Sunday, October 2, 2005

October 2005: Amy Chajkowski, Sharks and the Alphabet



October's strategy is from Amy Chajkowski, an America Reads tutor at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Amy developed her strategy when her kindergarten student was having a hard time recognizing her alphabet letters and the process of reviewing flashcards time and time again just wasn't holding the student's interest.

The Strategy


Created by: Amy Chajkowski, America Reads tutor at the University of Pittsburgh
(America Learns Network member since 2003)
Topics: Alphabet
Grade Levels: K – First
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group
Materials: - Alphabet flashcards
- Masking tape

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Situation: I was tutoring a student in kindergarten who was having a hard time recognizing her alphabet letters. At first, I used flash cards to quiz her but after a few minutes, she was losing interest.

I decided to create a letter recognition game with the flashcards that would hold her interest. The game was set at the ocean and in the water. We had sharks swimming around us so we needed to keep "safe" from them by standing on and recognizing the letter on the flash cards.

Step 1: Set up the alphabet flashcards in a large area, but not too far apart; that way, all the letters can be seen from any one point. Only use about 6-8 letters at a time.

America Learns Note:
You may want to print out the flashcards on heavy paper so that they do not rip and tape the cards to the floor to prevent your student from slipping and falling on them during the game.

Step 2: Start the game off and describe the situation to your student. Explain to your student that you're going to "swim" around the ocean (by walking around the cards), and when you see a shark, you'll call out "shark!" to your student and your student will become "safe" by standing on a letter and calling out what the letter is.

America Learns Note:
For advanced learners, ask your student to not only yell out the letter name, but also the sound(s) that letter makes. If your student has mastered both letter names and sounds, challenge him/her to yell out one word that begins with that letter.

Step 3: Take turns and encourage your student when he/she provides the correct answer. When he/she gets it wrong, make sure you provide the correct answer so he/she will become more familiar with that letter.
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 for awhile until your student becomes more familiar with the letters. Concentrate each session on only a few letters; that way, it won't be overwhelming for the child.
Related Strategies for America Learns Network Members: - Alphabet Aerobics
- Alphabet Hide & Seek!
- Alphabet Safari (Discovering Letter Formations in Your Local Community)
- Create Your Own Menu
- What's in a Name? (Reinforcing Print Awareness & the Alphabet for English Language Learners)

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Amy below.