When I taught Reading Recovery to grade one students early in the school year, creating a personal alphabet book was one of the first things we did together when we started lessons. We co-created these little books two to three letters at a time, and with some students, it took months.
It became clear over time that the benefits of this thorough practice far outweighed pressure the initial time investment put on many of us in the role. Here’s why:
As you will see in the next post about creating a personal alphabet book, the starting point is the known, and new pictures are gradually added over time when they are associated with letter sounds. Yes, we are teachers, and we will have our assessment data, but the alphabet book provides evidence of growth over time.
2. Anchoring and motivation
Dr. Clay writes explains that children do not generally learn to identify letters by name or sound in alphabetical order and that identifying a letter by name or sound is equally useful for a child early on, as it is most effective to teach both name and sound together.
When children have one word for each letter that he or she knows for sure makes that letter sound, they use it as an anchor, a concrete example to hold all other words against for comparison.
When they have their own sound alphabet that they have created from the words most meaningful to them, the words that pop into their minds with the initial letter sounds and that association gives them confidence that they know that particular sound.
They are more likely to take the risk and ‘spit’ that sound out when they see an unknown word on a page when they are reading, or put down that first letter when attempting to write a word they have never attempted before.
Looking for a starting point?
Check out this letter / name activity (free)!
About the motivation – every time another little piece is added to the puzzle, confidence is building inside our early literacy students, and the goal of learning their letters and sounds is within reach.
3. Reference for reading and writing K-1 (and beyond)
The great thing about building a book like this, is that its contents become long term memory. It can be referenced for reading and writing in the classroom, used for individual or shared reading time and even upgraded later to a personal dictionary. The book can travel through kindergarten with a student into first grade, and even beyond, and keen parents can review it with their children over the summer.
Now that I’m back in the classroom:
When I taught Reading Recovery, I only had four students at a time, and was able to make summary charts of the contents of their personal alphabet books for their classroom teachers and to keep at home (and that was in the days we were cutting up coloring books and flyers for images!)
A number of my students already have associations for most letter sounds, so I have decided that I am going straight to a chart format for them. I will post about, as well, and am planning to update my Personal Alphabet Book product to include this option before the new year!
If you already own it, you will receive an update notice, and can download the update free at any time, regardless of price increase.
Do you have students who are stuck on just one or two letters? Try using small sticky notes to put tabs on the side of those letter pages, or paperclip them for quick reference!
The personal alphabet book is meaningful to each child, because that child constructed it from people and things that are meaningful to them already. The connections are already in place.
The key to the effectiveness of a personalized alphabet book is in its construction. It must be done slowly but with enthusiasm, following the child’s lead, reviewed often and used as reference.
I did create a kit as a time-saver for teachers (pictured below) but it is very easy to create a personal alphabet book with images you collect on your own. Here’s how.