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Showcasing Carole McCurry and "An Alpha Bit"

"An alpha bit is a reminder of a letter taught at school that is sent home," Carole McCurry told Education World. "The children love to have the bit to take home. If I forget or we get busy and I don't get to it, the children are sure to remind me. They always look forward to what they will get to take home."

As a kindergarten teacher at Riverview School in Brandon, Manitoba (Canada), McCurry uses her "alpha bits" to help students recall letters of the alphabet that they are studying in class. The idea for the project came from the practice of sending "story bits," or "souvenirs," to remind children of stories they have read at school.

"I loved sending home the story bits, and I thought 'Why not also send home a bit of each letter we study at school?'" recalled McCurry. "Then, when my students were asked What did you do today?, there would be a bit of something to get the conversation started."

When her students study the letter A, for example, McCurry sends home apple stickers. For K, each child gets a "kiss" in the form of a hand stamp shaped like two lips. "Sometimes the bit is something they can eat; sometimes it's something they have colored or made at school; sometimes it's a photocopy of something," McCurry explained. "For X, I made an x-ray of each child's hand on the photocopier. They loved that one! I often change the alpha bits year to year, depending what I have on hand. The activity is limited only by the teacher's imagination."

Parents enjoy alpha bits as much as their children, McCurry says. "An alpha bit gives the parents something to talk about, and they know that we did more than nothing at school!" McCurry encourages parents to discuss the letters studied at school, so alpha bits actually serve to strengthen the home-school connection.

McCurry advises other teachers to try alpha bits too. Although the activity is simple, she recommends advanced planning. "Sometimes, it takes some work to get alpha bits ready, and we know how little time we have for all we have to do," she said.

Alpha bits have been so effective for McCurry that she plans to continue sending home "bits" of letters in her new post as a full-time kindergarten teacher at Kirkcaldy Heights School, also in Brandon.

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