Why Teach Uppercase Letters First
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Why Teach Uppercase Letters First?

I am sure you can recall the first time your child came home from Kindergarten with a prized possession of artwork! Usually proudly displayed, at the top or bottom in big uppercase letters, was their name.  But why teach uppercase letters first?

Because they are easy to learn and write, uppercase letters should be taught first!  They are primarily composed of straight- letters and circles and almost all stop and start at an easy-to-explain place on the page. They teach formation and orientation, which eliminates letter reversing, and it is easy to transition from uppercase to lowercase letters.

Do you know how letters of the alphabet became known as uppercase and lowercase? Many years ago, print shops kept their metal-type letters in boxes called cases.  The smaller letters were most often used and were held in lower cases as they were easy to reach, and the Capital letters used less frequently were in upper cases. 

But what are uppercase letters, why teach them first, and in which sequence should they be taught?

If you are looking for resources on Upper and Lower case letters you can find them at the bottom of this page, free to download, print and use 🙂

What Are Uppercase Letters?

Children must learn to recognize and name the letters of the alphabet and the sounds associated with each letter to become literate.  They need to know how to write these letters, first in uppercase and then learn them in lowercase.

The word case signifies whether the letters are written in sizeable uppercase form, also known as majuscule, or in the lowercase form, known as minuscule.  The first written alphabets were exclusively in uppercase.  The tireless writing of scribes became smaller as they began writing quicker, and these letters later developed as entire lowercase letters.

Purpose of Upper Case letters.

Most uppercase letters are more extensive and taller versions of their lowercase counterparts, but others are very different in form.  Uppercase letters are also known as Capital letters.

There are three primary purposes for using uppercase.  They are:

  1. To let the reader know when a sentence is beginning. So we capitalise at the beginning of sentences.
  2. To show essential words in a title. The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  3. For proper names, nouns and official titles. Like Monday, September, Lord, World War 1 etc.
Why Teach Uppercase Letters First

Why Should Uppercase Be Taught First?

One of the most important things a child learns when they first start school is distinguishing between and writing the 26 letters of the alphabet.  Children first learn letters in formal education between the ages of 3 to 5 years.  

In the English alphabet, children have difficulty learning two sets of letters, uppercase and lowercase, and some of these letters have entirely different shapes.  Children learn how to grip a pencil correctly while practicing the strokes to form letters.

In the beginning, learning to write the alphabet takes a lot of effort and coordination, and uppercase letters are easier to write than lowercase letters.  The lowercase letters are smaller and have more curves and rounded edges in their formation.

At younger ages hand eye coordination is still developing and so better suited to learning upper rather than lower case letters.

Reasons Why it is Best to Teach Uppercase Letters First:

  • Uppercase letters are large and composed mainly of straight lines and circles, making them easy to write for children who are still developing fine motor skills.
  • Capital letters begin at the top and stop at the bottom of the page, making it easy to understand where to place them.
  • Uppercase letters are simple in form as they do not need to cross back over their lines (capital M as opposed to lowercase m where you travel back up and over the first and second line to form the top arches).
  • Uppercase letters eliminate the process of reversing, which is often a problem with lowercase letters (mixing up b and d or p and q).
  • Children usually learn to write their names first using uppercase letters.
  • Capital letters are everywhere!  Toddlers may not identify letters but can recognize the stop sign or the street name or names and labels of their favorite fast food.  Toddlers who are still developing their visual discrimination skills find these uppercase words easier to “read.”
  • Children can practice writing uppercase first while learning to control a pencil before writing the more complex lowercase letters.

In What Order Do You Teach Uppercase Letters?

Although most children learn to write their names first, it would be easier to understand the more straightforward letters first and then progress to those more challenging to write. 

Try the following sequence:

  • Start with letters that only comprise upright and straight lines (E, F, H, I, J, L, T, U)
  • Slowly introduce letters with curves (B, C, D, G O, S, Q, P, R)
  • Lastly, introduce letters with diagonal or slanting lines (A, K, M, N, V, W, X, Y, Z)

Resources to Teach Upper and Lowercase Letters.

We have a large selection of free alphabet and lower and upper case letters on the site and you can find the links below. These are free to download and use in homes and classrooms. We also have a shop, and loads more free resources that are worth looking through if you are teaching English.

Excuse the large pictures! I will work on that!

Upper and Lower Case resources.

Alphabet FREE Resources

Cursive Writing Handbook. – More advanced.

Once your students are advanced enough they will move from upper and lower case to cursive writing. We have these for you when they are ready 🙂

Fun Activities To Teach Uppercase Letters first

Introducing your pre-school child to uppercase or “big” letters should be fun, easy, and engaging.  Here are some activities to learn the alphabet letters by using visual, tactile, and sensory stimuli.

Visual Activity -Popsicle Pick

Young children learn by what they see, so it is essential to incorporate visual activities in the learning process.  

  1. Take a sheet of brightly colored construction or cardstock paper and cut out 26 medium-sized squares. 
  2. Paste pictures beginning with each letter of the alphabet in the center of each square. 
  3. Above the image, write down the letter and at the bottom the name matching the picture, e.g. (picture of a house, at the top the letter H and below the word House). 
  4. Store the cards in a material bag or box.
  5. Paint Popsicle sticks in bright colors (children can help with this activity).  The child selects a flashcard from the box and practices writing the letter with Popsicle sticks.
Why Teach Uppercase Letters First

Tactile Activity – Messy Letters

Tactile activities assist the child with hand and finger awareness.

  • Tape a piece of waxed paper to a table and spray a thick layer of shaving cream or whipped cream onto the paper. 
  • Call out a letter of the alphabet, and the child must practice writing the uppercase letter in the shaving cream.
  • A fun way to learn!

Sensory Activity – Alphabet Pegs

Sensory play encourages the development of motor skills and problem-solving.

  1. Brightly paint 26 clothes pegs. 
  2. Your child can help you with this task. 
  3. Write the letters of the alphabet in uppercase on each peg.  
  4. Attach the pegs to a small box or basket. 
  5. Hand a plastic clothes hanger to the child and call out the alphabet in the proper order,
  6. The child must select the correct peg from the basket and peg it onto the hanger.

Conclusion

Why teach uppercase first? Because uppercase letters are simple in form, primarily composed of straight lines and circles, and easy to write.  Uppercase letters eliminate the reversal process, where children turn letters around.  Young children can practice writing uppercase letters while holding a pencil correctly before learning the more difficult lowercase letters.

Follow the sequence of teaching uppercase letters formed with upright and straight lines first and then those containing circles.  Finally, introduce the letters with slanting lines, making learning uppercase letters for children much more straightforward.

Before reading, children will need to know uppercase and lowercase letters, so why not start with the easiest letterform to understand. 

I hope you will enjoy engaging with and teaching your child uppercase letters by choosing one or all of the fun activities!

References

https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/5-easy-tricks-and-tips-to-teach-your-preschoolers-to-write-capital-letters/

https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-are-there-uppercase-and-lowercase-letters

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_case

https://www.esc.edu/online-writing-center/resources/punctuation/capital-letters/

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