Students need to know the English language alphabet is presented using 26 letters, one of the foundational skills of reading. Students must be able to recognize, name, and form these letters in order to read and write. Reading A-Z provides books, practice sheets, chants, friezes, flashcards, and bingo cards for every letter of the alphabet to ease repeated practice.
Why Use Alphabet Resources
Recognition of the letters of the alphabet and knowing the sounds they make is one of the key predictors of reading success. Alone, each letter of the alphabet has limited value, but combinations of letters create words, the essence of written communication.
In order to read an alphabetic language like English, students must learn the alphabetic principle—that letter symbols represent sounds. This knowledge is a critical precursor to reading words, since words are merely a combination of the letters that can be used to represent a word's specific combination of sounds.
How to Use Alphabet Resources
It is important to assess a student's knowledge of the alphabet at the beginning of kindergarten and grade one in order to plan the instruction needed. Accuracy and speed are both important, and both should be assessed using Alphabet Letter Naming assessments.
The pace of introducing letters will vary from student to student. It is probably best to start with one letter per week. If students seem to have no trouble mastering one per week, you may want to try introducing more than one.
It is not enough to be able to recite the names of letters. Students must come to recognize their shapes. For preschool children and students lacking alphabet knowledge, don't teach upper- and lowercase at the same time. Start with uppercase letters, as it is easier to tell one uppercase letter from another.
Point out the similarities of features in letters—for example, the small circles that are found in the lowercase letters o, a, d, and b, as well as the lines used to form t, l, d, and b. Point out the common parts of letters like e and c, M and W, m and n, and P and R.
Students should recognize that letters are made by combinations of straight lines, curved lines, circles, and dots. For example, if you show them that the letter c is formed by making a curve, you can point out that d is formed by adding a straight line to c.
When it comes to teaching individual letters, avoid teaching, one after the other, letters that students confuse with each other. Make sure they have mastered one letter before introducing a visually similar letter. For example, don't closely follow the teaching of lowercase d with b or vice versa.
Focus on the most common sound for each of the letter symbols. Use picture words that begin with the sound, and have children recognize the sound by naming the picture. Be sure to segment the target sound and blend it back together.
For example, show students a picture of a bat. Ask: What is this? Repeat the word by emphasizing the /b/ sound. Have students repeat and place emphasis on the /b/. Associating the sound with a picture will help them remember the sound.
Try to teach a combination of consonants and vowels that permit early word formation. For example, by teaching b, a, and t first, you can form the words bat, at, and tab. Students can then blend and segment the words to practice the individual letter/sound relationships they have learned.
One of the best ways to teach letter shapes is to have students write the letters. The two most common forms of letter writing are Zaner-Bloser style and D'Nealian style. Whatever you teach, remain consistent with the method of letter formation you use.
Start children off with practice on unruled sheets of paper. Then introduce them to lined sheets. Reading A-Z has Letter Formation Practice Sheets available for downloading and printing. These worksheets are available in both Zaner-Bloser style and D'Nealian style.
Letter & Picture Card Activities
- Alaphabet Concentration: Play using letter cards. Use no more than 16 cards (8 pairs). If 16 cards are too many, adjust the number of cards so as to not frustrate students. You can also use picture cards and letter cards. Each letter card is matched with its corresponding picture card.
- Letter-Picture Matching: Hand out a letter card or picture card to each student. Write a letter on the board. The student whose picture begins with the letter or who has a matching letter card stands up. That student says the letter and the word of the picture (if they have picture cards). You should reinforce the answer and have all the students repeat the letter name and its sound.
- Alphabet Walk: Take a walk around the school or neighborhood. Look for letters that you have been studying in environmental print, or identify objects that start with specific letters.
- Play "I Spy": Have children try to identify what you spy that begins with a certain letter. You can give added hints if needed. For example, "I spy something that begins with B. You can read it." (book) Have the student who correctly identifies the object go to the board and write the letter. Have everyone practice saying the word with emphasis on the first letter.
- Beginning-Ending Letter Label Games: Label objects in the classroom that begin with a letter you have just taught. Or give students cards with the letter on them and have them attach the letter card to anything in the classroom that begins with that letter. A more difficult task would be to have them place the letter card on an object that ends with the letter. This can only be done with certain letters that appear at the end of words and make the common sound you have taught.
- Highlight & Count in Print: Give students a clipping from a newspaper or magazine and have them circle or highlight all the examples they can find of a specified letter. You can challenge them to find a certain number of occurrences, such as seven. The number should vary with how common the letter is.
- Alphabet Train: Give students letter cards. Call out four to five letters. As you do, those who have the card come to the front of the room. When four to five students have come forward, direct them to arrange themselves in alphabetical order.
- Tactile Letter Formation: Provide experiences for tactile activities related to letter formation. Use pipe cleaners, wax sticks, or salt or sand in trays. Students also enjoy drawing letters on zip-top bags filled with hair gel colored with food coloring.
- Group Letter Building: Place students into groups of four to five, and have them use their bodies to form letters. If it takes only one or two bodies to form a letter, have the group form more than one of the letters.
- Move Your Body: Have children perform an action that represents a letter. If you say H, they hop. If you say W, they walk. If you say J, they jump. If you say Y, they yawn. You can give them a prop such as a ball and have them do things with it depending on the letter called out. For example, say B, and they bounce the ball. Say T, and they toss the ball. Say C, and they catch the ball.
- Search & Find: Divide the class in half. Give one half of the class lowercase letter cards. Give the other half matching uppercase letter cards. Have children search for their match. You can play a similar game with letter and picture cards.
- Alphabet Caterpillar: Write letters on paper plates. Mix them up. Have children make chains or a caterpillar using the paper plates. However, they have to put the plates in alphabetical order. Give them pipe cleaner "antennae" to put at the head of the caterpillar.