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Tutoring Archives – Queens Letters

How to Teach Children the Alphabet? We Asked One of the Top Experts Dr. Jan Wasowicz

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How to teach young children the alphabetLearning the alphabet or letter recognition is your child’s first step towards mastering reading and writing. But sometimes, teaching such an important skill can be a confusing process for parents. Do you start with the letter names or letter sounds first? Is there a particular way children should learn their ABCs? And how do you make sure you are laying down the right literacy foundation for your little one? Dr. Jan Wasowicz, a speech language pathologist, gives us her insight on how to teach young children the alphabet.


When teaching young children the letters of the alphabet, do we teach them first to say the letter names or the letter sounds?


Dr. Wasowicz: “It depends,” applies here.

“Students need to learn how to form letters and need to know letter names. If that is our objective in a lesson, we use letter names, and the student says the letter name as they form the letter.

Students also need to learn and make connections between sounds and letters -phoneme (sound)-grapheme (print) mapping- to read and spell words. If alphabetic principle, letter-sound relationships, encoding (spelling) and decoding of words, and development of robust lexical (vocabulary) representations of words and word parts is our objective in a lesson, we have the students say sounds as they write (or read) the letters.

With a student who already knows her letter names, can form all the letters but needs to improve letter formation/handwriting skills, and also needs to improve phonological awareness (when listening to words or sounds), phonics (print-sound relationship), and reading and spelling skills, having the student say the sounds as she writes the letters allows us to simultaneously address multiple learning objectives at once.

As Dr. Virgnia Berninger says, the teaching of reading and writing is a very, very complex process. She writes, “Literacy instruction drawing on integrated reading-writing is like fine cuisine, which is made from multiple ingredients.”

When working with students, I often feel like an orchestra conductor leading an assembly of musical instruments (some of those instruments are not so well-tuned!). The processes of reading and writing—and the literacy instruction itself—are a dynamic interplay of multiple linguistic, cognitive, and sensorimotor elements that need to be called upon at just the right moment, in synchrony and fully integrated with each other for a masterful performance.

What we teach at a given point in time and how we teach something depends on many factors. Not the least of which is our instructional learning objective.

Effective teaching of reading and writing requires us to know what the individual student brings to the table. It also requires us to understand the WHY we do what we do.

When we understand the who (the individual student) and understand the why, we know what to do when.”


Dr. Jan Wasowicz has 35+ years of experience as a language, literacy, and learning specialist working with students who have language-based reading, writing, and spelling disorders in a variety of educational settings, including public schools, Head Start programs, and private practice.

Dr. Wasowicz has taught numerous university-level courses and is frequently invited to speak about best practices in literacy assessment and instruction at professional conferences.

She is the inventor of the Earobics® software, author of SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing, and lead moderator of the SPELLTalk professional listserv — the FREE professional discussion group dedicated to improving literacy through discussion of research and evidence-based best practices.

Dr. Wasowicz is an ASHA-certified, IL-licensed, and FL-licensed speech-language pathologist, and she holds a professional educator license with multiple endorsements from the State Teacher Certification Board of Illinois. She is also the founder and CEO of Learning By Design, Inc.

Top 3 Homeschooling Tips for Parents Who Want to Keep Their Child Engaged

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Keep these homeschooling tips for parents in mind to ease your transition into this new type of learning.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to change the way today’s students learn, more and more parents are now looking at homeschooling their children for the coming school year. Likewise, school districts are shifting to blended and distance learning in lieu of in-person classes. This new method will follow the school’s regular curriculum and recreate classroom settings online as best as possible.

These changes aim to ensure the pandemic that forced most of the world to retreat into the safety of our own homes does not derail education.

But while studying at home can ease concerns on safety, it can also be challenging. Even more so for parents who did not plan on becoming their children’s primary educators.

And like many challenges, the biggest hurdle seems to be knowing where and how to start. From finding the right curriculum to setting up a learning space, the process can be overwhelming for parents. Particularly those dipping their toes on homeschooling for the first time.

To help ease you into this transition, we have rounded up some of our top distance learning and homeschooling tips for parents.


1. Create a suitable learning space

You don’t need to recreate a classroom inside your home, but having a designated learning space is key. This helps your child to focus on and embrace the idea of studying at home better.

