By the end of my teaching career, I felt like I was hanging on to my chalkboard by the tips of my fingers. Every year, my principal tried to persuade me to trade it in for a brand new, shiny whiteboard. And every year, I politely declined, insisting I needed my chalkboard. Perhaps you think I’m just nostalgic about chalk dust. Actually, not at all! But using chalk on a chalkboard does produce a drag which provides sensory input. Compare this to the smoothness of a marker on a whiteboard. My chalkboard was an essential tool for teaching letters and sounds using a multi-sensory approach.
Some children learn letters and sounds easily with exposure to alphabet books, environmental print, and sound play. Other children require explicit instruction. This post is for teachers working with children who benefit from explicit instruction.
Early in my teaching career, I was introduced to Orton-Gillingham methods through my cooperating teacher, a mentor teacher, and professional development. Over time, I drew from a number of resources. Although the specifics varied across the years, a mainstay in my instructional approach was the multi-sensory introduction of letters and sounds. This approach links the name of the letter, the sound the letter stands for, and its formation.
Sequence of Letters
Letter/ Sound Picture Cards
Have your student skywrite and name the letter while looking at it. Follow this by saying the keyword and the sound. Provide guidance, as needed, by modeling while you face the letter or by standing behind the student and providing light touch. Repeat several times. Remember that you are building connections between the letter name, its formation, and the sound it stands for while using the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Next, have your student trace your large letter model while saying its name, key word, and sound. Repeat several times. Use all white or a variety of colored chalk.
Lastly, have your student write the letter, arm swing size, next to your model. This activity can be adapted for groups by writing the letter multiple times on your board(s). Some students can skywrite while others trace and write on the board.
Be sure to read this post by The Inspired Treehouse, which explains why kids should have opportunities to work on a vertical surface.