Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program is for Parents, Preschool Teachers and Kindergarten Teachers that have children that are struggling to learn and consistently remember their uppercase letters.
What it is: Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program is a set of flashcards that will help your child learn the names of all of the uppercase letters.
Why Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program Works.
- the program is developmentally appropriate
- it builds on a child's strengths
- eliminates guessing
- it is fun and simple
- works for children at any level
The single best predictor of first-year reading achievement is the child’s knowledge of and the ability to recognize and name the upper- and lower- case letters of the alphabet (Adams, 1990; Honig, 1996; Riley, 1996). Stahl (1997) found that knowledge is still the strongest predictor of reading success in fourth grade. A child with automatic, accurate recognition of letters will have an easier time learning about letter sounds and word spellings than a child who does not know the letters of the alphabet.
15 minute overview of the Mister Smith Letter Recognition Program.
Children learn how to read in three phases, based on Uta Frith’s model of reading acquisition.
*Initially, the child processes words in the same way as any other visual object or symbol and recognizes them instantly. Thus, a limited number of familiar whole words are identified through their crude visual features such as shape or size, e.g. their name, names of close family, shops, common signs such as the ‘M’ for McDonalds. Children at this stage are not aware that individual letters and letter combinations represent specific sounds.
In this stage, the child needs to visually represent words in a different format from other objects or symbols and the concept of letter/sound relationship develops. The child acquires an explicit knowledge of phonemes, their correspondences with letters, and how to merge those sounds into words, as with c - at or c - a – t. Letter order and phonological factors play a crucial role, readers begin to develop ‘word attack’ skills and start to decode unfamiliar (and even nonsense) words. There has been some debate on whether children reach this stage as part of natural development, or whether the act of learning to read stimulates the development of alphabetic skills. In other words, non-readers will need to develop ‘phoneme awareness’ and they are most likely to do this through developing literacy skills.
This stage is reached when readers do not need to sound out words on a regular basis, but can recognize a large number of words automatically and instantly access their meaning, matching them to an internal lexicon that they have built up in the previous stages. Repeated exposure to the same words enables the child to store whole-word grapheme sequences in an orthographic lexicon. It is a much faster process than phonological analysis (i.e. having to 'sound out' words). Proficient readers are ones who have reached this stage, and they only need to 'sound out' unfamiliar words. Note: Not all readers will go through all of these phases (for instance, dyslexic learners often get stuck at the alphabetic stage, or never master it and move on to the orthographic). Both ‘whole words’ (or ‘look and say’) and ‘phonics’ have their place in the teaching of basic literacy, but the eventual aim is to bring readers to the orthographic stage.
The Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program focuses on the logographic stage. Through the teaching on the back of the card, the letter is visually described to the child as a "logo". This image or "logo" will be the anchor in which the child will remember the letter from. The letter side of the flashcard consists of the uppercase letter, lowercase letter and a picture association. The backside of the card shows how to teach the letter and the star rating will tell you wether it is an easy, medium or more difficult letter. The bolded words are the ones you really want the child to remember.
The picture association is not like other flashcards. For Example: A basic flashcard will usually show the letter U with an umbrella, or A with an apple. That is more geared towards the Alphabetic phase of reading. Flashcards set up like that in and of themselves will not teach a child that the letter is U, and for a child that is struggling to learn their letters, this might even confuse them even more. Those types of cards can be useful, but not if your goal is letter recognition.
When teaching the letters, we want to teach directly to the letter, not to the associated picture. We want to make a direct connection to the visual of the letter. When teaching, I do this by covering the picture with my hand.
We want the child to remember that the letter U (by itself) looks like a smiley face. Then once they say it looks like a smiley face we transition (or bridge) to the next step: A smiley face just like You. The letter is U.
The magic behind this is, now the letter is not some abstract symbol that represents a sound that they don't understand yet. It now becomes a "logo" and through the process of using a mnemonic association they can concretely begin to remember the letter. This is great for students with short term memory issues or working memory problems..
It also becomes fun.
