As parents, we agonize over the selection of a name for our new baby. The sense of personal identity and uniqueness that a name gives is at the heart of why names are so important.
Letter links are the pairing of a picture with a word that starts with the same letter and sound. Considering that children are naturally attached to and familiar with their own names, it makes perfect sense to begin literacy knowledge here. For example, Kevin might have a picture of a king and Sarah, a strawberry. In choosing the picture for a child’s letter link, remember to match the starting sound, as well as the letter. For example, Isaac could have a picture of ice cream, but an igloo image would not be appropriate (long versus short /i/). Names beginning with double consonant sounds should be considered too; Trevor could be tree, etc.
We have been astonished at the speed at which the children (even our youngest toddlers) can recognize their own cubbies, their place at the snack table and their designated spot to sit down in the washroom all due to the placement of their letter links. Of course, this is empowering for the children and also provides an opportunity for educators to make choices about who sits near whom, sometimes changing the dynamic of the program in a positive way. The preschool children rush to get their outerwear off when they arrive, so that they can choose their name/letter link card from a basket and stick it onto our attendance board. In our programs, we have found that using letter links has made transitions easier for the children and for the educators.
We draw attention to their names, the images, the letters and the sounds that they make during a group activity. Before long, the children can identify not only their own name, but those of their classmates! They also begin to develop an understanding that alphabet letters and the sounds of speech are connected. We use the letter links to create fun and engaging classroom literacy activities, like matching photo magnets of the children to their names. We progress by shrinking the size of their letter link and adding the children’s last names as well.
It’s easy to incorporate early literacy education using letter links into every facet of your teaching. A child’s name is one of the most frequent words they will ever hear in their lives, so it’s a valuable place to start.
Tracy Facchin, RECE
Nanny Goat Hill Nursery School