Starting the Alphabet

Last week we finished Anusha’s first Language block on the Alphabet. In this block I introduced the first six letters. Originally I thought I would do this using Grimm’s fairy tales, but I changed my mind as I really liked the idea of using a story that continued throughout the whole alphabet. I had seen the book ‘The Wise Enchanter’ by Shelley Davidow before and this is what I finally decided to use.

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Journeying through the alphabet in this way really appealed to me and I thought it would to Anusha as well. The story follows four young children as they go on a journey to rediscover the twenty six symbols of the alphabet before light and language is overcome by darkness and ignorance. Each chapter introduces a new symbol or letter, which the children add into their magic book as an illustration. So far Anusha is really enjoying the story and Elki’s been listening in while he’s working away too.

Other books that I am also using are:

The lovingly illustrated ‘Old Freedom Train’ alphabet book by Shayne Jackman, which consists of a beautifully drawn, full page drawing for each letter, along with an accompanying verse. Anusha has been loving finding out what the next picture and verse will be as she learns a new letter.

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An alphabet book by Gyo Fujikawa, which we’ve had for a couple of years. I actually still have a favourite book from when I was a child by Gyo called ‘Betty Bear’s Birthday’. I love the style of the cute illustrations in these books. The ‘A to Z Picture Book’ has a page or two for each letter consisting of black and white drawings of things starting with that letter and the name written next to them. There are also a few verses and double page colour illustrations for some of the letters.

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Even though this is not a new book for Anusha, now that she is learning the letters and really taking them in she is enjoying it in a whole new way. She likes to point to each little drawing and say the the name of the letter it starts with as I read out what it is. And I am also reading a fairy tale from Grimm’s for some of the letters as an additional story,

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During this block I only read one fairy tale which was ‘The Willow Wren and the Bear’, for letter ‘B’. Other resources that I am using for myself are Eric Fairman’s ‘A Path of Discovery’, Grade One manual, and ‘The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers’ by Donna Simmons.

We began the first lesson by reading the prologue and first chapter of The Wise Enchanter, in which ‘A’ was discovered. After this Anusha and I used different ways to make the letter A. We made the form with our whole bodies, I drew it on the floor with pastel and we walked along it, we drew it in the air with our fingers, made it on the ground with rocks, shells, and sticks,

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drew it on each other’s backs and in the sand, and made it with playdough. Next, we had a look at the letter ‘A’ in the Old Freedom Train, which is an Angel. Anusha particulary likes the verse that goes with this letter. As this was the first lesson and Anusha wouldn’t be drawing in her main lesson book until the next day I suggested she might like to draw the Angel, and we sat down and drew the Angel together.

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We then had a look at the ‘A to Z Picture Book’, and to finish the lesson we put ‘A’ from the alphabet freize that I am making up on the wall.

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The following day we began by talking about what had happened in the first chapter of ‘The Wise Enchanter’. I prompted Anusha by talking about how it started, letting her take over with the parts she could remember, and then continuing on to prompt her again. After this I gave Anusha her Main lesson book, calling it her special book (like the magic book in the story), and showed her the picture I had drawn for her to copy. I am basing my drawings on the illustrations in the book but making them more simplified and coloured (in the book they are black and white), and as I go along I find that I am making them more my own. I am also writing the letter on the page.

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My drawing for A

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Anusha’s drawing for A

When I first showed Anusha my picture of the Ancestor she started to get upset and didn’t want to draw it. I’m not quite sure why. I thought perhaps she was a bit daunted by it, but she did copy a lot of my drawings last year for kinder when I was telling her fairy tales, so I don’t know if that was what it was. However, I calmly spoke to her about how this was her very special book and that this was her first drawing of the alphabet and her first step in learning how to read. I told her that it was a part of the lesson and something she needed to do, but that she did not need to try and make her drawing look exactly like mine and that it would be her beautiful picture. I also said that when she finished her special book she would have drawn the whole alphabet and with that she could make all the words in the world. After this she had a go, and once she got started she was fine, and was very proud of her beautiful drawing when she finished.

After she had finished her drawing we continued on and read the second chapter which introduced ‘B’. I approached each letter in a similar way, following the same daily rhythm. On the first day we read a chapter from ‘The Wise Enchanter’, made the form of the letter in lots of different ways so Anusha could really feel it in her body, looked at the letter in ‘Old Freedom Train’, and ‘A to Z Picture Book, and put the alphabet freize picture on the wall. On the following day we began by talking about the last chapter and then Anusha copied my drawing into her main lesson book. On some days I also prepared an art or craft activity based on the letter she had just learnt, and read a Grimm’s fairy tale. Then the cycle continued as we read the next chapter…..

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My drawing for B,

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Anusha’s drawing for B.

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‘B’ of my alphabet freize

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Our little boats made from modelling wax, with ‘B’ shaped paper sails and toothpick masts.

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My drawing for C

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Anusha’s drawing for C

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‘C’ of my alphabet freize

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My drawing for D

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Anusha’s drawing for D

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Anusha drawing her picture for D. I took this photo when Anusha and Elki were both quietly working away and they were both poking out their tongues in deep concentration (I think it’s a family trait!)

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‘D’ of my alphabet freize

For the letter D we made little fairy or dwarf doors. Scott cut out a piece of wood for each of us (Elki wanted to join in on this activity too), and firstly we gave them a watercolour wash.

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Then, after about half an hour of drying by the fire we painted on designs with acrylic paints. We all drew our designs on paper first before committing them to our doors. Elki’s is the door to ‘Sunnyland’ on the left, mine is in the middle, and Anusha’s is on the right (she ended up changing her design quite a lot once she started painting). Anusha was very eager for our fairy doors to dry so she could use them in her dollshouse doorway.

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Elki joined in when we made E out of seashells and rocks.

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My drawing for E

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Anusha’s drawing for E

I haven’t got any further than D with my alphabet freize yet, but hope to find time in the next week to make E and F! We finished our last day by reading the chapter for F and making F in lots of differents ways. Each day when we have been drawing the letters on each others backs I have been drawing all the letters on Anusha’s back and asking her to guess which one I’m drawing, and then she does the same for me. And that is where we are up to with the alphabet. When we go onto a second block later in the year we will start by revisiting the last chapter about F and Anusha will add a drawing of F to her main lesson book.

This week we are starting Anusha’s first Maths block, introducing Numbers!

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6 thoughts on “Starting the Alphabet

  1. How wonderful this journey will be into letters and words! Anusha’s drawings are beautiful (as are yours). And thank you so much for sharing the books you are using.

    • Thank you Kelly, it’s my pleasure to share, I do hope that recording what we do in this way will help others as so many blogs have helped me by giving me ideas and inspiration!

  2. Gorgeous. Thanks for sharing. I loved every picture.
    My big boy has been on this journey this year too.
    Waldorf presents learning letters in such a magical and all encompassing way. How special to be the one to share this experience with your own child. I love looking through my 7 year olds work book each week and hearing the stories he has learnt. (He is at a Steiner School)
    So much wonder!

    • Thank you for you kind words Aleta! It is a very exciting year, and I too love the way how, in Waldorf, a lot of concepts are presented through stories and art, it has always been one of the main things that drew me to this way of learning. Cheers.

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