In my opinion that best way to teach, and learn the alphabet is to keep in mind what the purpose of learning or teaching the alphabet is. A student learns the alphabet in order to learn how to read, therefore it should be taught with that overall intention in mind. I’m a big fan of using the Montessori method for ABC learning.
Traditionally the alphabet has been taught in order using both the names of the letters and the sounds that they make. However, that method can be confusing for students because it teaches two things at a time. When I ask a student what sound a letter makes, they often tell me the name of the letter.
First, instead of teaching both the names of the letters and the sounds that they make I like to start with the sounds.
Second, I like to break the letters into 6 groups, each containing 4 to 5 letters. I didn’t invent this method, I have to give credit where it’s due. This is the method used in most Montessori Schools.
There are two reasons why the letters are broken down in this way. First, because you don’t want to give the student too much information at once. Second, you want to give the students letters that they can make words with as they go.
I don’t start with a, b, c, d because you can’t make any words with those letters. Therefore if you teach the alphabet in order then you will have to teach many letters before you can form any words.
The order that the letters are taught in variest. This is the order I teach them in.
- Group 1: m s a t
- Group 2: b f o x
- Group 3: w i g l j
- Group 4: c u p z
- Group 5: h e n r d
- Group 6: v k q y
Many people like to use this order as well.
- Group 1: c m a t
- Group 2: s r i p
- Group 3: b f o g
- Group 4: h j u l
- Group 5: d w e n
- Group 6: k q v x y z
It doesn’t really matter which order you teach or learn the letters, the main points are to introduce 4 to 5 letters at a time and introduce them in a way that the learner can start making words with the first group of letters.
Students start by tracing one large letter at a time, made from sandpaper. The student is asked to trace the letter while saying it’s phonetic sound as they trace it. The letters are taught in five basic steps.
Step 1: This is
The learner is given the sandpaper letter and is told “this is___”. For example “this is /m/”, and then traces the m.
Step 2: Show me
The learner is then asked to show the teacher a letter. For example “show me /m/”. Note that the letters are only called by their phonetic sounds at this point.
Step 3: What is this?
This is done after steps 1 and 2 are practiced many times. This should almost be like a review session. The learner is shown a letter and asked what it’s sound is.
Now that the learner has been introduced to the letters, it’s time to associate the letter with words. Remember the letters are taught a few at a time, so if a learner were starting with my preferred order they would learn m,s,a,t first.
Step 4: Words that start with the letter
The teacher says the phonetic sound of the letter and then says a word that starts with that letter.
/m/ mat, mat starts with /m/. This allows the learner to easily associate the sounds with a word that they’ve probably heard before.
Step 5: More words with the letter
Now give the learner more examples of using this sound in a word. At this point I like to give 4 or 5 words that have the sound in different places, so that the learner can hear the way that the sound is used. It would go something like this, /m/ Listen. Can you hear /m/ mom, home, zombi. The learner should repeat these words and the sound /m/ should be emphasized. This will help them sound out words later, once they begin to learn how to read.
That’s it. That’s how I teach the letters. From there I go right into teaching a learner how to read. Teaching the letters in this way allows learners to begin reading very quickly.
They have the opportunity to start reading after learning the first 4 letters. After learners are very clear on the sounds that the letters make (and are reading phonetic words) I will teach them the names of the letters in the more traditional way.
At that time I’ll simply say letters have sounds and names. You already know the sounds, now let’s learn the names. /a/ as in apple is called A. A /a/ apple. Just make sure a learner is clear on the sounds before you introduce this new information.
More for you:
The English Alphabet – ABC in English
The ABC of Language Learning
List of Words With 17 Silent Letters in English
Phonetics: Consonants, Vowels, Diphthongs, IPA Chart definition and …
List of Words Without Plural Form (Uncountable Nouns)