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Creativity and English Alphabet teaching

Arezou Ebrahimitouri

1- English Teacher, MBA of IBS, UTM, Kuala Lumpur (etarezou@yahoo.com)

Abstract

Nowadays in the beginning of three millennia, creativity is that key which differentiates civilized life
from Neanderthal one. Creativity helped today child, compared to yesterday one, to step speedily in
learning various subjects. One of the goals of teaching and learning is developing thought and
creativity, the missing piece of present schools. On one hand applying more and more traditional
approaches in which the teacher is the only pivotal role in class and the teachers who are not aware of
creative procedures on the other hand, gradually lead to classes with no opportunity of emerging the
students' potentiality. Based on one of the aims of ministry of education about emerging talents and
enhancing creativity of students, and to reach this goal, schools should work on it. Therefore, the
objective of current study is to present new procedures in teaching English Alphabet for the better
performance of learning process in preschool children.

Key words: creativity, teaching, English Alphabet.

1. Introduction

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new
associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the
process of either conscious or unconscious insight. An alternative conception of creativeness is that it
is simply the act of making something new (Wikipedia, 2009).

Many educators have recognized the importance of involving students in skills that encourage critical
thinking, and have approached this concern through the inclusion of activities and strategies which
encourage creativity in non-verbal, symbolic domains (visual, spatial, kinesthetic, and aural) (Gardner,
1983, 1993).

Creative teaching is a high-risk strategy requiring self-confidence and an investment of time and
energy (Yeomans 1996, Davies 1999). Creative teachers have been described as ‘planning geniuses,
innovators and experimenters’ (Woods 1996). Creative teaching is not about being extraordinary,
‘dazzling’ or ‘arty’, just four qualities of a clear sense of need, the ability to read the situation, the
willingness to take risks and the ability to monitor and evaluate events are required (Halliwell, 1993).

When students have an enjoyable experience (fun), the brain is able to better retain information. Brain
scans showed that when preschool students collaborate with classmates in joyful cooperative learning
activities it enhances the passage function of the brain, which moves information from the intake area
to the memory storage regions of the brain (Willis, 2007).

The objective of current study is to present creative procedures in teaching English Alphabet for better
performance of learning process in preschool children.

2. Method
Recognition of the letters of the alphabet and knowing the sounds they make is one of the key
predictors of reading success. The alphabet is an invented system of symbols. Alone, each letter of the
alphabet has limited value, but combinations of letters create words, the essence of written
communication. In order to read an alphabetic language like English, children must learn the
alphabetic principle–that letter symbols represent sounds. This knowledge is a critical precursor to
reading words, since words are merely a combination of the letters that can be used to represent a
word’s specific combination of sounds.

The strategies presented in the current study are grouped into two; the first group is "The Traditional
Strategies", (Demonstration, Choral Drill, and Look and Say) nowadays teaching methods in
kindergartens and all the English Language Institutes with the aim of recognizing, reciting and writing
letter names and sounds of the alphabet. And the second group, "The Creative Strategies", is suggested
in the present study for teaching the English Alphabet for preschoolers.

A- The Traditional Strategies

Strategy 1: Demonstration

Demonstration includes the use of real objects, performing actions, using gestures, and facial
expressions. It is used for presenting words like toy, bracelet, or hat. Demonstration can be used for
sentence patterns that stand for concrete ideas. For example, saying "I am looking at my watch," or "I
am cleaning the board" while performing these actions. The teaching strategy includes the teacher
doing the demonstration and students practicing with feedback from the teacher. Kindergarten teachers
usually use Demonstration effectively in the teaching of various topics such as new words. While
teaching they use movement, hand patterns, and motions, pointing to something, touching a part,
shaking something, or acting it out to explain and present what they mean. Thereafter, that word
recites and performs many times until they learn it.

