Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thinking in Pictures: Sorting Letters

One day I went next door and saw an activity sheet my neighbor's preschooler was working on. It was a simple enough task - draw a line from the big letter to its corresponding little letter. I was wondering how arbitrary those things must seem to a child. I mean why on earth do the letters look the way they do? It is an invented system for communication and from what I can tell, little letters are just a lazy way of writing big letters. So I started thinking about symbols from a child's point of view...thinking in pictures.

Some of the big letters match the little letters very nicely, like C and c. Other letters kind of match like J and j. More letters still don't even match a little like R and r. I came up with a game for homework time to help my toddler and preschooler think about the letters in a sensible way.

26 index cards
2 sheets of paper

1. I wrote pairs of big letter/little letters on each of the 26 index cards. Aa, Bb, Cc, etc. (Your child could do this, too.)
2. Then I wrote "Similar" on one sheet of paper and "Different" on the other sheet of paper.
3. Mikey's task was to sort the letters.
4. The hardest part of this activity for me was keeping my mouth shut. I really had nothing to add. My child understood the game and "performed" flawlessly. On occasion I would ask what made the letters different and it was nice to hear him defend his choice.

Like I've mentioned before, the idea of "thinking in pictures" has helped me crystalize some hunches I have had about how children learn. This activity was borne from my continued learning about early childhood development, especially as it manifests in twice exceptional children.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. Pictures! Have you looked at the Waldorf alphabet? That's exactly how they introduce it. I have 2 great books with fabulous picture illustrations for letters..."Waldorf Alphabet Book" by Famke Zonneveld and "LMNOP and All the letters from A to Z" put out by Lemon Tree Press. Montessori also has sand paper letters that they can trace with their fingers and feel...using multiple senses to introduce them. I completely agree that rote learning of letters is arbitrary or serves no purpose but memorization. How boring and inappropriate for a preschooler. What's the point?! I'd rather see them playing outside, discovering than wasting time learning letters by rote.