Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alphabet Practice

While several of my reading groups are now reading leveled books, I still have two small groups that are working on the alphabet. The first group knows roughly half the letters in the alphabet, so we are really working hard on learning all of the letters. We are practicing reading the alphabet chart daily, and doing lots of letter sorting so they start noticing the different features of each letter. We have also been playing some fun little games.

One game we play involves them locating different letters. I will tell each student a letter and then they have to point to that letter on their alphabet chart. I can individualize this easily if there are certain letters I have been working on with the particular student. If they locate the letter correctly, I put a little pumpkin eraser on that letter on their chart-which they love!

Another game we have been playing is where they can point to any letter they want on their alphabet chart and tell me its name-if they do this correctly, then I let them take a little Halloween eraser to cover up that letter. These are similar skills, just in one game they are locating the letter and in one game they are generating the names of known letters so that they become more fluent with the alphabet.

My second reading group that is working on alphabet skills is a little more advanced. The students in this group know most of the letters in the alphabet, so we are not just reviewing the letters, but also working on developing knowledge of letter sounds. One game I play with this group is where I will make a letter sound (like mmmm) and then they have to point to the letter on their alphabet chart that makes that sound. If they do it correctly then I let them put a little ghost eraser on that letter of alphabet.

We have also been concentrating on hearing the first letter in words, so we've been playing a fun little game to go along with that. I have a pack of alphabet flashcards that I got at Target over the summer that I use for this game. I show the students a picture flashcard and they write down on their dry erase board the letter they think the word starts with. For example, in the photo below I showed them a picture of a turtle, we all said the word turtle together, and then I asked them to write the letter it begins with. Then I turn the flashcard around so they can see if the letter on the back matches the letter they wrote. They all did great and wrote the letter T! When they write the correct letter I let them take a little pumpkin eraser to put at the top of their dry erase board-it is amazingly motivating for them since this is a challenging game!

I really encourage them to refer to the alphabet chart for help if they get stuck. So, if they weren't sure what turtle started with, I would ask them to think about what picture on their alphabet chart started the same way, hoping they would think "Oh, turtle starts like tiger on my alphabet chart, so they both must begin with the letter T." I like how with this game they are not just working on hearing sounds, but also writing the letters as well. Soon I hope to move on to middle and ending sounds and have them write down several letters they hear in each word.

You might notice in my photos that I sometimes use file folders that I have cut in half as little "privacy screens" between each student at my table. We don't use these everyday, however this just makes things easier so that I can say something like "Point to the letter B" and they have to do the work themselves instead of just looking to see what letter their neighbor is pointing to on the alphabet chart. Another thing I do is keep little baskets on my guided reading table with a dry erase marker an eraser in each so that when we use the dry erase boards everyone has all the materials they need in their little basket.

I would definitely recommend the alphabet charts I use in my classroom. I got them years ago from Teaching Resource Center and laminated them so they would be extra durable. I love that they come in a large poster size that I keep on my easel for shared reading (see above photo) and then also the small individual size so I can give each student their own copy of the alphabet chart to work with. My students frequently use the mini-charts for writing workshop, reading groups, and even several of our literacy stations. I think that consistency is important when students are first learning the alphabet, so I like that they use the same alphabet chart with the same picture icons for everything.

I'd love to hear how your reading groups are going-especially any tips you might have for working with those kiddos that are still struggling to learn the alphabet.


  1. We are in our 7th week of school. Two things that I am doing differently...hopefully, better is keeping parents informed of gaps in learning. I am using ESGI to test my struggling students and print out the results to share with admin and parents. LOVE IT! I am also using HeidiSongs idea of RAN boards to practice the letters of the week. I spend less that 5 minutes going over the letters of the week with them. I take a few notes and give them feedback. This is helping too. Read her blog post for detailed directions.

  2. I love your idea of privacy screens! I could honestly use those all day every day. Having first and second graders together leads to an EXTREME amount of copying by the first graders whenever we do a whole group activity. So frustrating.

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  3. As a reading teacher in kindergarten, I am continually working to build those alphabetic skills. Some students come to me without even knowing how to sing the alphabet. It makes me sad b/c some of them do not even know the tune :o( So I start there, singing the alphabet while pointing to the letters on our alphabet chart. Some are also still working to identify the letters in their name.
    ❤Mrs. McKown
    Little Literacy Learners

  4. We use privacy screens, too and I love them. I agree that it totally works. I call them offices like mom and dad have at work. The kiddos usually say can we get our offices out?!

  5. I recently found this post on Pinterest, and I' m so glad that I did. I've done these activities with my title I kiddos, and I found out who can and can't follow left to right and who can think of saying the alphabet to help them find the letter they can't find.