It is like a game of clue, but when you "win" you now know your letters! Parents and teachers tell me that the kids just love the cards and I think it has to do with 2 things. The first thing is that they work and they feel successful when they use them. The second thing is they enjoy the "game like" feel of the program.
Assess your student’s letter recognition before you start. There is no reason to relearn letters that they already know. (But always include them in your end of session assessment so they can feel the success of knowing them.) Free Tracking Upper and Lowercase Letter Recognition sheets from my TpT Store.
This program was designed to build on the child’s success. Once they see how they can be successful, it will motivate them to continue. Start with the “easier” letters and progress to “medium” and then “more difficult”.
The easier letters are the letters that children have demonstrated to be the easiest to learn, based on my extensive use of the Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program over the past 12 years.
The key is to create success and for the student to feel successful. We need to break these negative cycles as early as possible so that we don't set a student up for failure. The way we break negative cycles is not by telling them "you will get it some day" or "try harder"....we need to give them an actual taste of real success. They need to feel real life wins. School is a huge part of our lives, and reading is a huge part of being successful in school.
We kept data on 9 struggling kindergarten students 2 months into their school year.
On November 9th as a whole knew 39.7% of their letters. They practiced 10 min a day for 15 school days using Mister Smith's Letter Recognition Program they were able to recognize 96.6% of their letters. (flashcards were not sent home to parents for reinforcement. They by all means can be sent home, but they were not in regards to gathering this data.)
Two of the students started their third month of school knowing only 3 letters. Imagine how frustrating going to school everyday was for those kids. Almost all of the activities are geared around letters in one way or another. It has to be very difficult for the students, and I know it was very difficult for the teacher. The week before implementing my program this teacher went to the reading specialist in tears asking for help! She was devastated that her students were struggling. I know as a teacher and a parent we become very concerned about our kids that struggle and we will often do whatever it takes to get them back on track.
This is not just an isolated incident. We had major success throughout our kindergarten classes and our local preschools as well.
The children were happy and proud. The teachers were happy and excited.
When someone is using the Letter Recognition Program they should discourage the child from guessing. They can either state what the letter looks like, a relationship, association or a movement or say I don’t know and the teacher will respond with a positive tone. Knowing that they don’t know is actually knowing something.
Often times if you ask a child "what letter is this?" They will give you an answer whether they know or not. Many times their initial, wrong guess will be what they remember. So don't ask "what letter is this?" Ask "what does this look like?" That way they will be more likely to give you the visual association and then bridge their way to the actual letter name.
If they know what it looks like, a relationship, association or movement. Reinforce and relate it to the letter. Every time the letter is in front of the child we can help reinforce what the letter looks like. These are teachable moments.
Physical Products : mistersmithlearning.com/shop
If they don’t know. Reinforce what it looks like/relationship/movement or story associated to the letter. When you show the student the letter, ask them what it looks like or what it reminds them of. If they give you the letter-great! The more you practice and reinforce the quicker they remember the letter and soon enough it becomes an automatic response and the process falls away.
Use things related to the child when it seems appropriate like the beginning letter of a child’s name, siblings name or even a friend’s name. When practicing use the letter pictures only as a guide or reminder for students close to remembering.
Be animated enough for the student to buy into your story. They will buy into it. Like when they hear and see that your house is at the end of an N shaped road, they will remember that. This program should bring out the natural teacher in you.
Letters are easy to keep track of and assess. It is recommended to do a quick assessment at the beginning and at the end of each session and try to keep track of the letters that you focused on in that session. I suggest using a two pile system. Place the ones they seem to know in the strong pile and the ones that they struggle with in a weak pile. Work on improving the weak pile. Letter Tracking Sheets
Sessions should be about 10-15 minutes at one time, but can be done several times throughout the day. I suggest introducing no more than 8-9 letters at a time and for some children, as low as 3 at a time.
You are the teacher. Use your natural teaching instinct. I am excited for your child’s learning experience and your experience while being the teacher.
