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Alphabet Workout lays fun foundation for reading success

three girls in the classroom excited to get active with their learning, all matching with pink, blue and black. ​When Eastridge Preschool teachers Celia Horowitz and Sam Winkler want their young students to get ready for their literacy lesson, they sing.

“A little jingle to start – it makes them so excited!” Horowitz said.

celia horowitz smiling as she showcases the letter s. in return, her students move like snakes. Their three-, four- and five-year-old students eagerly get their Alphabet Workout letter books and prepare to make letter sounds and motions. For example, they know the word “sock” starts with the “s” sound and they make a “ssssssssss” sound with a snake-like movement. They also trace letter shapes with their fingers.

Music and motion are two key elements of “Alphabet Workout,” an early literacy program now being used in all preschools in the Cherry Creek School District.

“Cherry Creek is focused on excellence for all,” said Stacey Peoples, director of Early Childhood Education for Cherry Creek Schools. “This program builds the foundation for excellence starting with our youngest students.”

celia horowitz holding the number two with her fingers while showing her class a page in the learning book. Alphabet Workout teaches pre-reading skills. The program focuses on phonemic awareness – learning the 44 phonemes or sounds the 26 letters in the English language can make – and phonics – which is connecting the shape of a letter to the sound or sounds it makes.

“Phonemic awareness is a greater predictor of reading success than any other measure including IQ,” said Darcie Frohardt, a retired Cherry Creek Schools kindergarten and preschool teacher. She developed Alphabet Workout in 2003 with her sister, Mary Forhan, a former preschool teacher and director.

“I could not find materials that I felt were appropriate for the little guys to learn letter sounds,” Forhan said. So the siblings created their own materials, starting with letter cards and stories. “We added music because we know kids learn through music. We wrote a song for every letter.”

three girls following directions and pointing to different images in their learning book. They made sure the program emphasized phonemic awareness through a variety of multisensory methods.

“We use the puppets, the props, the stories, the letters, the movement, the drama and the songs to hook the kids and to bring the sounds into muscle memory,” said Frohardt. “That’s how we can move our kids forward so quickly.”

Horowitz and Winkler agree that the multisensory approach is effective.

student point with their left index finger to the letter "i" along with a picture of an igloo.“It actually sticks,” said Horowitz, who admits she was skeptical about the program at first. “But the kids have caught on so quickly.”

“Everyone is getting something out of the lesson,” Winkler added. “Some might get pre-language skills, some might benefit from the fine motor skills of tracing the letters.”

The program has been especially beneficial to preschool students who don’t speak English and are not yet familiar with the English alphabet.

“Our English language learners are really excited,” Horowitz said. “They can participate. They don’t have to know the names of the letters to join in.”

Though they use Alphabet Workout for just 10 to 15 minutes each day, the program has a lasting impact.

“It’s so important in every aspect of their school career,” Horowitz said.

“We know kids need to enter kindergarten with that letter-sound relationship, the ability to identify the sound that goes with the symbol of the letter,” Stacey Peoples said. “Research shows that if they are successful with phonemic awareness and phonics, they are going to be successful with reading and vocabulary.”

 

Posted 4/25/2016 9:34 AM
Celia horowitz presented her students with a yellow learning book.

 

“Cherry Creek is focused on excellence for all. This program builds the foundation for excellence starting with our youngest students.”
Stacey Peoples,
Director of Early Childhood Education for Cherry Creek Schools

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Cherry Creek School District No. 5 does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in admission to its programs, services or activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations. The lack of English language skills shall not be a barrier to admission or participation in the district’s activities and programs. The Cherry Creek School District No. 5 also does not discriminate in its hiring or employment practices. This notice is provided as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Questions, complaints, or requests for additional information regarding these laws may be forwarded to the designated compliance officer: District Compliance Officer or directly to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Region VIII, Federal Office Building 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite #310, Denver, CO 80204.

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