Strategy 2: Choral Drill

In Choral Drill the children all chant together following along as the teacher leads. It is the repeating
of poems, the alphabet, an alphabet song, sentence patterns, and vocabulary lists. Children repeat the
melody and rhythm. Sometimes it is in unison with the teacher and sometimes in an echo pattern. The
technique differs from Choral Reading in that this is for oral language development. Print is not
connected to the activity. An additional difference is in the frequency of use. Choral Reading is likely
to be used once or perhaps twice in the daily routine, while Choral Drill is used for nearly half of the
instructional time in kindergarten.

Strategy 3: Look and Say

Look and Say is the technique of students listening to the teacher and looking at the object or print,
then repeating a word or sentence after the teacher. Children either watch as the teacher points to the
words on the board or individually point to the print on a page or in a textbook. The reading textbook
usually use in kindergartens has a page for each letter of the alphabet. Each page has several
illustrations and gives the word that corresponded to the illustration; for instance, an illustration of a
kite and the word kite. If it's supposed to teach the letter L, the Look and Say strategy is as follows;
start from the beginning of the reader, from letter A. The teacher reads the word while the children are
listening, then the children point to the appropriate picture and repeat the letter. This continued until
they completed the new page for the week, letter L. This exercise of starting from the first page of the
reader and continuing to the current lesson can repeat several times. The teacher may vary it only
slightly by changing the rhythm and the volume. The Look and Say of the reading textbook is a part of
the routine of each day since the first day of school.

B- The Creative Strategies

Have you ever watched five-year-olds at play? They are curious and highly creative in their games.
They don’t know yet, what they don’t know. Their creative limits have no bounds; no one has told
them that they can’t do something. They’re fearless explorers, artists, or musicians; some are even
comedians in the making. They have not yet been pressured to conform and they think they can do
anything and that nothing is beyond their capabilities.

Research shows that every human being is capable of creative thought. We have creative abilities that
often show up very early in life. Studies show that the average adult thinks of only three to four
alternate ideas for any given situation, while the average child can come up with sixty. They have
proven that as far as creativity is concerned, quantity equals quality.

In order to fully take advantage of the creative linguistic ability that children have, it is necessary to
provide them with situations where:

1. The desire to communicate forces the child to find some way to express
himself.

2. Linguistic situations are unpredictable and they are not situations where a
child repeats sayings and expressions, but they serve as a stimulation for the
child to actively create language on his own.

The following strategies are the creative and practical alphabet activities that most of creative teachers
have been using for the last decades in their preschool-aged children classrooms:

 The easiest way to teach the alphabet is to teach them the song ABCD. Use the Alphabet
Song to familiarize children with the letters and their names. Sing it often, if not every day.
Take care not to sing it so fast that the letters run together and are not easily
distinguishable, such as with l, m, n, o sounding like elemeno. You can sing it as a rap or to
another tune for variety. It is also helpful to have a large alphabet chart so that you can
point to the letters as you sing them.

 One of the best ways to teach letter shapes is to have children write the letters. The two
most common forms of letter writing are Zaner-Bloser style (Figure 1) and D’Nealian
style (Figure 2). Whatever you teach, remain consistent with the method of letter
formation you use.

 Practice the alphabets by using students' names. For example (A) (Ali) (Z) (Zahra) (F)
(Farbod) (R) (Roya), etc.

 Let them play with play-dough or modeling clay and create clay alphabet shapes. They will
never forget what they make with their own hands.

 Write a letter on the board and ask them to express their feeling about that letter by
painting or doodling it on a sheet of paper.

 Use the technique of associating the consonant sounds with the vowel sounds in a chart like
following (Figure 3). Practice saying the alphabet in the order presented in that chart. It'll
be easier to memorize similar sounds in association. Although some of the letters can't be
related to others, students usually learn faster if the alphabet is introduced and practiced
this way.

