La rentrée is almost here, and teachers have been thinking about how to get started on the right foot. I have been getting tons of questions about what exactly I do with my students throughout the day to teach them the alphabet in the beginning of the year.
If you read my post a couple weeks ago, you know that I teach my students one letter per day, NOT one letter per week. This doesn’t leave much time to do a massive variety of activities for each letter, so our first 8 weeks of school are pretty much an alphabet bootcamp!
In the beginning of the year, it is SO IMPORTANT to teach routines and procedures. You may want to jump in with outcomes right away, but let me tell you – in maternelle, that can be a HUGE waste of time.
You might think that not teaching right away would be the waste of time… but when you have to reteach everything a month later because no one knew what was going on, you will probably realize that investing the time to run a tight ship in the beginning of the year is mega worth it.
That being said, you still have to do something with your students while you teach all of those important routines and procedures. I am absolutely not saying that you should just spend your days letting your students do whatever they please and hang from the ceilings :)
I personally use the alphabet to help me do this. Yes, learning letter names and sounds is an outcome, but, my students have the whole year to learn their letters, so I give it to them. I assess throughout the year and will let parents know once their child knows them all, but I still give them the whole year to learn their ABCs.
That means that it’s no big deal if my students don’t grasp their letters this first time around. I use alphabet activities to introduce them to letters, yes… but more so, at this point of the year, I am teaching them how to cut, glue, hold a pencil, colour in the lines, clean up, work together, listen and participate at the carpet, work independently, do their best work, make mistakes, and stay on task. If they also learn their letters, awesome! But if not, it’s no biggie. I will work with them all throughout the year, as a class, in small groups, and one on one.
But by using the alphabet to teach my students all those other important skills in the first 8ish weeks of school, my students are then really ready to dive into the rest of the curriculum during the rest of the year.
(That was a super long intro, and a really roundabout way of saying that in the beginning of the year, I spend more than my “allotted time” on literacy (the alphabet). But I don’t worry about it, because it sets the foundation for my students to be successful in everything else all year long!)
Okay, so. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the real blog post! Here are the five activities I will be doing each day with my class this September/October!
0. ALPHABET FLASH CARDS
This isn’t an activity, but I feel I should mention that after we do our agendas each morning, I have my kids sit in a circle with their reading bags. They get out their flash card ring and I pass them all a card for that day’s letter. They put them on their rings themselves/help their friends who need it. It’s quick and easy this way and I don’t have to waste time later adding them to each ring!
These were added to my store last year, and I am so excited to use them from the very beginning of the year this year! I was on mat leave when I made them, so didn’t get to use them right from September yet. Every letter has a four-line poem that rhymes, and will introduce my students to rhythm and rhyme as well as a bunch of vocabulary that starts with each letter.
For my birthday, my sweet other half is building me a pocket chart stand. Our new poem will be in the pocket chart each morning, and we will read it together. I will have my chef du jour hold the pointer as a little intro to 1:1 correspondence and directionality.
After we read the poem together, my students will add their copy to their poetry journal. I am just using plain Hilroy 32-page lined scribblers for poetry journals this year.
Each poem also has a mini book that we will be colouring and adding to our reading bags each day. I will post about our reading bags soon, but basically, they all take four paper books + their alphabet flash cards home each day to practice. I will choose a time later in the day when we need some down time to colour in the books.
2. ALPHABET CIRCLE MAP
We also do a circle map for each letter on chart paper. I posted about that before, in this blog post. This year, I have decided to type up my messages, print them “poster-sized”, and glue them to the chart paper. It was taking me way to long to handwrite/draw them all, and I feel like my time could be better spent elsewhere!
(If I had a Smart Board, I would totally type and project them… but, I don’t!)
We read the message (I am silly and say each vocabulary word without the beginning letter and everyone laughs and corrects me using the correct first letter), someone comes up and writes in the missing letters, and then we “turn and tell” a partner everything we can think of that starts with the letter or has the letter in it.
Then I ask my students to all shout out what their partner said and I write/messily draw them in the circle. If a word has the letter inside of it but it’s not the first letter, I write it outside of the circle.
Most teachers hate when their kids shout out, so you can totally make them raise their hands and tell you what their partner said. It just doesn’t bother me for this activity and I can get everything down way faster. Their listening-at-the-carpet stamina isn’t very long in September :)
We play the game “Trions les sons” whole group and individually.
When we play whole group, it is Mme Andrea vs. Les amis and I draw a little T-table on the circle map page to record points. I get points when they shout out, and they get points when they sort correctly (they get unlimited tries to sort correctly haha).
I have six cards – three that begin with the target letter and three that don’t. I hold up each card, we say it together and stress the beginning sound, and then I choose someone to sort it correctly. I am really excited to be able to use my pocket chart for this activity this year! If you don’t have a stand, you can just tape them in a T-table on the back of your circle map page.
After our whole group sort, we do the same sort independently. I leave the group sort up and they can copy it if they need to. If they are ready, most of them will say the words and sort on their own. If they aren’t ready/don’t know the vocabulary, I’m not going to stress them out about it. Again, they have all year! I am mostly concerned that they can use scissors correctly and learn to glue without making a mess :)
I also don’t actually make them colour it. First they cut, then glue, then they can colour AFTER they glue if they so choose. If they colour first, half of them never finish! Colouring isn’t an outcome, and again, I am not stressing about it. If they need some free play time after all the work we have just done and would rather go play than colour, then they can absolutely do that!
After we are done, we glue the sorts into our interactive notebooks. Which brings me to the next one!
I choose up to four of the six interactive notebook activities I include in my resource to do each day. We don’t have time for all six. We complete them throughout the day, and guess what? We don’t always get to all four each day. No biggie! I leave the ones we don’t get to for substitute teachers or cancelled assemblies/activities.
I use the 80 page Hilroy coil notebooks for these.
These are the four activities we do (plus the Trions les sons sorts above):
– find and colour the letter
– practice writing the letter (see this post for our Routine de calligraphie – I just do a quicker version of that)
– upper/lowercase sorts with a variety of fonts
– read and colour
If we find any new words on our read and colour activity, we add them to our circle map.
If you’re interested in interactive notebooks for maternelle, you can read more about mine in this blog post. You can also CLICK HERE, enter your email, and I will email you a FREE copy of all six activities for the letter Aa, as well as a few tricks to help everything run smoothly.
I am so excited for these – they are brand new! I have wanted a chill activity to do at the end of the day when we are tired from specials but it’s not time to go home yet.
These alphabet crafts will also give my students one last chance to solidify our anchor word for each letter.
There is a craft for each uppercase letter, and we will glue them into our interactive notebooks, along with the other activities. I am going to be doing the version where all the pieces are on white paper (pictured above), and my students will colour them, cut them out, and glue them into their books.
It is much easier to colour these before cutting, so I plan to set a timer for them to colour. If they aren’t done colouring by the time the timer goes, they will have to colour the rest later. If they don’t finish, they can finish the next morning as they arrive.
Well, there you have it! That about sums it up. I have done alphabet crowns in the past as well, which are really fun, but they are can be hard to assemble if you don’t have an assistant. Hopefully the letter crafts will go more smoothly!
I should also mention that I plan to send the circle map home with my chef du jour each day. They get so excited to take home chart paper, and who knows – it might help certain letters stick for each student!
Please let me know if you have any other questions! I don’t really have a set schedule of times where we do these activities throughout the day – in the beginning of the year, I am very flexible and fluid and go with what my students need and can or can’t handle. The first three activities we do first thing in the morning, but aside from that, I fit them in wherever I can throughout the day.
I will be blogging about my “real” schedule soon though, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested!
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