Kinesthetic Letters

Kinesthetic Alphabet, Kinesthetic Letter Formation

UDL 1.3 UDL 3.3

Kinesthetic Letters is an early literacy strategy in which students learn to identify the letter names and sounds through physical body movements and tactile practice methods. Often, the teacher introduces the strategy using physical actions to teach letter names and sounds while the class is seated at the rug.The teacher models a physical movement for each letter of the alphabet while displaying a picture of the letter and chanting the letter sound. Students follow along by copying the movements and chanting the sounds for all of the alphabet letters. Then, the teacher integrates additional kinesthetic and tactile activities such as writing letters in a salt tray, using pointer fingers to write letters in the air or creating playdoh letters. This hands-on approach is particularly effective for early learners as they begin to connect visual letter symbols with letter names and sounds.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Flash Cards

Illustrated Letter Cards: Lowercase

A set of illustrated lowercase letter cards paired with real-life animals and objects. Letters are grouped in the order in which they can be taught to reduce confusion between similar looking and sounding letters. Included are blank cards to individualize or personalize letter cards.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · English Language Arts, Reading · 5 pages

Flash Cards

Illustrated Letter Cards: Uppercase

A set of illustrated uppercase letter cards paired with real-life animals and objects. Letters are grouped in the order in which they can be taught to reduce confusion between similar looking and sounding letters. Included are blank cards to individualize or personalize letter cards.

Grade K, 1, 2 · English Language Arts, Reading · 5 pages

Implementation Tips

Selecting Letter Movements
Select movements for each alphabet letter. One option for letter movements is the [[|American Sign Language alphabet]]. Another option is to find a reading curriculum that uses movement (e.g. [[|Zoophonics]]). Or, conduct a quick search for resources to assist you in creating your own movements (e.g. [[|Alphabet Movement Movie]], [[|Letters of the Alphabet]]).
Introducing Letter Movements
Model alphabet movements, along with the letter names and sounds, beginning on the first day of school. While seated at the rug, show students one letter card with a corresponding picture. Say the letter and picture names. Chant the sound and make the movement. Have students repeat the steps with you. Follow this procedure for all of the letters. As the school year progresses, use a set of alphabet cards without pictures.
Using Alphabet Cards
Use large alphabet cards that display both upper and lowercase letters and a picture. Alphabet cards are often available as part of a reading series. They can also be purchased at most teaching supply stores, or found online (e.g. [[|Printable Alphabet Flash Cards]].) Have two sets available; one for display and one to use as flashcards. Finally, laminate for durability.
Integrating Tactile Activities
Include kinesthetic letter activities in learning centers to provide students with additional practice. For example, have students make playdough “snakes” and form letters on laminated alphabet cards. Or, have students use dry erase markers to trace letters on laminated cards. Another option is to have students match upper and lower case magnetic or foam letters.
Preserving Materials
Ensure Kinesthetic Letters materials last a long time by demonstrating and reinforcing how to care for the materials. When using dry erase markers to trace letters, model how to put the cap back on tightly, making a “snapping” sound. Magnetic letters, foam letters, and letter stamps can be labeled and stored in plastic tubs. Demonstrate how to properly store playdough in its container by snapping the lid on or zipping the plastic bag closed.
Daily Implementation
Integrate the kinesthetic letter practice throughout the school day. During calendar time, practice the alphabet by identifying each letter, chanting its sound, and making a corresponding movement. When students are wiggly, have them dance to alphabet songs such as, [[|“Alphabet in Motion”]] or [[|“Bean Bag Alphabet Rag”]]. Use alphabet flashcards, chants, and movements anytime you have an extra five minutes.
Motivating Students
Motivate students to practice the alphabet through music and movement activities. These activities reach visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Spread laminated alphabet cards around the rug. Play an engaging alphabet song and have students dance, move and march while stopping on each laminated card to name the letter.


Incorporating Movement
After practicing the motions of each letter during circle time, the teacher says, “Today we are going to use bean bags and a very silly song to practice our letters. First, I will show you the movements and then we will practice together.” The teacher then plays [[|“Bean Bag Alphabet Rag”]] while modeling using a bean bag to carry out the motions described in the song. When the song ends, the teacher says, “Now, it’s your turn to practice. Spread out so you have enough room to move.” As students are spreading out the teacher hands each one a small bean bag. The teacher plays the song again, dancing along with students to serve as a visual reference while students are dancing.
Introducing a Learning Center
After practicing letter movements during circle time, the teacher tells students that they will have a new learning center to continue to practice the letters of the alphabet. The teacher then shows the class a storage container that is labeled, “Playdough Letters.” The teacher opens the bins and says, “Inside this learning center there are balls of playdough and letter mats. I am going to show you how to use these items to practice making letters.” The teacher then models rolling a ball of playdough into a “snake” and forming the letter “e” on a laminated mat. After modeling forming three different letters, the teacher demonstrates how to put away the materials securely in the correct container. The teacher then releases students to free choice centers. While students are working on preferred centers activities, the teacher remains at the new learning center and supports students as they are attempting to roll playdough “snakes” and form letters on the letter mats.
Practicing in a Small Group
While working with a small writing group, the teacher says, “Today we are going practice writing our letters with a very fun and messy activity.” Then, the teacher covers each child with a painting smock to protect students’ clothing. Next, the teacher sets a 12 x 18 sheet of wax paper front of each student seated at the table and drops a few teaspoonfuls of pudding on each sheet of wax paper. The teacher demonstrates how to smear the pudding on the wax paper to create a writing surface and asks students to do the same. Then, as the teacher models how to write specific upper and lower case letters, the students use their pointer fingers to write in the pudding and practice saying the letter name and sound. They erase the letters by smearing the pudding. After several minutes of practice the teacher allows students free time to draw their own pictures in the pudding.

Related Strategies