Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lines in the Sand: A Fun Way to Practice Letter Recognition

A really popular way to practice letter recognition at our house is to "write" the letters with our fingers in sand. This can be done in a variety of ways: a parent can prompt a child to write a letter, a parent can write the uppercase letter and the child writes the lower case, the parent makes the letter sound and the child writes the letter that makes that sound... well, you get the idea.

We like flexibility around here.

Today's activity involved matching upper- and lowercase letters, so I used two trays and poured colored sand into them- just enough to cover the bottoms.

(Note: the trays I use are simple stove burner covers that are something like this. I buy craft sand whenever I see it inexpensively.)

The funny coloring  that you can see under the trays is my old shower curtain that I use to cover the table when we paint. I recommend using one for this activity as well- that way whatever gets spilled can be dumped right into the sandbox, or funneled back into the sand bottle. (Reuse, reuse, reuse!)

Today, our activity went like this: I said a letter, and I asked Ben to write first the "big" version of the letter...

 ...then the "little" version of the letter in the next tray.
 I really like using this approach because it's easy to see exactly how the letter was formed thanks to the pattern in the sand. For example, I can tell (without necessarily watching him draw the letter) that when he made his "big B" he made the straight line first, then the little curve, then the big curve, just as we've learned using our Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. As any homeschooling mom can attest, it's almost impossible to school several children at once and still manage to see the way that each and every letter is formed. Using this sand technique helps to take some of the guesswork out (at least in that department).

When the letters have been made correctly, the child can give the tray a *gentle* shake to make the letter disappear and they're reading to start again.
 Right through the alphabet!
We have successfully used this "game" hundreds of ways by now. When we were first learning our letters (but weren't terribly *ahem* interested), we drew letters by driving matchbox cars in the sand. We've used dinosaur footprints to make letters. We've used pompom swishes to make the number of imprints which correspond to a number that I wrote in the sand. We've had one sibling draw the uppercase letter and challenge another sibling to write the corresponding lowercase letter. We've had a parent or sibling hold up an object or say a word and have the student write the letter that begins the word... the list goes on and on and on.

Have you ever tried this activity? How has is worked for you?


  1. I used to "draw" the letters on Jupiter's back and have her guess the letter as a form of educational sensory input. Then she would draw letters on my back and I had to guess them. I had a tendancy to draw letters that spelled a message like "Go to sleep" or something like that.

  2. "Go to sleep?" That's genius! Do you think "clean your room" or "eat your lima beans" would work???



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