Reggio Emilia: The Alphabet

Oh my word!  I am so excited!  I took a tour of a local Reggio Emilia inspired preschool, Rosa Parks. I was blown away with the beauty in this school.

I am so grateful for the generosity and kindness of the teachers to allow photos and permission to post them on this blog.  Thank you Rosa Parks!

I documented so many wonderful things to share with you.  I am going to share them by groups over the next 7 days:

  • the alphabet
  • color
  • birthdays
  • hanging art
  • tables
  • numbers
  • families

You are in for a real treat.

 Little drawers of letters in the writing area.
 Cut pieces of wood with letters.  The teacher told me she put sticker letters on the wood and painted the wood.  After the wood dried, she removed the sticker.
  The letters of the alphabet created using found objects and materials on a painted surface.
You could use canvas boards, foam core or heavy paper.
 A close of view.
 Each child has the first letter of their name in a wood cut.  On their birthday – they get to decorate their initial.  So cool!
A writing tray with colored sand and a paint brush.
 A brilliant sign-in sheet!  The first letter of the child’s name.  Love this for preschoolers!
Another teacher created an alphabet frieze with twig letters the class made.  Beautiful!
A framed piece of metal sheeting for letter magnets and popsicle sticks with magnets for children to create letters!
See you tomorrow with Reggio Emilia: Color
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  1. So many good ideas here. Love the wood “birthday” letters!

    • Just wait! There were so many amazing ideas – I was truly on overload!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The gracious professionalism this staff offers up each and every day to our community of educators and families is absoultely unmatched… Thank you for your model of support and practice…

    • It was pure inspiration to talk to the teachers of these classrooms. Every child deserves a community like Rosa Parks offers. It is a jewel in our community!

  3. Anonymous says:

    All capital letters. Why do we focus on capital letters when lowercase letters are used 95% of the time in both reading and writing?

    If we teach capital letters first then the child writes in all capital letters. The kindergarten and first grade teachers then have to re-teach and break children of the habits of writing in all caps. Capital letters have 2 rules: To start a sentence and for an important name. See Zoo-phonics…….please.

    • I understand what you are addressing – totally. But these classrooms are three-year old classes and it would not be developmentally appropriate to teach ANY handwriting. It the visual recognition and the context is play.

      My perspective was completely altered when I went into European kindergartens (Switzerland) and NO formal instruction was given on any level regarding the alphabet. It was all exploration. I asked to see a first grade classroom and how they were doing given the absence of this instruction.

      What I saw was astonishing. Their handwriting and sentence structure far exceeded what we see in America. I realized – there is a time for each level of instruction.

      I see the Reggio classrooms as exploration like the Swiss classrooms.

      What I think you are referring to is the sad state of affairs in USA preschools where handwriting is started way too soon. I feel this should be delayed until a child is 7 years old.

      • Kass says:

        I completely agree with you regarding how early we are starting handwriting with children. Most places I observe have journal writing for 3 year olds using lined paper. Developmentally they are unable to do so. It is a struggle for the child and the teacher. The uppercase letters are used in my classroom due to the ease of making the letter. Most are lines and we are able to bring different materials into play instead of physically writing the letter. This helps the children get use to direction, development, and the visual look of a letter using “hands-on” which in turn helps them when they decide to use a writing utensil.

      • Nancy Baker says:

        I completely agree, Sally! There is a lovely window for each opportunity, and it is in everyone’s best interest to find the window and not push through a wall. Over my many years of practice in childhood education, as a teacher and educational diagnostician, with exposure to and experience with Reggio, Montessori, Waldorf, Constructivist, US public and private schools, and the home school community, in different regions, I have found this to be true. Yet sometimes, it’s still difficult to convince people. Thanks for your great resources!

    • Karen Strong says:

      I agree! Many of these activities could be done using lower case letters.

      • Me, too. I’m not suggesting any formal handwriting instruction. It is important to have letters in the environment, though, and those can be lowercase. We simply want kids to learn “a-ness” or “b-ness” etc, as they are ready. I had a friend from England who said all her kids learned lowercase first… don’t know if this is standard practice in England, or was just her experience.

        No matter the letters, what a gorgeous space and hands-on materials. Thanks for sharing!

    • Beverly Spitzer says:

      It’s too confusing for five-year olds to learn capitals and lower-case letters at the same time, and capitals are easier to identify, differentiate, and draw. Teaching lower-case letters isn’t breaking a habit — it is expanding their knowledge. “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” by Bill Martin, is an easy way to get the concept across, when they are ready.

    • Kree says:

      Another methodology, in Italy where I teach, common usage is to only teach children the capital letters through December of first grade. Then in the second semester they are taught lower case as well as cursive.
      Honestly, I am still trying to understand the logic behind this choice.