Having a space that fuels their creativity and learning materials within reach will encourage them to concentrate and participate more.

Similarly, it’s important to have a daily schedule to guide your child through the day. This will recreate the structure they had in schools and help them ease into this new type of learning. 

However, it’s also necessary to keep your child’s routine flexible and loosen up your expectations. Let your kids share control over their schedule, and include them in decision-making. Make sure to have room for playtime, breaks, and, if possible, outdoor activities.


2. Make learning more fun with activities

Bombarding your child with tons of schoolwork will do more harm than good. Whether your child is entirely homeschooled or part of your local school’s distance learning program, it’s important to keep things balanced with fun activities. This is especially true in making sure boredom doesn’t get in the way of your child’s online studies.

One of the most important homeschooling tips for parents is understanding and being aware of how your child learns best. That way, you can tailor activities in a manner that will be easier for them to grasp. (And you will know which things will easily distract them.) A multimodality approach takes advantage of learning by using visual, audio, kinesthetic, and motion to help students learn.

For young children, adding sensory play in their daily activities will boost curiosity, improve motor skills, cognitive function, and problem-solving skills. Include crafting activities and give them simple tasks to complete independently. Doing so will give your child a sense of accomplishment and boost their confidence.

If you have a teen, introduce practical applications of their lessons. It can be tricky to ward off boredom and distractions (such as video games and social media) when you have a teen, so shake up their routine from time to time.

One way to do this is by challenging your child. Introduce activities that stretch their imagination and encourage academic and personal growth. Whether it is through simple experiments or tasks that teach essential life skills. What matters is you allow them to have first-hand experience by showing them how concepts apply to real-life situations.

Homeschooling is a good opportunity for your child to dive into passion projects and pursue their interests.


3. Encourage your child to pursue a passion project

One of the best homeschooling tips for parents is to allow your child to pursue their interests. Especially the ones that may not fit in their regular school curriculum.

Passion projects can be particularly empowering for your child. They take the lead in deciding which project to do, how they want to present it, and which direction they want to go.

For tech-savvy teens, this can be learning how to code, build an app, or starting a blog or YouTube channel.

For younger kids, passion projects can be a great way to encourage their curiosity and sense of discovery. They can choose to learn an instrument, start a little vegetable garden, or create an illustrated guide on the life cycle of their favorite animal.


Homeschooling Support for Kids and Parents

Distance learning is set to become one of the primary teaching methods when students return in the fall. But like homeschooling, its main concern is how to keep students engaged. It is no wonder most guides and homeschooling tips for parents give focus on techniques and activities that will keep children interested in their studies.

As both teaching methods rely on independent studying, it can be challenging for parents to make sure their children stay focused. As such, it may result in students falling behind their peers when it comes to academics.

Luckily, this doesn’t mean distance learning or homeschooling cannot be successful. Research shows that independent or virtual learning tends to be more effective when a child has a guide or mentor on hand. 

Having a facilitator is key in redirecting focus, tracking progress, and supplementing gaps that may cause a child to fall behind. And one of the ways to ensure your child is getting the support they need is by providing them the help of a private tutor.

Themba Tutors and Brooklyn Letters are New York-based private tutoring companies. They are fully committed to providing fun, individualized, and dynamic tutoring, coaching, and therapy sessions for children and teens.

Composed of traveling learning specialists, academic tutors, and executive function coaches that work one-on-one with students of all ages, they provide multidisciplinary and personalized services.

Brooklyn Letters offers in-home and online literacy (Orton-Gillingham Approach) and math tutoring services as well as speech, language, and feeding therapies in the New York City metro area seven days a week.

Themba Tutors provides in-home services in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, Westchester County, Fairfield County, Connecticut, and sections of New Jersey.


For more information, contact:

Themba Tutors

(917) 382-8641 / (201) 831-9848


Brooklyn Letters

(347) 394-3485

(917) 426-8880

Text: (201) 899-4399


Want to know more homeschooling tips from the experts? Here are some videos we recommend!

Watch this video as Brooklyn Letters director and homeschooling mom Nicole interviews Brooklyn Letters reading specialist Joana on how to make online classes a success!


Looking for online resources and websites you can use for your child’s homeschool and online classes? Here are Brooklyn Letters speech language pathologist Amy’s recommendations!