My son Ashton, later diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, always struggled with letter recognition, letter formation, and handwriting. Hands-on learning activities were effective–at least until the next day, when all was forgotten. By kindergarten, he was riding treacherously close to “shut-down learner” territory, and I had hit a wall. I tried to come up with some fun way to reinforce letters on a regular basis. Then it hit me: letter constellations! Learn how to build them below.
This multisensory, mess-free letter craft supports letter recognition, letter formation, and early handwriting skills.
What you need:
- Black construction paper
- Regular star stickers – optional, but useful
- Glow-in-the-dark stars – These mini stars work well
- Adhesive putty (removable)
Note: Links point to the products we used. Any affiliate earnings go right back into the site, helping us keep The Wonder Nook ad-free.
Sizing Stars: There are two ways to go about choosing stars. 1. Use mini stars, like the ones linked in the supplies. Some children recognize glowing letters better when you use small, uniform stars. 2. Purchase a pack containing a mix of large and small stars. To reinforce handwriting, choose a pack featuring large and small stars. Use the large stars to mark stroke beginning and end points, then the smaller stars to fill in the rest.
Use the putty!: I highly recommend using some inexpensive adhesive putty to attach the stars to the paper; you may need to go back and reposition them to make letters clearer. I also lets you reuse stars for future crafts or when adding lowercase letters.
Phase 1: Letter Recognition and Handwriting
This method is excellent for new and struggling handwriters, including anxious, “shut-down” learners. Parents of more experienced learners can refer to the variation below, with or without completing steps 1-3.
Step 1: Grab a sheet of construction paper and some chalk.
Step 2: Draw whatever letter you are working on slowly and carefully, narrating along the way.
Step 3: Ask your child to erase the letter using one finger. It will take a few tries to remove most of the chalk, which provides excellent (and somewhat stealthy) reinforcement.
Step 4: Ask your child to draw the letter on the same sheet. A number of resources recommend offering new writers writing instruments that are small enough encourage some type of grip rather than the popular fist-hold. Remind anxious learners that mistakes can simply be erased. More often than not, faint chalk lines and smudges guide the child, boosting confidence along the way. Readers acquainted with Handwriting Without Tears might notice this process is very similar to the program’s wet-dry-try method, minus the wet.
Variation: More advanced handwriters can simply recreate the letter on a fresh sheet of paper.
Phase 2: Reinforce Letter Formation
Step 1: Once you and your child are pleased with the letter, give him or her a sheet or roll of star stickers. I let Ashton choose from an assortment. Since the dawn of time, a child + a gold star = positive reinforcement. In this case it was a number of glittery star stickers.
Step 2: Ask your child to recall each step used when writing the letter, then to place stickers and the beginning and end points of each stroke.
Step 3: Let your child have a little fun by letting him or her add as many stickers as they’d like to form their constellations, so long as they stay on the lines.
Phase 3: Long-Term Letter Reinforcement
Step 1: Grab some glow-in-the-dark stars, just like those plastered to your ceiling as a child. See the Sanity Savers at the top for guidance when purchasing stars.
Step 2: Adhere stars to the letter constellation using removable putty. You can also let your child do this step, though you might need to adjust things for clarity once the lights go out. Why use putty? See Sanity Savers at the top.
Step 3: Use the same putty to attach the letter constellation to your child’s ceiling. We chose to display them right above his bed. Because these stars do not glow for an extended amount of time, the above-bed method let Ashton view the letters for a time, yet fall asleep distraction-free.
Step 4: Hit the switch and enjoy your child’s personal letter planetarium!