I recommend this program for children 3.5 years and up, but there are some children that have done wonderfully at younger ages. For children younger I have written a children's book called Mister Smith's Alphabet Book. This book can be read to a child of any age, but I would say ages 2 and up would be the ideal audience. The book takes all of the Letter Recognition Program concepts and puts them into rhyme form. Most often these are bought together in a combination package as they complement learning at any age.
Now once we have developed a firm grasp on uppercase letter recognition through the logographic phase, we can begin to start learning the lowercase letters and this is a good time to transition to the alphabetic phase using Mister Smith's Sound Cards. More about this in future blogs.
The Lowercase Letter Recognition Program and Lowercase Letter Book are available in a lowercase combo. You purchase the Uppercase/Lowercase flashcards and books here.
Ok! Thank you so much! It's amazing how just only in a few days he is recognizing the letters! I'm truly amazed that my two year old is doing the same. I have finally found a system that would help me to teach as well as help my children to learn all at the same time! Thank you for taking the time out to create this and to share!!!!- Parent
It absolutely works!! Used with whole RTI group and they all now confidently know all upper and lower case letters!!! Thank you Mr. Smith!- Teacher
I’ve been teaching for 23 yrs and believe me I’ve tried it all. This, for whatever reason, really works. I am truly impressed with this product.- Teacher
I bought Mr. Smith’s flashcards to work with pre-K preschoolers (will start kindergarten in the fall) in early November and have witnessed how amazing these truly are!!! We have seen success with kiddos that are really struggling and have recently started teaching our 3-4 year old classes this method!!! It works!!!- PreK Teacher
I'm a little bit stunned at how quickly my daughter caught on to the lower case letters. I was going to quiz her one more time and she took the stack of cards from my hand and quickly recited the correct name for each letter. I just ordered the sound card bundle!- Parent
I am a kindergarten teacher and had 6 students who knew none of their letters. I purchased your cards and within 3 weeks those 6 students now know 95% of their letters. I am so impressed and in love with your product. Thank you for inventing it and selling it. I will definitely start the school year off with it next year and tell all of my fellow educators about it (Let’s be honest I already have)! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!-KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
“I used the flash cards on 5 students whose letter recognition was 3/26 or at the most 10/26. Each day brought different results, but we were at a stand still.... they weren’t improving. I started your flash cards on a Monday, by Wednesday they were at at 16/26, 23/26, 21/26, 25/26 & 14/26. This week I actually believe that 4 of the 5 kinders will achieve 100%. What makes this a great situation for me is that 3 of the students were picking up on their sounds...sooo now, for them, their writing is taking off. I used the flash card individually and in small group. I have already met with a Filipino mom so that it is being modeled correctly at home. Thank you!!!! Kinder Teacher in Hawaii!!!” — KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
“Wow! I was really struggling with my TK/K class this year. 18 out of the 23 entered knowing fewer than 5 letters (most of those knew 0) and they weren’t making much progress with my normal strategies. I got them working on these cards daily with me in their small groups and boom - most are above 20 letters just 15 days later! I am pretty amazed! I don’t often come across such effective resources, ... this one is a keeper.” — KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
I cannot say thank you enough for this amazing product! I am overjoyed with the cards! I have a student who knew 0 letters after 9 weeks in school. On Monday he knew 0/26 now (Thursday) he can recognize 14/26 consistently and recognize them elsewhere in the classroom. We thought ok maybe he won't remember tomorrow but he is so excited that he remembers now! It seriously has changed this little boys outlook on learning. He asked to do more letters today instead of center time. I have been recommending your product to anyone I know that could use this type of resource!Thank you SO SO much! I was feeling very discouraged!!!! I truly appreciate you! Thank you for making such a wonderful product! -KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
*References Frith, U. (1985) Beneath the surface of developmental dyslexia. In K. E. Patterson, J. C. Marshall & M. Download at https://sites.google.com/site/utafrith/publications-1/reading-- spelling-and-dyslexia Spiegel, M. & Sunderland, H. (2006) A teacher’s guide: teaching basic literacy to ESOL learners, LLU+ London