No More Letter of the Week

One of my passions is teaching children how to identify letters in the most meaningful and fun way that I can.  On this page I have provided links to articles and other resources that I feel can best convey the argument for  moving away from outdated letter of the week methods.  I have also included some posts from teachers.net discussion boards.  If you see a post that belongs to you and you would like your name included along with the post please contact me and I will do so.

I strongly suggest reading the following articles located in the resources section at the bottom of this page:

  • Letting Go of Letter of the Week by Bell & Jarvis (no link available)
  • N is for Nonsensical by Dr. Susan B. Neuman

What is Letter of the Week?

It’s important that we define LOTW before we begin examining it.   Traditionally LOTW has looked a lot like this:  Each week or so a new letter is introduced.  All of the activities during that time period revolve around the focus letter; take for example the letter “P”, the students might glue popcorn or other things that start with the letter “P” to an outline of the letter on paper.  The literature read during this time period might involve things like “pigs”, “pancakes”, and “popcorn”.   There may be a special song for the letter “P” that the children learn to sing.  The students might sample things like pancakes, peaches, or popcorn.   All of this looks very cute and organized and is extremely popular with teachers around the world, however it is of vital importance to closely examine the benefits of this method of teaching, if any, and ask ourselves if we are really providing our students with the best education possible.

Arguments for Moving Away From LOTW

  • Fluent letter recognition is one of the (if not THE) predictors of reading success (Adams, 1990).
  • Removing letters from their meaningful context removes the meaning and purpose from the letter.
  • Children who are taught letters in isolation have difficulty placing that information into literacy activities (Wood and McLeMore, 2001).
  • It is more meaningful to introduce letters as they become meaningful to the students.
  • Just because you and I were taught with the LOTW many years ago does not mean it is the BEST way to teach letters.  Remember the Virginia Slims saying “We’ve come a long way baby”?  Well, we have come a long way in education and current research supports teaching letters in context and not in isolation.
  • Teaching with LOTW slows readers down, yet it’s too fast for others, it doesn’t meet the needs of all learners and there is no room for differentiation.
  • The students who struggle the most with learning the letters are the ones who are least helped by teaching letters in isolation. They need something to help them make connections – isolating letters doesn’t do that.

How Do I Begin to Move Away From LOTW?

Moving away from LOTW is much simpler than you may think it is.  You can start by incorporating some of the methods below into your classroom:

Environmental Print

The following are frequent questions I am asked about moving away from LOTW:

How do you start teaching your students the letters and sounds in the very beginning of the year? Letters and sounds are taught in integration.  In the beginning of the year we introduce letters via student names.  We talk about our names as we are getting to know each other, we do lots of name activities such as the ones on the Names page.  We read stories about letters such as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Do you at start with one particular letter? No, since letters and sounds are taught via integration there is no need to focus on one particular letter (ie Letter of the Week). You will find that children learn their letters much, much faster when they are taught via integration vs. isolation.

When do you start teaching the letters? The first or second day of school. We read Chicka Chikca Boom Boom and do several name activities; “getting to know you” types of activities. Some students may learn a letter or two these first few days just from that limited exposure.

I’m worried that I might not cover all the letters if I don’t use LOTW. How do you know that you have covered all letters? Our district has mandatory assessments several times per year in Pre-K for report cards, Language Arts, Math etc. During these assessments we can clearly see exactly how many letters each student knows. I have several of my assessments available for download, you may find them useful. I keep a clipboard next to my chair with a spreadsheet of who knows which letters. When choosing letters for morning message or other literacy activities throughout the day I refer to the spreadsheet. Many students do not need to have a letter “covered” in a formal unit to learn it. Some students learn more quickly than others and they will learn their letters naturally via integration. For example; some students may learn a letter the first time they see it (letters such as “O” and “S” are good examples) just by pointing it out in a big book or other activity.

How do I explain to the parents that I won’t be teaching the alphabet in order? I would say the following: “The most current research shows that teaching letters in context is a much more effective method than the outdated LOTW method that they may have been taught when they were in kindergarten or Pre-K. Just like there have been many advances in technology in the last fifty years, the same holds true for education.” Then I would reference the Developmentally Appropriate guidelines from NAEYC and explain how they are the utmost authority on young children and how they learn.   I would offer to sit down and review the NAEYC guidelines with with any parent who is interested.

How do you plan activities and art projects if you aren’t teaching LOTW? I teach using themes or units, the activities I do are planned around those themes; you can do a literacy activity with any theme.  Click on the following link to see a complete list of our themes: Pre-K Pages Themes

How long does it take for you complete all letters? Since letters are taught via integration there is no time line for completion, each student learns them at his or her own natural pace; we are learning about all letters every day all year long.

No More LOTW Resources:

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