How to Put Together the Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: A = Know the Alphabet
(Part A = Know the Alphabet)
Like so many subjects of study or interest, the English language can be regarded as a puzzle—a complex set of components that work best in coordination with one another. And, as in all puzzle solving, the pieces have to be regarded (looked at, noted, and perhaps mastered) one by one—or a few at a time, perhaps in segments of language material or subject matter. Here’s a categorization of “Language Teaching & Learning Puzzle Pieces” (also available at worklifeenglish.com) that seems to work because it’s inclusive yet flexible:
In turn, the information behind each of these major puzzle pieces can be divided into “Teachable/Learnable Competencies,” which can be further separated into specific Language Skills, Techniques, Activities, Tasks, Materials, and the like.For instance, here’s a chart showing 12 divisions of material likely to help achieve numbered Competency Goals A-1 to A-12: “Say & Recognize Letters,” “Put the 26 English Letters in Alphabetical Order,” “Play Bingo or Lotto with Letters,” “Feel the Letters,” and so on.
Parts & Pieces Chart A (below)functions as a gateway to all you need to choose from to become proficient in the English/Roman alphabet, as well as to begin study of four other World Writing Systems: Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Cyrillic.
As shown above, there will be comparable Parts & Pieces Charts designed to facilitate instruction in B. Phonics & Spelling, C. Vocabulary, D. Grammar, E. Listening, F. Speaking, G. Reading, H. Writing, I. Coordinated Language Skills, J. Content, K. Concepts, and more.
In each Parts & Pieces Chart A-K, “Teachable/Learnable Competencies” are numbered to keep separate kinds of information, lessons, or materials in approximately logical order. Most important is the “Do It!” Column, which divides the overall goal (mastery of all the uses of alphabets) into equal or comparable portions. Here’s some commentary on the 12 listings in the above Chart A: Alphabet Letters & Symbols: Parts & Pieces. To see an entire “Part or Piece,” you can click on its underlined title in the image on our website.
A-1. Say & Recognize Letters At any level of proficiency, English speakers should be able to recognize and name the 26 letters of the English alphabet because they’re the vital foundation of all language abilities. Here are instructions on how to cover them with handouts, posters, and activities.
A-2. Put 26 Letters in Order Although ability to alphabetizeisn’t needed until later, it’s easier to learn the letters in sequence from the start. And it’s fun to do so—with Alphabet Chains, Songs, Rhythm Games, and Worksheetsto mark.
A-3. Play Alphabet Bingo & Lotto For mastery of the letters of any alphabet (English, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Cyrillic, etc.), Bingo/Lotto materials and procedures are especially suitable. Bingo focuses on oral skills (the pronunciation + comprehension of the names of the letters). Lotto is for visual matching of letter forms (capitals & lower-case, block printing & cursive). Learning levels and goals will determine the scope and design of the Game Boards & Caller/Matching Cardsyou create and/or use.
A-4. “Feel” the Letters At any level of proficiency, kinesthetic/tactile learners may do better if they can touch or manipulate learning materials. Combined with visual and/or auditory techniques, physical movement tends to optimize the results of this learning style. These ideas and instructions make use of textured alphabet letters, body poses, and hand/finger positions.
A-5.1 “Match” the Letters “Games of Strategy” on the “Battleship Model” engage players of all ages. They’re especially useful in reinforcing the names and forms of the letters of an alphabetic writing system (English, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Cyrillic, etc.). Learning levels and goals will determine the scope and design of the Game Grids you create and use. At higher learning levels, procedures for play will also provide spelling/reading practice. They work to reinforce vocabulary and content instruction, too.
A-6. Print, Write, & Type Letters Eventually while improving their English, language users will want to form block letters with pencils or pens, perhaps develop their own handwriting styles, and certainly type symbols on the keyboards of computers or handheld devices. Here are conventional tools for doing so.
A-7.1 Play Cards with Alphabetic Symbols Is it coincidental that analogous forms (upper– vs. lower-case, block print vs. cursive) of the 26 letters of the English/Roman alphabet correspond neatly with the “4-suit + 13-rank” design of classic playing-card decks? The 104 letter variations AaAa to ZzZz make them uniquely suited to the creation of 26-, 52-, and 104-card sets. As with other “Multi-Leveled Materials Designs,” learning proficiency and goals will determine which versionsof card decks you choose or create. And it will be fun to use them not only in teaching/learning the letters but also for motivating cooperative/competitive card play. There are many motivating, exciting games to play.
A-8. Use Alphabet Letters in Learning Activities Often, the most effective educational practice and assessment activities require no preparation. They can be conducted on the spur of the moment. These two ideas—”Name Chain” & “Letter Dictation”—enable participants to exchange meaningful information while reinforcing their ability to understand and use oral spelling. “Oral Spelling Alphabets” are useful to learn, too.
A-9. Build Alphabet Skills in Exercises, Puzzles, & Games Beginners often expect and appreciate traditional paper and pencil exercises for learning the basics of alphabet letters. But like more confident students, they’re also likely to enjoy and benefit from creative puzzles to solve (“Letter Lines,” “Letter Spaces,” “Letter Finds & Counts,” “Letter-Words,” “Initial Letter Sounds”). “Letter Mazes,” “Dot-to-Dot,” “Searches,” and “Crosswords” offer more entertaining challenge. And there are always “Alphabet-Guessing Games” to engage language learners that like to compete.
A-11. Use Alphabet-Letter Codes It’s not only the printed letters of the English/Roman or other alphabets that interest motivated learners. Many people are fascinated by other ways to communicate symbolically, including physical systems. Here’s material to introduce the Semaphore Alphabet (+ Maritime Signal Flags), Morse Code, Braille, American Sign Language, and other “secret codes” that don’t involve linear letters.
A-12. Use Other Alphabetic Systems Interest in the forms, order, and meanings of alphabetic symbols in one’s own writing system may lead to curiosity about other ways to represent speech sounds in writing. Here’s an overview of historical systems (pictograms, ideograms, icons) and the major sets of printed sound-symbols used in the world today (Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Roman, Cyrillic, Korean). You can look into “Con-Script Alphabets,” too.
A-Xtra Anything Else we think of later!
So where do “Parts & Pieces” come from? Click these images, examine the books, etc., find, choose, download, and use to ensure learners “Know the Alphabet.”
For monthly email newsletters with free tips, tools, and resources for English language teachers and learners, sign up here!
About Work/Life English For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of native and non-native English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons, strategies, and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.