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15.10.08

The alphabet with Curious George

Posted by Jeanne


The Alphabet

As for his letters, the child usually teaches himself. He has his box of ivory letters and picks out p for pudding, b for blackbird, h for horse, big and little, and knows them both. But the learning of the alphabet should be made a means of cultivating the child's observation: he should be made to see what he looks at. Make big B in the air, and let him name it; then let him make round O, and crooked S, and T for Tommy, and you name the letters as the little finger forms them with unsteady strokes in the air. To make the small letters thus from memory is a work of more art, and requires more careful observation on the child's part. A tray of sand is useful at this stage. The child draws his finger boldly through the sand, and then puts a back to his D; and behold, his first essay in making a straight line and a curve. But the devices for making the learning of the 'A B C' interesting are endless. There is no occasion to hurry the child: let him learn one form at a time, and know it so well that he can pick out the d's, say, big and little, in a page of large print. Let him say d for duck, dog, doll, thus: d-uck, d-og, prolonging the sound of the initial consonant, and at last sounding d alone, not dee, but d', the mere sound of the consonant separated as far as possible from the following vowel.

Let the child alone, and he will learn the alphabet for himself: but few mothers can resist the pleasure of teaching it; and there is no reason why they should, for this kind of learning is no more than play to the child, and if the alphabet be taught to the little student, his appreciation of both form and sound will be cultivated. When should he begin? Whenever his box of letters begins to interest him. The baby of two will often be able to name half a dozen letters; and there is nothing against it so long as the finding and naming of letters is a game to him. But he must not be urged, required to show off, teased to find letters when his heart is set on other play.

Charlotte Mason Home Education p201

Miss Mason is right, of course, a child will learn the alphabet with no help from us. She's also right when she says that we'll probably want to teach it anyway... I know I did.

The elephants are glad that our letters were wood - not ivory - but we learned the alphabet using Miss Mason's method and it worked very well. Drawing letters in the sand was great fun - but not as much fun as drawing them in a tray of shaving foam! Give it a go.

There was just one other resource that we used and that I want to recommend -

Curious George Learns the Alphabet, one of the classic H A Rey books.

In the book each letter is given a shape. An 'f' looks like a drooping flower, for example; an 'e' becomes an ear. I find that to this day, if Jemimah has trouble with a letter - b or d, for example, she will looks at it and say b-bluebird or d-dromedary, and I know that she is picturing the shape from the Curious George book. I'm not very clever with 'learning types'. Perhaps this means she's a visual learner, but the book was very useful when Jemimah was learning her alphabet - perhaps it will be for you as well.

The Curious George books have been popular with both kids and adults since H A Rey carried the manuscript for the first Curious George books on his bicycle when he escaped from Paris in 1940 . However, with the success of the 2006 Curious George movie, there are now lots of fun Curious George things to do online as well.

A couple of good fun sites are the Houghton Mifflin Books’ Curious George site and PBS Kids Curious George. Both feature games, printables, activity suggestions and teacher/parent guides. The Houghton Mifflin site has a fascinating link to a virtual tour of the Curious George Hattiesburg Exhibit courtesy of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection whose own site is also fascinating.

Jemimah's favourite was the Let's Draw Curious George instructions on the Houghton Mifflin site. She's actually 'not-half bad'!

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