Olha Madylus offers a selection of physical activities that help children remember the shape of letters they've been introduced to.
It is important that children become familiar with the shapes of letters and can begin manipulating them, especially if the children’s own language has a different alphabet. The following holistic activities (requiring using the body and classroom space rather than pencil and paper) help to give children a strong imprint of the shape of letters in their mind’s eye.
Ask children to make themselves into the shape of given letters: Make yourself an ‘s’, etc. Children contort their bodies into what they think the letter looks like.
You can model this easily by showing them an ‘x’ by standing with your feet apart and your arms in the air and wide apart. Or you can show a ‘T’ by standing with your feet together and your arms stretched out to the sides. Alternatively, ask children to make a letter and the whole class has to try to recognize what the letter is.
Ask students to shut their eyes and with your finger trace a letter on their hand or back. They must tell you what this letter is. They can play the game in pairs. There may be giggles from the ticklish in the class, but the activity requires them to ‘see’ the letter in their mind’s eye, and it’s great fun, too.
Before writing letters on paper, get all the students to stand up with you standing at the front of the class with your back to them. Using your writing hand draw a big letter in the air, saying its sound at the same time. Get the students to copy you, moving their arms to form the letter in the air.
Give out plasticine (soft modelling clay) to all the children. Half-cooked spaghetti works too, but it is messier. Ask the children to make certain letters (or words). They have to concentrate on the shape of the letter and its proportions.
The children can choose their own letter and make a big one out of card, then stick it on a larger piece of card. Give out magazines and newspapers and let the children look and find either words or pictures of things that begin with the same letter. They cut these out and create a collage with their big letter. Decorate the classroom with these posters.
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Beginning reading and writing: Internalizing letters