Alphabet Practice

Parents, caregivers and educators alike frequently read alphabet books aloud to our juvenile audiences. After all, the alphabet is an important topic and we may deem these books “educational” even if they become rote or uninspiring to us. Why? Because knowledge of the alphabet paves the way to the essential skills of reading and writing. But what if you are worn out of the same old alphabet prose: A is for apple and Z is for zebra?

This week our family thoroughly enjoyed reading through Anita Lobel’s Playful Pigs from A-Z. Although an apple does show up in this book, it is a wonderful read-aloud with little ones. I particularly liked that Playful Pigs from A-Z contains unique names, strong verbs of alliteration (think “nibbled an N” and “unveiled a U”), whimsical illustrations, and a lovely border that shows the full alphabet in upper case and lower case. As an extra bonus, the illustrations include an item that begins with its corresponding letter. We used a Google search at our house for a few of the lesser known items and – hooray! – the grown-ups and kids were learning together!

And, of course, what my children liked most about the book were the cute and playful pigs.

Best Age: prek – kindergarten for Reading, 1st-2nd grades for Language Arts

For Parents:

  • Have your child trace the large letter on each page as you read together. This helps some kids to better remember how to form the letters by kinetically, or physically, relating to its shape. It is also good practice for writing.
  • Look for the “hidden” items in the illustrations for each letter. What surprised you? Did you know all of the items immediately or did you need a moment to figure some out?

For Teachers:

  • In Playful Pigs from A-Z, the verb for B is “balance.” Put a line of painter’s tape on your classroom floor and ask students to balance on it with one foot. Have them draw items out of a box (another B word!) that start with the letter B and see if they can hold on to the items while balancing on one foot. Examples may include books, reusable bags, empty plastic bottles, balls, empty cereal boxes, binoculars, a jar of buttons, a pair of boots, a small blanket, a can of beans.
  • Have students choose a letter from the alphabet using slips in a jar, popsicle sticks or flash cards. (You may want to use more common letters and avoid tricky ones like Q and Z.) Together as a whole class or in small groups, come up with objects that begin with that letter, similar to those in the box of “B” items in your earlier activity and the hidden illustrations in the book.
  • Create a chart that has 3 columns: Names, Actions (Verbs), Objects (Nouns). Decide in advance whether you’d like to use appropriate terminology for verbs and nouns. Take time to review what a verb is as this is likely the most challenging of the three columns for students to come up with. Together, select a high-frequency letter and fill in the chart. For example: S. Sam, Simon, Steve, Sara, Sophia, Savannah/See, Stomp, Swim, Scoop, Sip/Sand, Sun, Snake, Snail, Socks, Soup. Then instruct students choose a word from each column to create their own sentence, such as Simon scoops the sand. Allow students to draw a picture if desired.

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