Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alphabet Intervention

Intervention. We all use this word and hear it on a daily basis. As teachers, when we hear "intervention resources" our ears perk up a little. That's because we all stay up at night thinking about those students who struggle to master certain concepts or skills. I'm obviously a believer in intervention. I've seen what can happen when a student receives good intervention that works. It's amazing to watch a child reach their goals and make real progress. This is my fourth year as a Reading Resource teacher for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. I love my job. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to watch kids work SO hard but make slow progress. That's the nature of my job, but I remind myself that slow progress is progress. Goals met and reached should be celebrated, no matter how small. Many of our students reach benchmarks easily or with a little extra nudge. Still, there are some that need intensive intervention to reach those benchmarks. Over the years, I've slowly added to my alphabet "toolbox." The following activities can be used with any student learning their alphabet, but they are designed for your students who are struggling to master these letters and their corresponding sounds.  

When teaching the alphabet, we want to think about how to help our students really learn these letters and sounds. We don't just want them to know how to sing the alphabet song.  First, we introduce the letter. We show them the grapheme (visual representation) and tell them the name and sound associated. There is debate about the order of when to introduce each letter as well as upper case or letter case first, and sound or name first. I have no research to back me up- just my own experience. I teach upper and lower case together. I don't believe there is a sequence that necessarily works better than another. I just try to introduce in a way that doesn't have too many of the same looking letters together (so b and d are not learned at the same time.) I am also very systematic and explicit about how and when I teach them. Get a sequence that works for you and stick with it. It's always good to have them learn the letters in their name first, but in a small group, I use a pre-deterined sequence. I introduce 4 at a time, upper and lower case. We do several activities with these letters, then I introduce another set. I always review the previously learned letters. Every. single. day.

What usually comes next is your student can recognize the letter among other letters. This takes both memory and visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability to identify differences in any visual image. In this case, we need students to see the differences between each letter. Many of these differences are so minor. At first, the letters of the alphabet look like random squiggles, curves, and lines. Kids must first identify the random shapes that make up a letter and the placement of these lines and curves (p, b, and d all have the same shapes but in different places.) Then they have to remember this imprint in their minds and remember the name and sound that matches that imprint. When students struggle to recognize letters, we need to determine if it is a memory issue (in my experience this is most common) or a visual discrimination issue. 

After kids can recognize the letter, we want them to retrieve it from their memory. This is slightly harder because they have make their own visual picture of the letter shape in their minds and remember the letter sound and name. 

Finally, we want our students to be able to write the letters, forming the shapes correctly. 

I put together some resources that I use with my students. This is the first set of activities that I will be posting on TPT. The next set will be printable activities and games. These are mainly visual aides. 

Having a visual picture to go along with graphemes really helps your students remember them! All of the visuals are the same throughout this pack. 

I use these picture cards to help students master the sound/symbol correspondence. With these and the grapheme cards, you could do sorting activities and play Memory. More ideas of how to use these are included. Here are a few ideas below:

I love using these cards when I introduce a letter. I slowly add the letters to the ring. Each student has their own ring. These have tiny letters, showing them where to start tracing. I keep these out when we are doing our handwriting too. I have them trace the letter card before writing, which reminds them how to form them correctly. 

This is packed with ideas for parents.  You could put it all together for a little take-home kit!

One of my favorite resources. I use this daily with students. We use it to learn how to write new letters as well as review other letters. I'll introduce a letter as a groundhog letter that goes underground, a shorter letter that is the same size as squirrel, and a tall letter like a deer. This visual has really helped my students with letter formation using lines. 

I also use this activity daily. I use the letters that I've introduced so far. I call out a name or sound. My students pull down the grapheme that represents that sound. This is good for practicing letter recognition. Students also like to take turns calling out the letter names and sounds for their classmates to find. That way, they are practicing retrieval. At the end, each student points to the letters and says their sounds. Once I am confident that the group has mastered a certain letter, I "retire" that letter and put in a new one. (I never retire vowels though.) When I start this activity, I just start with four letters. In the picture above, students had been working on b, s, m, t and a for a while. Then I introduced p, r, f, and c. After that, I introduced h and n. In order to add in another letter, I need to retire some letters. My students are now all solid with s, b, and m, so I will probably put those aside and add in one new one at a time. 

I also practice blending sounds with this. In the picture above, the students have learned only the letters shown. That is plenty of letters to make words with though! I start with two-phoneme words or word parts. I explain that "ap" is a part of a word like cap, map, and tap. We practice sounding out these words and word parts (blending sounds) and we practice building the words and word parts (segmenting. ) For example, I'll say "Pull down the letters that make ap." We'll stretch that word part with our invisible slinkies, then finger spell the word. Finally, they grab the letters that make those sounds. 

You can get all of these activities HERE.


  1. I love the resources you make available on your site. However, I am never able to download anything when it tells me that I can get activities HERE. When I click on this, I get a blank page. This happens for all resources. Can you tell me how I can get the activities you post? Thanks!

    1. How strange! I'm not sure why the link isn't working. Here is the link:

      Try to copy and paste this one. I hope it works! Thanks you so much for your comment and for visiting my blog!