Hands-On ABC’s

This week at the Lunchtime Literacy Session at Fishtown Community Library, our young friends practiced alphabet recognition with some fun hands-on activities — learning the sign language alphabet and then painting their names in a pointillism style.

As the teacher recites and signs each letter of the alphabet, caregivers and children follow along.

Using Our Hands for ASL. We introduced the American Sign Language to our friends this week, explaining that hands can be used to communicate. We read Sign Language ABC by Lora Heller and demonstrated how to sign each letter of the alphabet. This activity not only enforced letter visual and auditory recognition of the letters in the alphabet, it also challenged our toddlers and preschoolers with fine motor skills. It may seem like second nature for us, as adults, to mimic the sign language alphabet, but for young children, they had to process a visual example and then recreate it with their hands. Forming letters such as “M” and “N”, “S” and “T”, and “Y” require subtle dexterity and the children were intrigued with maneuvering their fingers to master the letters, even using their other hands to position the fingers correctly.

Painting Our Names. We continued the lesson in letter recognition and combined it with a painting lesson in pointillism, which is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. Caregivers wrote their children’s names in large letters and the children “traced” their names by applying dots of tempera paint along the letters with Q-tips. Using the Q-tips gave the children another chance to practice their fine motor skills and visual judgment in determining how much paint to apply to a Q-tip and limiting the application to a single dot at a time.

Surprise Observation. Interestingly, we saw one young girl extrapolate from the lesson by writing the letter “L” across her paper repeatedly. Children generally begin to recognize letters of the alphabet by age three. Even if they cannot master a proper pencil grip yet, toddlers will pretend to write by scribbling marks on paper and these marks eventually morph into letters, often the first letter of their names. We always encourage the children to doodle or “write” on their artwork if they chose to because it gives them a chance to practice their pencil grasp.

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