This summer, I have the absolute pleasure of tutoring one of my former students, J. I wanted to review the alphabet with him, but I wanted to do it in a fun way. I decided to use my old Foam Floor Alphabet & Number Puzzle Mat . You could also do this with blocks or other alphabet toys.
I opened the storage bag and asked him what he thought it was. He immediately responded that it was letters. I told him that I wanted him to put all the letters in alphabetical order for me. He started going through all the tiles trying to find A. As he was digging through, he found an 8. He showed it to me and said, “This is not a letter.” I asked him what it was, and he said, “Eight.” Then I asked if it belonged with the alphabet. He said, “No.” I asked why. He replied, “It’s a number.” Then we talked about how we needed to separate the tiles into 2 different piles (categories). After I showed him how to connect the first 2 letters, he was on his own. A few of the teachable moments (and related concepts) that happened during this activity were:
- J realized after putting a few of the tiles together (and seeing how many he still had to do)that we were going to need more space. He was able to readjust to make it fit. (Estimation, Measurement)
- J had questions about some of the tiles. For example, the 1, I, and L were all very similar. He also noticed that the N & Z and M & W looked alike. We talked about how they were similar and different. (Comparisons, Same/Different, Alphabetic Knowledge)
- J sang the alphabet song when he needed help with figuring out the next letter. I also showed him how to slow down and tap out the “elemenopee” part on his fingers (Thumb = L, Pointer = M, Tallman = N, Ring Finger = O, Pinky = P) (Study Skills [using a song or mnemonic device to help figure out an answer]
- He would sometimes tell me words that started with the letter he had in his hands. I didn’t ask him to do this for all the letters because that was not my goal with this activity. This was just something that he wanted to do. (Letter-word Association)
- When we started the activity, I asked him how many letters were in the alphabet. He told me that he didn’t know. As soon as he put Z down, he started counting the tiles and told me that there were 26 letters. He also asked if he could put the number tiles in order for me. (Math)
- He told me that it looked like train tracks, and then he proceeded to “choo choo” down the tracks as if he were a train. (Making connections & using imagination)
J was so excited to show his mom and brother what he had done. And I was excited to find a new use for my foam letters and numbers. Can you think of some other fun ways that I could use the foam letters and numbers?