Monday, August 3, 2015

Teaching the Alphabet with LEGO

How to Teach the Alphabet with LEGO


Learning to read is an incredibly powerful and transformative process. Most parents are eager to teach their kids the alphabet to jump start the reading process. However, teaching the alphabet isn't quite as simple as singing the old ABC song repeatedly. Kids can learn faster, and have a great deal of fun, with hands-on activities that involve them in learning the alphabet in novel ways.

When Should I Teach the Alphabet?


Teachers agree that kids are generally ready to start learning the alphabet around age four. It's no coincidence that this is about the time that many kids enter preschool. The growing mind is perfectly primed to learn at this age, and kids have mastered the repetition skills that will allow them to remember the alphabet.

As you embark on alphabet-learning adventures, keep in mind that every child is different. It may take some kids longer than others to catch on. That's why it's important to follow some best practices and be responsive to your child's unique needs. Remember that combining learning with play is often the most powerful way to communicate academic lessons to a young child. Be sure to practice patience, and understand that every child learns best in their own unique way. If you’re patient with the process of discovering their optimal learning mode, they will be too!

Teaching the Alphabet: Best Practices


First teaching experiences can seem daunting to first-time parents, but they don’t have to be. After all, teachers have largely mastered early teaching activities like imparting the alphabet. They've established practices that can be used at home as well as in the classroom. Anyone can benefit from embracing these simple letter-teaching guidelines.

Perhaps the most important is to encourage active learning. This is a type of learning in which kids get into subjects by doing activities. Very few children or adults learn best by listening to explanations of abstract concepts. Science projects might come to mind, but you can use toys and props to teach practically any subject. Hands-on interaction with the real world is one of the most significant ways that humans learn, and it makes sense to use hands-on tactics when teaching the alphabet.

Research suggests that active learning even encourages cognitive and emotional growth. You can help your child become invested in the alphabet-learning process by starting with your child's name. It's a word with which your child is intimately familiar, so each sound will make sense.

You should also use learning letters, or physical tools that can be used to model the alphabet. Choose letters in bright colors and interesting materials that will engage kids and capture their attention. LEGO bricks’ status as kid favorites, along with their versatility, make them great for use as learning letters.

How to Teach the Alphabet with LEGO


Building blocks allow for imaginative play, which means they also translate into great learning tools. LEGOs are an awesome choice for teaching the alphabet because you can choose the sizes and colors that meet your child's dexterity level and interests. Remember that you can also use your building bricks for fun math and counting games.

The Complete LEGO Alphabet & Flashcards


Image by Amy of Wildflower Ramblings, a parenting blog
Amy at Wildflower Ramblings has several great blogs on using LEGO bricks to make letters. You can also download her printable uppercase and lowercase flashcard sets. If you'd like, simply follow her procedure to make your own version of the flashcards.

LEGO Alphabet Activities
  • Sing the ABC song, holding up the appropriate flashcard for each letter.
  • Construct the alphabet together with the help of your flashcards.
  • Spell your child's name in LEGOs, then ask your child to spell it too.
  • Create a letter with LEGOs, then ask your child to guess which letter it is.
  • Make a sound such as sss and ask your child to find the letter that matches it.

LEGO-and-Dough Letters

Materials
  • Assorted LEGO bricks
  • Play clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Alphabet flashcards (optional)
How to Play
  1. Help child roll out play clay in a large rectangle or oval on a flat table.
  2. Show the child how to use LEGO bricks to make impressions in the clay.
  3. Demonstrate how to make a letter with play brick impressions. It's a great idea to use the first letter of the child's name.
  4. Ask the child to copy the letter that you've just made, encouraging the child along the way. Remember that learning how to form letters is a new motor skill.
  5. Write a letter for the child to copy on the dough. If desired, use alphabet flashcards as a model instead.

Alphabet Comprehension Check

Of course, it's always important to check comprehension when you introduce a new concept or skill to your child. You can quiz your kid on the alphabet by
  • saying a letter and asking your child to make it with LEGOs,
  • asking your kids to spell their names in LEGOs,
  • saying a letter and asking your child to make its impression in play clay,
  • showing an uppercase LEGO letter and asking your child to find its lowercase partner, or
  • having your child match alphabet flashcards with LEGO letters.
Get hands-on with comprehension activities too. As we’ve seen, combining an enjoyable play activity with learning is a great way to encourage growth and creativity while capturing your child's attention.



The activities described here were inspired in part by several posts by Amy of home schooling blog Wildflower Ramblings. Amy is a Kindergarten teacher, M.Ed., turned stay-at-home mom. Check out her blog for a wealth of great parenting info.

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