Sunday, 21 September 2014

From lines to letters...the co-construction of our Alphabet Wall!

As a way to engage the students at the beginning of the year, I set up a provocation (invitation to learning) on exploring lines. I felt this was a safe and motivating topic that would support students at varying abilities to feel confident in expressing themselves creatively. Keeping in mind the many ways that children learn (Hundred Languages of Children), I placed plasticine, crayons and paper, as well as wire (large twist ties), to allow for exploration using various channels.   

Simultaneously, we also read some wonderful books about lines to further enhance student learning!

While observing the students, I noticed them rolling the plasticine into a ball, then using their palm, they would press and flatten the ball, and start rolling it up and down their hand using the table to give it a worm like appearance. Then they would shape it to their desired line. The students who used the twist ties loved creating swirls and zigzags which they related to looking like lightening (E. E.) or the first letter in Z. G.'s name. The lines drawn on paper were of multiple colours and shapes! As students worked, it was interesting to listen to them identify the lines they were creating by name. 

"I made a curved line! P. I. 

"Look Mrs. Ralph, it looks like the hermit crab shell! It's a swirl!" W.E.

Their new knowledge about lines was also evident in their drawings. They seemed to start noticing lines everywhere, in picture books, as well as objects in class and outside. 

Now that they were comfortable and confident in identifying various lines, I felt this was a great time to read the book, "Harold's ABC", hoping this would challenge them further to notice lines in letters.

I then added Harlold's ABC book and an alphabet card to the line exploration table to see what would happen. 

A few students rushed over and started creating the first letter in their name. Others chose letters they thought they could manage replicating with the plasticine. I also invited other students to give it a try. It was lovely to see the positive relationships forming, where some students started assisting others who were a bit more hesitant. I took pictures of all the letters created, showing the students what had been done and what letters we could still make. 

The article "Letting go of 'letter of the week'" by Bell and Jarvis (2002) discusses the importance of making all letters of the alphabet accessible authentically rather than introducing isolated letters and sounds sequentially.
-Make It Meaningful! Emergent Literacy in the Kindergarten Years By Laura Logaridis, Katie Tranter , and Leslie Siegrist. The Early Childhood Educator Summer 2012

Providing students with meaningful authentic experiences, enables them to connect with their learning in a positive way and allows them to put things in a context that is personal to them. In the end, we created all the letters of the alphabet! They loved seeing the pictures of each letter, and were excited every time they saw the letter each created! 

During a discussion with students I asked them, "what can you do if you forget what a letter looks or sounds like?" A few suggested to get the alphabet card, letter ring, or ask a friend or teacher. Then I showed them the pictures of our plasticine letters. "What can we do with these?"

"We can put them on the wall!" O. S.

Many were in agreement with this idea. I then asked them which wall they wanted to place their alphabet letters? We decided that a survey would be the best way to figure this out.

I handed the pictures of the letters to a few students and asked them to figure out how we could display them on our wall. 

I observed and listened to them reason with each other and was surprised at how great they worked as a team. They supported each other when they couldn't find a letter, and started singing the alphabet song when they got stuck on what letter came next. When they mixed up some letters, one student ran and grabbed the alphabet card and together the group looked it over and found their error. It was amazing to watch. When they were done, they laid out the entire alphabet for the class to see. We all sang the alphabet song again and agreed it looked great! Up on the wall it went in the Reading Area where they felt everyone could see it the best.

It is important that students are given the opportunity to engage in and design their classroom environment. This process supports their learning by giving meaningful experiences for them to connect to. 

According to Partricia Tarr, "Not only might children be involved with selecting work that goes on display, they also can be part of the process of creating the display."
Tarr, P. 2004. Consider the Walls. Beyond the Journal



  1. I can't tell you how much I totally love this post, and how students at this very young age took control over their learning. I'm going to share it with my current admin as well as my past admin team. This "student ownership" is a big area of focus in both schools, and I think your post shows how this can happen in Kindergarten. Thanks for sharing!


  2. What a joy it would be to step back 65 years and be one of your students, how times have changed for the better because of you and like minded teachers. Continued success Mrs. R. Lines and dots remind me of the Morse Code I learned years ago, now there is a concept of inventing communication for people around the world with lines and dots: _.. / ._ _ _ / . _ . (DJR)

  3. I can see the partnership between teacher and students through your entire blog.
    Your children will became independent individuals by having now the choice of negotiating their ideas and be part of the team decisions.
    Grate accomplishments for the end of first month of school!

  4. When I show H.S your posts she is so excited to talk about them otherwise it is very difficult to get any information from her. Thanks Mrs. Ralph for your hard work and smart , fun ideas to help them learn.

  5. I love this! We are currently exploring line in our classroom and you have offered such amazing avenues in which the students learning can go. Thank you for always sharing and inspiring!

  6. Thanks for your comment Trista! Lines continue to be very prevalent in our class. I anticipate a few more posts about our learning. I would love to see what direction your students take lines!

  7. What is the name of the book that is open in the is just what I have been searching for!

  8. The book is called Lines by Philip Yenawine. An amazing book!

  9. I love everything you've done here. I am doing this my first few weeks this year - thank you for your inspirational and motivational ideas!