Life in Kindergarten — Letter Recognition

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of kindergarten learning?  If you’re like me and most other moms it’s that kids are learning the ABCs.  The alphabet is an enormous part of the kindergarten curriculum.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

My Credentials (reprinted from my original post):

Let me state up front that I am not a kindergarten teacher nor any other grade teacher.  I have a BA in English from Sonoma State University in California and started my teaching credential years ago before my career path took me away from school and into the working world.


My expertise on the subject of kindergarten (and the other lower grades) comes from over four years of volunteering in a kindergarten class at my kids school.  I also have seen the end result of kindergarten by volunteering in a first grade class for almost three years before COVID shut down in person schooling in our area.

I wasn’t the typical volunteer.  As soon as my children started school, I was in the classroom five days a week splitting between kindergarten and the upper grades as needed.  I’ve been put in charge of tech education for kindergarten and have run multi levels of reading groups in first grade.  I also worked on reading fluency with emerging readers and became known as the parent to rely on when given an educational task to accomplish in the classroom.

The two teachers I worked with most were seasoned professionals.  My mentors were wonderful women who made teaching their life.

  • The kindergarten teacher was one of the original teachers at our school which was founded in 1995.  She transferred over from another school and while kindergarten is her niche, she also had taught grades higher up into elementary school.
  • The first grade teacher I worked with had been teaching longer than I’ve been alive.  She knew what kids needed to have in first grade and was great at evaluating how successful a kindergarten year was for a kid within the first few weeks of school in her class.

I might not be considered an expert because I don’t have a degree.  I do believe my time in the classroom as well as being a mother myself helps me give a balanced view of things that will help your child succeed in kindergarten.

Area 2: Letter Recognition

Despite the order of this series following in the inspirational article Excellence in kindergarten comes from 10 key things, order, letter recognition actually is the first building block in learning to read and write not the writing skills aspect that I wrote about a few months ago in this series. 

According to the site the stages of learning reading and writing are:

  • Letter recognition – the ability to recognize the shape and size of the letter.
  • Letter naming – recognizing that the shape of the letter is associated with a letter name.
  • Letter sound knowledge – determining what sound corresponds to the shape or name of the letter.
  • Letter writing – the ability to trace or write the letter with a pen in accordance with its shape and direction.

Where should kids start? 

Start with the basics.  Little ones are already learning their names so make sure they can recognize the letters in their own name.  Branch out to brothers and sisters and other relatives.  These will make the most impact because they have personal attachment to these people.

Next branch out to things you like to do, places you like to go, and activities you like to participate in. My kids I’m sure learned the letters in Oakland Raiders long before how to spell cow or dog or cat because my husband wore Raiders shirts and hats throughout their childhood.

My son actually learned KTM because that is the brand of motorcycle he rides. It’s all relative to someone’s environment. Even kids that don’t know how to read persay, learn logos of businesses and can tell that there is an M at McDonald’s and a S on the sign for the Safeway or Savemart grocery store.

When school starts don’t be surprised that your little one doesn’t learn the alphabet in alphabetical order but by the frequency of use.  It seems illogical at first to learn them any other way since alpha order seems to be a universally logical order.  Once you think of it, by frequency makes more sense.  The more you use it, the more the need to learn the letter.

Sight & Sounds

Letters represent phonemes in words.

In linguistics, a phoneme is the smallest sound unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinct meaning, such as the s of sing and the r of ring.

Phoneme Definition and Examples in English (

Phonemes are language-specific. This means that if a child is learning a few different languages at a time don’t be surprised if their sounds may get mixed up from time to time. I’d guess that this is one reason English as a second language learners struggle. They have their own phenomes in their native language that don’t sync up with the English versions and I’m sure are very confusing.

Learning to read begins by making friends with phonemes. 

“Despite there being just 26 letters in the English language there are approximately 44 unique sounds, also known as phonemes. The 44 sounds help distinguish one word or meaning from another. Various letters and letter combinations known as graphemes are used to represent the sounds.”

It sounds simple.  For most kids memorizing the shapes of the letters and the sounds of them (or most of the letters anyway) comes fairly easily. Many of them will have picked these up by the time they’ve reached kindergarten already and the kindergarten teacher is merely making sure that all of them are learned before your child moves onto first grade.

IF you’re looking for a bit of extra practice here is a YouTube video for you to bookmark and use to help your little one.

Practical ways to teach the letters

As much as I would love to say that the classroom experience is a one size fits all type of experience, every child learns differently, so attack this learning skill at all angles.


Repetitive recall of these letters is one way to work them into your little learner’s memory.  By pointing to the letters around the classroom (or home) or using flash cards to have them name the letters will increase the fluency rate with this skill.

At home pointing out letters to your child and having them say them back to you.  A great way to get this habit going is to put letters around your child’s room.  We hung a poster on my son’s door with all the letters so he could learn them.


Songs are a universal way to get people to learn a lot of information in a fun type of way. My kids’ preschool used this song to help the kids learn their letters.

Hands On

For more tactile learners (and other learners as well) tracing the letters and explaining their shape will also help them cement each letter into their minds.  For kids who love to do art projects, this activity can get to be really creative!

Without trying to reinvent the wheel, here is a great video with great idea on how to learn letters hands on:

Similar looking letters

Separating out the letters that look the same is important.  The most commonly reversed letters are the letter b and d.  There was a cartoon Word World on PBS that used letters to form the shapes of items to help with spelling and a first grade teacher I knew also used the bed method to teach b and d.

To teach the bed method you have the kids do “thumbs up” then put the knuckles of their two hands together to make a bed.  Looking at the picture below you can see how the b makes one side of the bed and the d makes the other.  Your children’s thumbs will be the taller parts of the letters and the knuckles the mattress.  This is a reminder that the first grade teacher would always say aloud to the class when they were writing.  “MAKE YOUR BED!” to remind them.


October is a long time away, but this past october I helped celebrate Dyslexia Awareness Month.  I’m a big supporter of this awareness month because my son is dyslexic and the way that we knew he was having issues with this learning disability is that his letter recognition skills were poor.

My son was a November baby and we started him early in preschool.  At two and a half that first year was mostly about learning to go to school and listen to the teacher, but after 3 years of preschool and a year of Kindergarten he was still having issues remembering letters.  

With early testing we realized he was dyslexic in Kindergarten.  

He’s now in 2nd grade and with a private tutor he was thriving, but if left up to the school district we are in he wouldn’t have received services for dyslexia until after 3rd grade.  

Early intervention for dyslexia and other learning disabilities is important, so make sure you’re paying attention to how your child reacts to having to name letters.


As with any educational milestone in a kid’s life, each kid will learn at a different pace depending on their personality, enthusiasm to learn, and other factors.

The biggest question I see online when it comes to letter recognition usually comes during the writing phase of learning.  It’s very common for kids to mix up their b and d letters as well as having a hard time forming the letter s.  These letters get learned in kindergarten and perfected in first grade and sometimes into second grade.

If your child is having trouble with these letters it doesn’t mean that they have dyslexia or any other type of learning disability.  Practice makes perfect with these things so the more you can engage your child in learning activities, the better off they are in learning them.


Find more great kindergarten educational videos on my YouTube playlist: Kindergarten Skills Videos

I hope you learned a lot from this article and don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series:





2 responses to “Life in Kindergarten — Letter Recognition”

  1. […] Life in Kindergarten — Letter Recognition […]

  2. […] only the letters on the page are important when talking about reading, but the sounds that each letter make are […]

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