 Take an alphabet walk around the school or neighborhood. Look for letters that you have
been studying in environmental print. You can also have children identify objects that start
with specific letters that the children have recently learned. (Figure 4)

 Play hangman using recycled vocabulary from the lesson. (Figure 5)

 Play "I Spy" by having children try to identify what you spy that begins with a certain
letter. You can give added hints if needed. For example, "I spy something that begins with
B. You can read it." (book) Have the child who correctly identifies the object go to the
board and write the letter. Have everyone practice saying the word with emphasis on the
first letter.

 Play letter card scramble by having children use letter cards to spell a CVC word that you
write on the board. Then have them scramble the cards and put them back together by
sounding out the word. Another twist is to have children write their names using the cards
and then scrambling and putting them back together. They can also work with one or two
classmates. They can make their own name with the cards, show them to a classmate, and
then scramble the cards. A classmate then puts the cards back together to spell the name.
Be sure that children sound out letters carefully, as the purpose of the activity is to practice
recognition of letters and their sound correspondence.

 Place children into groups of four to five, and have them use their bodies to form letters. If
it takes only one or two bodies to form a letter, have the group form more than one of the
letters.

 Write the name of a common and familiar CVC word on the board. Say one of the letters in
the word, and have a volunteer come to the board and circle the letter. Have children
identify the letter’s position—beginning, middle, or end. Repeat by saying the other letters
and having volunteers circle them. Then segment and blend the word.

 Write word family pairs on the board, such as hog and dog, mat and rat, and pin and tin.
Ask children to identify the letters that are different in each pair. Ask if they can name an
initial letter that makes yet another word.

 Play alphabet concentration using letter cards. Use no more than 16 cards (8 pairs). If 16 is
too many, adjust the number of cards so as to not frustrate children. You can also use
picture cards and letter cards. Each letter card is matched with its corresponding picture
card.

 Hand out a letter card or picture card to each child. Write a letter on the board. The child
whose picture begins with the letter or who has a matching letter card stands up. That child
says the letter and the word of the picture (if they have picture cards). You should reinforce
the answer and have all the children repeat the sound.

 Write a large letter on the chalkboard. It can be upper- or lowercase. Write a number of
smaller letters around the larger letter. Many of the smaller letters should be the same as
the larger letter. You can either put them in the same case or mixed cases. Have volunteers
come up, one at a time, and circle a letter that matches the bigger letter. As they do, they
say the letter out loud and name a word that starts with the letter. A sample might be:

MmmNnwsmMmWmU
 Label objects in the classroom that begin with a letter you have just taught. Or you can give
children cards with the letter on them and have them attach the letter card to anything in
the classroom that begins with that letter. A more difficult task would be to have them
place the letter card on an object that ends with the letter. This can only be done with
certain letters that appear at the end of words and make the common sound you have
taught.

 Give children a clipping from a newspaper or magazine and have them circle or highlight
all the examples they can find of a specified letter. You can challenge them to find a certain
number of occurrences, such as seven. The number should vary with how common the
letter is.

 Give children letter cards. Call out four to five letters. As you do, those who have the card
come to the front of the room. When four to five children have come forward, direct them
to arrange themselves in alphabetical order.

 Provide experiences for tactile activities related to letter formation. Use pipe cleaners, wax
sticks, or salt or sand in trays.

 Have children perform an action that represents a letter. If you say H, they hop. If you say
W, they walk. If you say J, they jump. If you say Y, they yawn. You can give them a prop
such as a ball and have them do things with it depending on the letter called out. For
example, say B, and they bounce the ball. Say T, and they toss the ball. Say C, and they
catch the ball.

 Divide the class in half. Give one half of the class lowercase letter cards. Give the other
half matching uppercase letter cards. Have children search for their match. You can play a
similar game with letter and picture cards.

 Write letters on paper plates. Mix them up. Have children make chains or a caterpillar
using the paper plates. However, they have to put the plates in alphabetical order. Give
them pipe cleaner "antennae" to put at the head of the caterpillar.

