Teaching Students to Recognize Uppercase & Lowercase Letters

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  • 0:03 Teaching the Alphabet
  • 0:46 A 3-Step Process
  • 2:30 Uppercase & Lowercase Letters
  • 3:13 Best Practices
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

Which should you teach first, lowercase or uppercase? How do you help students to understand that both letters represent one sound? This lesson gives you pointers for teaching students to recognize uppercase and lowercase letters.

Teaching the Alphabet

You've probably heard the phrase, ''It's as simple as ABC,'' but is teaching the alphabet really such a simple and straightforward process? In reviewing guidance on teaching the letters and their sounds, you may find conflicting advice about teaching uppercase and lowercase letters, such as whether to introduce one or the other first, whether to teach sounds first or letters first, and what activities can help facilitate this process. Which is the best approach for your students?

Let's look at work from Utah State University education experts called ''Enhancing Alphabet Knowledge Instruction''. We'll also consider activities and best practices from a range of sources that help students to recognize and name uppercase and lowercase letters.

A 3-Step Process

Enhanced Alphabet Knowledge (EAK) instruction breaks down which aspects of the alphabet to focus on first, second, and third:

1. Identifying the letter name and sound.

Let's say you are focused on the letter ''D'' today. Using the EAK approach, you would start your class with a very brief introduction to the uppercase and lowercase version of the letter.

  • State that the name of the letter is ''D''.
  • Show how one is the uppercase and one is the lowercase by pointing to the written form of the letter or writing it as you say it.
  • Ask students to practice saying the name of the letter at least several times as you alternate pointing to the uppercase and lowercase versions.

The second part to this process is to teach the letter's sound.

  • Use the phrase, ''The sound the letter 'D' represents is /d/'' and give examples of the letter through words or even stories.
  • Show how you use your mouth and tongue to form the sound.
  • Practice the sound with students, once again pointing to both upper and lowercase letters.

2. Recognizing the letter in text.

Now, you've got a new task: being sure that the student can really recognize the letter and ultimately distinguish uppercase from lowercase. Think of this step as a hunt for the letter, both in uppercase and lowercase, in various formats. Have students say both the letter and its sound when they find it. As they are able, you can ask students to identify whether the letter is uppercase or lowercase, a skill that can be honed over time.

3. Focus on producing the letter form.

Finally, you'll show students how to write it. You'll outline the letter on paper lines, showing the difference between the uppercase version and the lowercase version. You can point out how some of the lowercase letters match their uppercase partners (and are just smaller), while some are different from one another.

Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

As students become comfortable with their letters, they will learn to spot uppercase versus lowercase more easily. Here are some ideas for helping students practice this:

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