Why I Teach Uppercase Letters First
In my phonics program, I start by teaching uppercase letters first. Over the years, I've had plenty of parents and teachers ask me why I teach Capitals first? After all, the majority of the print we see are in lowercase.
I also have various videos showing young kids learning to read using flashcards with words printed in capitals, and some people comment as if teaching capitals to children deserves capital punishment. Why so small-minded? There must be very good reasons to teach uppercase first if I have been doing it for 10 years...
With the kinds of reading success I can help children achieve, there are indeed 2 key reasons why I choose to teach uppercase letters first.
1) Many younger children will confuse the lowercase spellings of b, d, p, q, and some (much less common) will also confuse lowercase spellings of h, n, and r.
This first reason applies more to younger aged children. The confusion between lowercase b and d is by far the most common, and by starting our phonics lessons with uppercase spellings, I can delay this confusion until we transition to lowercase letters about half way through our program.
2) The second reason applies to children of ALL ages, and is by far the most important. I start with uppercase spellings to prevent my students from looking at words as "shapes" by relying on the protrusions that they see in lowercase spelled words! This is extremely important.
You see, I work with many struggling readers, and the majority of these struggling readers struggle because they are taught with sight words and word shapes in schools! So when I start teaching these struggling readers, using uppercase spellings prevents them from looking at the shapes of the words for clues to help them guess! Have a look the words below:
As you can see, when words are spelled in all uppercase and we draw a shape around it, all you have is a rectangle, but when spelled in lowercase, there are protrusions that students can focus on to help them. By starting with upper case, instead of looking words as "shapes", struggling readers are forced to look "inside" the words as I teach them, and use that to read and decode.
About half way through my program's lessons, we transition to all lowercase spellings, and by this point, these struggling readers have developed a robust understanding of how English functions as an alphabet based language, and no longer look at words as shapes. By the time they finish all the lessons in my program, they're all caught up to grade level, and will have developed exceptional phonetic reading skills.
I hope this has shed some light on why I choose to teach first with uppercase letters. My phonics program teaches BOTH uppercase and lowercase letters, and we transition from uppercase to lowercase about half way through the program lessons. By the time we finish the lessons, all my students go on to become amazing readers, and they can read both uppercase and lowercase.