Understanding Letter Recognition and It’s Role in Preliteracy

Understanding Letter Recognition and Its Role in Preliteracy

Letter recognition is the capacity to call out a letter shown or pick out a letter in a group of letters. Recognition of letters is a foundational part of learning how to read. Without it, kids struggle to learn letter sounds and recognizing words. Children who cannot identify letters and name them with their sounds have difficulty learning how to read.

What is Letter Recognition?

Letter identification is the ability to name letters, find characteristics specific to the said letter, and letter formation of all 26 uppercase and lowercase letter symbols used in the English language. That’s 52 letters in total. Letter identification includes being able to differentiate between distinct letters and their shapes and should be taught before, or at the very least, in conjunction with letter sounds.

This means that letter identification skills are essential and should not be passed over for letter-sound practice! Children need to know letter names and letter sounds to ease learning how to read.

Why Letter Recognition is Essential

Many reading skills are regularly assessed as predictors of reading success. Letter identification ranks among the top predictors. Upon entering school, kids come with a range of skills and an even wider range of alphabetic knowledge. For instance, they may have experience with the alphabet by singing the alphabet song. Other kindergarteners can spell their names or identify environmental print.

To have true fluency in letter identification, kids must find letters and say their names in and outside of context. It’s not the only accuracy but also automaticity, that is, being accurate and fast simultaneously, which leads to later reading success.

Research has also shown that learning letters and playing with letters often leads to an interest in their sounds and reading. Most letter names share an auditory link with their sounds, thus efficiently doing double duty. It helps bridge the gap between phonemic awareness and letter identification to other phonics skills.

Teach Lettering Recognition to Preschoolers

There are a couple of essential strategies to utilize when teaching letter identification in preschool.

  • Instruction in letter naming
  • Sorting activities to recognize letter shapes
  • Letter creation and formation
  • Exposure to letters in several text formats
  • Fluency practice in letter identification
  • Fluency and accuracy assessments

When planning letter identification activities in the preschool class, keep in mind the following.

  • Preschool kids have a wide range of skills and capabilities.
  • Preschool kids may not all be ready to learn letter names simultaneously and never remain at the same rate as their peers.
  • Leverage visuals, like alphabet cards and beginning sound cards.
  • Practice “think aloud” strategies, which means to talk out loud about the things you want your kids to know and notice about each letter.

Letter Sequence Does Not Have to Be Taught in Alphabetical Order

There are guidelines to follow when determining a teaching sequence for teaching letter identification. Keep in mind that the suggestions below refer only to the letter naming and letter identification, not teaching sound-spellings.

Necessary Skills for Learning Letter Recognition

Even before letter identification, there are a few other skills that should be taught. Teach visual discrimination. This helps kids learn to find differences among lines and shapes. Visual discrimination can be taught in isolation and in “what’s different” or “what’s the same” activities.

Practice visual discrimination in the alphabet by sorting letters based on shape. Straight lines, versus curved. Tall letters versus short, etc. Letters versus numbers and symbols.

More on Teaching the Recognition of Letters

Teach high-frequency letters first. This means that it’s not necessary to teach letters in alphabetical order. Letters with higher frequency will have more meaning and allow kids to practice letter identification skills in various text contexts.

Separate letters that are visually confusing. For instance, if your preschooler struggles with the letters G and O, don’t teach them at the same time. Once letters have been learned in isolation, provide sorting activities for additional comparison and practice.

If a preschooler has a mature pencil grasp, teach letter formation in conjunction with letter identification. When possible, teach letters that are simpler to print, often those with straight lines, before more complex letters.

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