Question:  I am a first year kindergarten teacher and am having trouble introducing letters to a few of my students.  They refuse to try to print letters, even in their names.  During writing center, they only draw pictures and scribble.  I don’t want to force them, but how do I get them to just try even tracing letters?  The parents and my principal are on my case.  Please help.

Myrna Shure:  First, I want to say that for some children, too much emphasis on printing letters might create a negative association, making it more difficult when they are developmentally ready.  But you can try a few ways to stimulate interest, and if these still don’t work, I would explain to their parents and the principal that most children will learn their letters in due time, and it is not worth pressuring them before they are ready.

You can try to make printing letters fun in the following ways:

l) With easel paper on the floor, have the children lie on the floor, forming a letter. For example, the letter I can be formed with three children, one lying horizontally and two vertically.  The letter I can be traced around the children on the easel paper.  The letter E can be formed with four children, the letter M with four children, etc.  When children seem to master a letter this way, let them form the letter on their own for others to trace.

2) Draw letters in finger paint, and have children copy what you are doing. OR Draw letters in whipped cream, have children copy what you are doing, and use that for decorations.

3) Draw a very large letter on easel paper and let the children take turns coloring it in.  After several letters are colored in, use these as decorations in the classroom.   

4) Find pictures in magazines or a newspaper that would interest children and write what that picture is under it.  For example, if you have a picture of Barney, ask children to select the letter B.  If you have a picture of a dog, write DOG and have the children select the letter D, etc. These are just some ways to excite children to want to learn letters.  You may think of other ways to make it fun to learn letters.