear it, and their brains will be stunted? By no means. I have done these drills with emerging readers for years, and though *you* may get a little tired of them, the kids, if they haven’t yet become fluent readers, do not. More often, I find that the letter drills are a moment of relaxation in the teaching day, when the students can focus on simple practice that teaches critical skills, and teachers can go … on autopilot for 2.5 minutes.
If you have fluent readers in your class, you might just send them to the back of the room with their books during phonics practice. That’s what I used to do in first grade. But for the ones that are still learning phonics, drills of this type are just about the most impactful thing you can do.
These PowerPoints are available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, as well as the store at this site. But if you work with me at my school, don’t buy them, all the primary teachers will be receiving them as a gift when we get back from Christmas.