Welcome to our Summer Book Study 2022

Hello friends and welcome to Kindergarten Smorgasboard and Kindergarten Chaos’s annual Summer Book Study of 2022! Mr. Greg and I love growing our brains and teacher toolboxes to better ourselves as educators, as well as better serve students AND our teacher friends! If you are interested in checking out our past book studies, here is the list, including clickable links. And here is a clickable book store of the professional development books that we have studied.

2021 – Shifting the Balance

2019 – Strategies that Work

2018 – The Next Steps in Guided Reading

2017 – Making the Most of Small Groups

2016 – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Growth Mindset)

How does the Book Study work?

We know that everyone has different schedules and some teachers are STILL in school! Read when you can and follow along with each of our blog posts. The book study begins on Wednesday June 1 with chapter 1 and then each consecutive chapter will post every Wednesday as a blog post. We each share our own thoughts on the chapter. Follow along on social media too, as we will possibly do some pop-up Lives on the weeks’ chapter. We hope you love it!

Letter Recognition vs. Alphabetic Knowledge

Is there a difference between letter recognition and alphabetic knowledge? Yes and it can be explained on page 8 & 9 of the book. Basically, letter recognition is being able to recognize and identify each upper and lowercase letter in isolation and within a set. And alphabetic knowledge is not only recognizing, but naming, matching upper and lowercase and knowing the primary sounds of each letter.

It’s always interesting to me when little learners come to kindergarten with some letter recognition and grown-ups are pushing for them to read. Slow down. Students need a strong, FIRM, foundation of letter recognition, letter sound knowledge and phonemic awareness BEFORE learning to decode!

Teach Letters/Phonemes Explicitly

Research says the ‘Letter of the Week’ focuses too much on the symbol and name in isolation, which weakens little learners sound-symbol connection, so consider 2-3 letters a week and practice all letters every day. Here is a sample of how I introduce a letter, as well as a video.

Build Letter Fluency

So you have taught each letter and sound/phoneme explicitly…is that enough? NO! Research shows that slow letter recognition means words are worked out more slowly, which results in working memory and problem-solving capacity to be taken up by this laborious task. (pg 9) It’s been my experience from teaching Kindergarten, as well as coaching other teachers, that students that do not have strong automaticity of letters and sounds, struggle with decoding and can fall behind their peers quickly. What can we do to help students build their letter fluency?

Play and Manipulation of Letters

I always tell my students that practice makes progress. And progress for each student looks different. Some little learners can quickly master letter names and sounds, while others need additional time and practice opportunities. Letters are abstract and just symbols in two dimensions, so they need to be discussed, thought about, played with and manipulated A LOT before they start to make sense for young children. (pg 9) Little Learners need multiple opportunities to differentiate between upper & lower case letters; understand that letters make up words, and words make up sentences; that rapid naming and developing phonemic sensitivity is crucial to decoding. Here are some ideas for helping to meet these goals.

Alphabet Books for the Classroom

Don’t forget about those alphabet books! Not only can you emphasize each letter, but you can model the correct phoneme AND your students get read a story! But be careful and mindful when choosing alphabet books, as sometimes the authors use words like, xylophone, that are not a true phoneme of the letter.

Alphabet Songs & Videos

Using songs, music and videos are an amazing way to help teach letters. I love the chant “Every letter…has a name and Every Letter…Makes a Sound”. There are so many different ways to bring alphabet songs and videos available. Here are a few of my favorites:

Have fun with learning letter names and sounds while singing and dancing.

Alphabet Small Group & Independent Practice Activities

I have so many activities that I have used and currently use with students, that I cannot share them all! But pg 13 states, “All children should have access to as many of the following manipulatives as possible and be taught how to play with them to maximize their learning.” I am sharing a few hands-on, purposeful, but fun activities.

Missing Letter

Letter vs. Number Anchor Chart

Letter > Word > Sentence Anchor Chart

Alphabet Puzzles

Beat the Clock

Alphabet PlayDoh Mats

Alphabet Punch Cards – Perfect for letter identification with different fonts

Looking for TONS of purposeful, hands-on, letter ID activities? Click HERE!


Assessment drives instruction! For teachers of little learners, this means that we need to be doing LOTS of formative assessing, as well as summative assessing. Not only do our students need to be able to identify letters (both upper/lower case) and have alphabetic knowledge, but they should be able to write letters correctly in isolation and encoding patterns accurately within their writing.

One of my favorite ways to formatively assess students’ encoding, is to provide them dry erase boards and markers. This can be done whole-group, small-group, with a partner or even independently. Sometimes I can call out a word for them to write, sometimes their partner can give them a word or they could use CVC picture cards. This is a great way for me to see what my students know and if they are having any trouble with beginning/ending sounds or vowel sounds. Assessment is the key. DO NOT overlook alphabetic knowledge gaps, as this can have major learning consequences.

Assessing with ESGI

For summative assessments, I like to use ESGI. I love how it provides graphs, grown-up letters, flash cards, as well as shows progress or lack of progress over a period of time. Haven’t tried ESGI? You can get a free trial by using the code CHAOS!

Final Thoughts on Chapter 1

It’s imperative that Little Learners are fluent in letter recognition and alphabetic knowledge. Learning should be purposeful, but fun and active. Students should have MULTIPLE opportunities to work, manipulate and experience letters. Repeated exposure and continued practice will help to solidify this learning. Don’t assume that a student who knows some letters is proficient.

What are YOUR thoughts on this chapter? Did you have any ah-ha moments? Are there changes that you plan to make for your students? Comment below, as I would love to hear them!

Don’t forget to visit Mr. Greg and read his thoughts on chapter 1 HERE on The Kindergarten Smorgasboard.

One Response

  1. There were so many awesome points in this chapter. For me, my school adopted Orton-Gillingham and we use that for our phonics curriculum. They do a letter a week; this book says that, ” …is research that the “letter of the week” approach weakens children’s sound-symbol connection making by focusing to much on the symbol and name of each letter in isolation.” So is there a happy medium? Made think about my curriculum and what this book states.

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