  4. Sue says:

    This was absolutely inspiring. I want to go there!! Looking forward to future posts about this amazing school! Sue at

  5. Anonymous says:

    Rosa parks is reggio at its finest!

  6. Karen says:

    I LOVE the Reggio approach. I worked at a Reggio Emilia based child development center during my college years, and I found the approach to be inspiring and powerful. It just felt “right.” Does Rosa Parks have an “atelier”? Our center was in the process of creating an atelier of natural materials for students to work with when I graduated. I think this is such a beautiful approach.

    I am looking forward to the post on color. We had jars of colored water all around the center that had slight variations of shade. I loved that the kids were not just exposed to primary and secondary colors, but everything in between. I was so inspired that my daughter and I created similar jars for her room! Thanks for sharing about what seems to be a beautiful school!

    Teaching Ace Blog

    • I agree – this approach is so powerful. And yes, they have an atelier and great resources. I love that you created the colored water for your daughter’s room. So wonderful! Lucky daughter!!!

  7. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you ever so much for sharing this! I studied the Reggio Approach at university but accepted I’d probably never get to see it done in practice.

    I’ve noted down some of the ideas to use in my setting, looking forward to more from you.

    • Yay! There are so many little jewels to take from this method. Enjoy!

  8. Lesley says:

    I just got back from a Reggio Emilia study week…I am so full of inspiration and so many questions. A friend pointed me toward your blog and I am loving it!!!!

  9. Nikki Koutspis says:

    My 3yo is in an early learning centre here in Melbourne Australia were they follow Reggio, so I am loving seeing these fabulous pics of what’s being done in other countries. I was quiet surprised when I asked when they start ‘teaching’ reading and I was told not until grade 2 (we have 3yo ELC, 4yo ELC, prep then grade 1 and so on) but its amazing how they can recognise letters. Keep up your wonderful work x

  10. Amy says:

    Wow very fun and easy ideas to implement. Love it!

  11. Lynn says:

    Any idea where to get a cabinet of little drawers like that for the alphabet?

    • Sally says:

      It is an organizer for bolts and nuts and such. I have purchased one at Home Depot and Walmart.

  12. kathleen wright says:

    I was just wondering what the “thing” is that is made of a shutter on the wall under the name letters. Are those little clothespins and then pieces of fabric, or cardboard maybe? Looks neat, but wondered if it had more purpose than that. Thanks.

  13. wendy says:

    that is such an inspiring post, some great idea, I am going to borrow for my preschool class

  14. Percy says:

    You truly inspires me … Thank you for posting them.

  15. Melody says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! I am in a rural part of nebraska and have started the first Reggio Emilia inspired program in the area. The closest program to study with is six hours away and another is eight hours away. I love your site and it helps keep me connected to professionals and networking. Having another place to see is so helpful. Thank you so much

  16. jennifer says:

    I love the sign in sheet with the block letters and names, do you have a template on the website to make one?

    • Sally says:

      Sorry – I do not. 🙁

  17. Stephanie says:

    Thank you! Fantastic post!!

  18. Chandi says:

    What are the letters in the boxes used for? Making words? Are they wooden letters in the boxes?
    How is that used for children?

    • Sally says:

      Making words and for free exploration. The letters in these boxes were cut out from magazines and from photocopied pages of letters so the children can glue them on paper, put the letters into any creation – be it art, writing, labeling. . .

  19. Jen says:

    What font was used for the Name sign in letters? I am looking for a good bubble letter or block letter font.
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Pia says:

    I love the number idea with string and tacks. Just above it is your documentation … did you document how the kids did it or how they worked on the concept of each number?

  21. Shelly Hozack says:

    As always these are great ideas. I really appreciate your time and efforts that you put into helping others like me on our teaching journey.

    Thanks again

    • Sally says:

      Thank you!

  22. Laurel says:

    I really am impressed! I am going to start the Birthday letters right away! I have so much to do and so little time to do it :-)!

  23. Susan says:

    I love your idea for preschool sign-in sheet where the child traces the first letter of their name. What is the name of the font you used for the capital letters for children to trace? Thank you so much!

    • Sally says:

      Hi Susan, You can find all sorts of block letters at It is a free resource for downloading fonts. Here is one that I like:

      Locate the block fonts under the category “Fancy” and then “various.”

      • Susan says:

        Thank you so, so much Sally! I’m going to start using your sign-in idea next week! I appreciate you! Sincerely, Susan

  24. Sarah says:

    These are all great ideas. I will be working on introducing making the letters out of sticks we gather on our nature walks. I love that way of creating our letters to place in our class. Thank you.

  25. Jacinta says:

    I am an Early Childhood Educator and our centre is Reggio Amelia inspired. It is great to get more ideas. Thank you, this will be great to stare with the staff.

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