As beginning readers and writers, young children often have a number of confusions to work out. Before tackling b/d reversals or hearing the difference between the short ‘e’ or ‘i’ sound, let’s start with the basics.
Kids need to know the difference between letters and words. Without this understanding, how are they to start pointing to words one at a time in their first little books or use spaces between their words when they begin to write stories?
We can tell children that letters represent sounds, and that we speak using words, words have meaning and are made up of letters in a specific order, or we can show them. I’m going to assume you’d like to avoid the glazed over look of confusion and choose the second option, and show you the simplest way that I know to do this:
Using any kind of letters that can be moved independently of each other, make two or three short, easy words that your child will recognize. Say “These are words.”
Now spread those same letters out randomly and ask, “What do you see now?” Chances are, you’ll get the correct answer, at which point you can elaborate and confirm that indeed they are ‘only letters’, that they are by themselves, not in any special order and do not mean anything. They just represent sounds.
Ask the child how letters become words. Build a word or two together and talk about what those words mean. Repeat every few days for a couple of weeks with different types of letters. Be creative! Is there anything you can think of that will help kids understand how letters come together to form words?
Have fun playing with letters and words by keeping sessions short and sweet, and adding movement and laughter in where possible!
These early literacy concepts can be easily forgotten or confused without repetition until they are fully consolidated. Visuals really help, and can be created in a number of ways.