ABC...Have Fun With Me!

Throw out those old ABC worksheets and try some new and engaging hands-on activities to teaching the alphabet!

By Christen Amico

Alphabet on a chalk board

The first step to reading is mastering the sound/symbol relationship between the letters on the page and the sounds they represent. Mastering the alphabetic principle and building a strong foundation in phonemic awareness is essential for pre-reading. Although there are plenty of letter-tracing or match-the-letter-to-the-picture worksheets, they offer very little excitement and interest for those initially embarking on the adventure of reading. So, I offer my suggestions for a hands-on approach to conquering those first twenty-six sounds and letters.

Name Graph

This is a great introductory activity in a primary classroom. It works best if an adult can write each child’s name on a strip of paper and then have the child cut out the individual letters. Make a class bar graph by listing the letters on x-axis and numbers on the y-axis. Then, each person glues his letters in the appropriate section. As a class, you can analyze the most and least-used letters. This also introduces graphing, counting, and comparing skills.

All About Me ABC Book

We all have read the typical ABC books where A is for Alligator. This concept book can easily be adapted as a meaningful and educational tool for young readers. This is also a great activity to do as a family project because each letter should represent someone or something important to the child. For example, A is for Aunt Joan and B is for Brother. Children can use drawings or actual photographs to illustrate their own personal ABC book. More than just a book, this can turn into a lasting memory book. Alternatively, this can be a class book where each letter stands for something important in the classroom, such as A is for Always paying attention and B is for Behaving well!

Sign It Out!

Many students crave additional kinesthetic movements to accompany the typical classroom routines. Special needs and English Language Learners often rely heavily on hand movements and gestures to develop oral language. As each letter is taught, introduce the American Sign Language signal for that letter. Then, these letters can be used to enhance communication throughout the classroom; for instance students can sign the letter A when they have an answer, sign the letter R when they need to use the restroom, or sign the letter W for water. Many reading programs also incorporate hand gestures with each letter or have gestures to go along with the song. Whether it’s a sign or just a made-up hand movement, these motions will aid in the long term retention of the letter names and sounds.

Sensory Writing  

Just as students crave active learning activities, many preschool and kindergarteners need to practice writing without using a pencil. Beginning readers and writers will become more engaged in alphabet activities if they can be physically stimulating. By allowing the letters to be written in a sensory material such as sand/mud, shaving cream or skin (on a friend’s back) can help build muscle memory and emphasize correct letter formation all while being and fun and tactile way of teaching letters. You can also glue tactile materials (cheerios, glitter, cotton balls) onto a giant letter and trace the shape of the letters with your finger.

Letter Collage

Post one large letter on a poster board or piece of construction paper and encourage children to find words with that letter or pictures of something with that sound. Old magazines, school catalogs, or junk mail advertisements can be great sources of words and pictures! The words and pictures can be glued all around that letter. All letters can be compiled into a class book, or each child can complete one letter collage as a homework assignment and brought back into school to be shared.

Note: I accept pictures of items with the same sound as the letter even if it actually spelled differently. Example: a picture of a phone on the F page.

Lesson Plans:

Digital ABC Book

Use this lesson plan to create a digital ABC book using the program Pixie! This would be a great lesson idea for big buddies where an older student is paired with a preschool or kindergartener to collaborate on this super cool 21st century learning project together!

Animal Alphabet

Check out this fun lesson plan from Discovery Learning and help build phonemic awareness by connecting animal names and sounds with the sounds and letters in the alphabet.

ABC- Sing With Me!

Here is a very entertaining ABC video from Sesame Street in which kids try to move their bodies into the shapes of each letter. This video goes very quickly and focuses on letter names (capital letters) rather than sounds. None the less it is a catchy tune and will be sure to make your little ones want to get up and dance.