Have you kids ever asked why letters don’t always look the same? Mine sure have! About the time they’re learning to recognize letters by shape, they come across a funny looking letter in a book: a. And they ask why letters look different sometimes.
To make this lesson fun, I teach my kids that sometimes, letters like to dress up or wear a disguise. As we continue learning and their understanding increases, I introduce the word font. I explain that it’s a word used to describe the shape of the letters.
Why Is This Important?
Though this lesson isn’t often talked about, it is an important one.
Before your child starts doing much reading, you want him or her to be aware that letters won’t always look identical. They need to learn to recognize an a whether it looks like a handwritten ball and line a or an a in the newspaper.
The brain can only focus on so much at one time. When your child can easily recognize both a and a as saying the “a” sound like in apple, they will have more brain power to devote to actually reading, and less to trying to figure out what that strange looking letter with a hat is.
Here are some letters that are often caught playing dress-up:
3 Activities for Helping Your Kids Identify Letters in Disguise
To help this lesson to stick, here are three fun activities you can do with your child.
For even more play based reading instruction, check out my curriculum Teaching Reading Through Play.
Activity #1: Newspaper Search
Materials Needed: Newspaper & Markers
For this game, your child is going to go on a newspaper hunt for letters in disguise. Whenever they spy one, they’ll point it out by circling it with a marker.
- Hand your child one page of newspaper
- Ask your child to point to one letter that’s in disguise—that looks different than it normally does
- Hand your child a marker and ask him or her to circle it
- Ask your child to circle all the disguised letters he or she can find
- When your child is done, talk about the letters found. Use words like “hat” or “tail” to describe what’s different about the letters
Activity #2: Letter Collage
In this activity, your child will create a collage of letters they find in the newspaper or magazines.
Materials Needed: Newspapers & Magazines, Scissors, Glue, Construction Paper
Today’s activity focuses on locating all 26 lower case letters and all 26 upper case letters in print.
- Ask your child to find the letter A in the newspaper or magazine.
- After your child points to the letter, have him/her cut it out carefully.
- Ask if the letter is wearing a disguise or not.
- Have your child glue the letter to one page of construction paper.
- Continue finding, cutting, and gluing letters until you’ve reached Z. The letters don’t need to be in order—they can be glued randomly, to make a collage.
- Repeat for capital letters, on a separate sheet of paper.
- Sing the ABC song while cleaning up scraps. See how many times you can sing it through while you work.
Activity #3: Font Changer
Today’s game focuses on letter identification, and then exploring a variety of fonts
Materials Needed: Computer with word processing program with a variety of fonts (Word, Google Docs, etc.)
- Sit with your child at the computer and open the word processing program you’ll be using.
- Ask your child to find the letter a on the keyboard. (Let them do it—it’s great letter identification practice!)
- Let your child type the letter a.
- Continue finding and typing letters until you have all 26 letters typed.
- Highlight the alphabet that was just typed, and show your child the font menu
- Ask your child to pick a font, and change the font to that one.
- Copy and paste the alphabet into another row
- Highlight the new row of ABCs.
- Ask your child to select another font
- Continue until your page is full
- Talk with your child about the differences they notice between the fonts used
- If possible, print the page for your child to keep
Help Your Kids Recognize Letters in Disguise
These games will help your child recognize letters no matter how hard they’re trying to hide. Play them a couple of times each to really help your child get a sense of what common disguises letters wear.
For more fun, play based learning to help your child learn to read, check out my curriculum: Teaching Reading Through Play.