Teaching the alphabet can be a tiring and tedious process. There is really little else you can do to learn a new series of symbols, squiggles and shapes other than writing them repeatedly and drilling them mercilessly. This can be a very boring and discouraging thing, especially for young children. Once you have developed a foundation of alphabet recognition, however, instead of boring practice, there is a series of games you can incorporate into your lessons. These will get your students working with the letters of the alphabet in a fun and (for them anyway) exciting way.

There are a few items you might want to invest in to make your life easier if you teach the alphabet on a regular basis. You should have large, colourful cards of each letter that can be hung above or on the blackboard or whiteboard. I find cards are better than a banner because they can be moved around, handed out and used in a number of the games that I describe below. A banner can't do much for you other than hang on the wall. If you have made your cards yourself, it is a good idea to have them laminated if possible. It is a well know fact that children have perpetually grubby hands. Furthermore, lamination will keep your cards safe from being torn to shreds, as some alphabet games involve getting to a card first.

It is also useful if you have several sets of smaller alphabet cards. These should also be laminated if possible. If you can get your hands on alphabet blocks or alphabet magnets, then get your hands on them and bring them into the classroom. Kids really enjoy being able to play with such things and you can use them to teach word formation later on.

Alphabet Relay

Divide your class into groups of 4-8 students and have each group stand in a row. Alott a space on the board for each group and give the first person in the row a peice of chalk or a marker. On your mark, the first student runs to the board and writes the letter a. When they have finished, they run to the next person in the row, pass on the marker or chalk and go to the back of the line. The next student then runs to the board and writes the letter b. The students continue to write the alphabet in this way until they reach the end. The group to finish first is deemed the winner and can jump up and down cheering or ooo and ahhh over their new stickers.

Broken Telephone Alphabet

For this game, the students will again be working in rows. It is better, but not necessary that they be sitting on the ground. Have your large, expertly coloured, laminated alphabet cards at the front of the room within reach of even the smallest student. Ask the student at the back of each row to come outside the class with you. Pick a letter of the alphabet and tell your students. They must walk back into the classroom, return to the back of their row and sit down. When you say Go the students write the letter of the alphabet that you told them on the back of the student who is sitting in front of them. This student, who hopefully recognizes what letter was written on their back, does the same to their classmate in front of them. The letter writting coninues until the student at the front is reached and s/he can then stand up and grab the corresponding alphabet card. The first row to finish is awarded a point, and the team with the most points is deemed the winner.

Alphabet Race

The object of this game is to put the alphabet in order as quickly as possible. The team with the fastest time is the winner. If you have enough sets of the alphabet for each of the teams, than a stopwatch is not necessary. I find, however, that kids enjoy this aspect of the race as it makes it feel more like a real race. Also, they can track their progress over the school term and see how their time improves.

Karuta

For karuata you will need a set of alphabet cards for each group of up to 6 students. Students sit in a circle either at their desks or on the ground with the cards, face up, within equal reaching distance from each of them. When you call out a letter, the first student to grab that card, keeps it. At the end, the student with the most cards is the winner.

Connect the Dots

This will be a hit with your younger students. Students connect dot A to dot B to dot C and so on, until they form a picture. You can then try to elicit the name of what is in the picture. You can also let your class have 5 minutes of quiet colouring time, always a popular activity. You can find some Connect-the-Dots on-line, but you can also make your own. Draw a simple picture in pencil and mark the outline in dots, each with a corresponding letter. You can then erase the picture, photocopy and hand out to your class.

Board Games

Alphabet board games are easy, fun, active and require no preparation on your part. Like all the above games, divide your class into groups. One student from each group stands up and when you call out a letter, s/he has to run up to the board and write it. You can also call out a word and tell the students that they must write the first letter of that word. Again, the first team to get the letter correct, wins a point.

For younger students, or classes that are not as advanced, you can write out the alphabet on the board. When you call out a letter, the first student from each group must run up and circle the corresponding letter on the board.

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