 Reproduce connect-the-dot pictures that use letters for each dot. Have children draw the
picture by connecting the dots in alphabetical order.
Figure 1(Zaner-Bloser style)
Figure 2 (D’Nealian style)
Figure 3 (Similar sounds in association)

Figure 4 (Alphabet in Nature): The letters of the English alphabet reveal themselves in unexpected
places if you search for them. They hide in the infrastructure that shapes the world around us.
0 7

_______ Word: _AN__AN Word:


E Guess: H Guess:
Misses: e,i,o,s,t Misses:
1 8

_______ Word: HAN__AN Word:


T Guess: R Guess:
e Misses: e,i,o,s,t Misses:
2 9

_______ Word: HAN__AN Word:


A Guess: N/A Guess:
e,t Misses: e,i,o,r,s,t Misses:
3

Guesser loses - the answer was HANGMAN.


_A___A_ Word:
O Guess:
e,t Misses:
4

_A___A_ Word:
I Guess:
e,o,t Misses:
5

Figure 5 (Hangman): An example game


illustrates a player trying to guess the word
_A___A_ Word: 'hangman' using a strategy based solely on
N Guess: letter frequency.
e,i,o,t Misses:
6

_AN__AN Word:
S Guess:
e,i,o,t Misses:
Creativity Inspired by the Alphabet

Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and even something as simple as the ABC's of
the English alphabet can be a great source of creative ideas!

Meat Alphabet by Robert J. Bolesta


Alphabet made or raw hamburger (Each character hand-shaped, packaged, and photographed
individually).

Alphabetical Paperclips by Steghen Reed


Lettered paperclips can be used to file document alphabetically or linked to form words.
Butterfly Alphabet
Letters and numbers photographed on the wing of butterflies.

Sky Alphabet by Lisa Rienermann


"Type the sky" alphabet created by Lisa Rienermann (while studying at the University of Essen
in Barcelona).
3. Conclusions

Everyone who interacts with a young child is a teacher. Preschool teachers have both the
wonderful opportunity and the important responsibility to teach and nurture the youngest
children. The years from birth through age five are a time of extraordinary growth and change. It
is in these years that children develop the basic knowledge, understandings, and interests they
need to reach the goal of being successful learners, readers and writers. All young children
deserve experiences that will help them to achieve this goal. In this regard, parents who spend
many hours with children and ministry of education both can have effectively important and
helpful role in emerging talents and enhancing creativity of students in this way.

The children are in schools with the expectation to sit in their class politely, study and learn
structure of the sentences, grammar and its usage, spelling etc etc. And sure education is formal,
but by considering the fact that the lessons are about becoming a responsible person, language
teachers ' prominent target is to help their students use language that is lively and common and is
the flavor of everyday communication as unique individuals. Moreover, the old system of just
grammar is not match the new age of technology and nowadays student as a tiny part of this
increasingly ever-changing world. Therefore, what we need is merging that formal and old
education, the traditional Strategies, to the new and informal one, the creative Strategies.

Although relatively little research has been conducted that examines the creative teaching
practices of elementary teachers providing instruction in English in Iran where English is the
second language, there is an increasing interest in this field which has been very productive
lately. Hence, it is suggested that a foreign language education begin during the stages of Early
Childhood Education by using above-mentioned creative teaching strategies.

4. References

 Davies, 1999.

 Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. New York:
Basic Books.

 Gardner, H. (1993) Multiple Intelligences: the theory in practice. New York: Basic
Books.

 Halliwell (1993) ‘Teacher creativity and teacher education’, in Bridges, D. and Kerry, T.
(eds.)

 Mur, Olga: Como introducir el Inglés en Educación Infantil, Madrid, Escuela Española.
1998.

 Wikipedia (2009) Creativity.

 Willis, J. (2007). Brain-friendly strategies for the inclusion classroom. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 Woods, P. (1996) ‘The Good Times’, Creative Teaching in Primary School’, Education
3-13, June 1996.

 Yeomans, M. (1996) ‘Creativity in Art and Science: A Personal View’, Journal of Art
and Design Education, 15(3), 241-50.