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Reference Materials #1: Dictionaries and Alphabets #1: Alphabet Games

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students practice using the Roman Alphabet in English.  I use this lesson with my Grade 3 students every year.  To do research in Unit of Inquiry books, students need to be able to use an index.  Without an understanding of basic alphabetization, using an index is impossible.  Some of them understand the concept of arranging words in alphabetical order, but for many of them this is new material.  Many students struggle with what to do if the first letter is the same.  Being able to alphabetize is a skill, one that needs a bit of practice!  The students enjoy these games, and I particularly like the collaborative, hands-on approach that these lessons take.  Almost always, when I teach this lesson, teachers document the activity for posting on the class Weebly or digital portfolios.  Get your alphabet cards ready and enjoy these alphabet games!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To practice alphabet skills so that students have a better chance of using and working correctly with dictionaries, indexes, encyclopedias, library spine labels, etc.

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Working as a class, students will correctly alphabetize four groups of letters/words.  The four groups begin with very easy material but quickly become more difficult.  Each set of words/letters much be placed in correct alphabetical order.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Provocation: Use a set of keys.  Tell the kids that the “key” they will practice today “unlocks” an infinite amount of information.

Begin by singing the “Alphabet Song.”  Ask the kids how the alphabet can be a key?  What could the alphabet unlock?  Ask the class to sing the alphabet song together so that you know that they know the alphabet.  If they can sing the song, they can complete today’s work.

Relevance:  We need the alphabet to work in many of our reference materials.  We must be able to confidently look up words, find books on shelves, and locate articles based on how they are spelled.  Thus, the alphabet is very important!

2. Main:

Four alphabet games:

  1. Letter cards (red)
  2. Words cards in which each first letter is different (yellow)
  3. Word cards in which each first letter is the same, but each second letter is different (green)
  4. Word cards in which each first two letters are the same and the third or fourth letters are different (blue).

See the photos and letter/word lists attached.  I made my own materials for this lesson, but I have provided everything you need to make your own material set.

Students form a giant circle sitting on the floor.  Everyone gets one card per game.   The only two rules are that:

  1. You may not touch anyone’s card but your own.
  2. You may not speak or gesture to another student. Every person must think through the alphabet every time.  If you call out an answer or tell someone else when to put his card down, you’re taking away his/her chance to learn!  Don’t spoil the fun.  Think to yourself and think quietly!!

The person with the first card gets the class started, and the silence cannot be broken until the last card is on the floor.

After each round, let the kids give themselves a round of applause.  Then, clarify any word meanings they do not understand.

3. Conclusion:

We will practice again next time.  Being able to work confidently with the alphabet is an important skill!


Alphabet game cards, four sets.  (See photos and attached word/letter lists.)


I love using this lesson because it is cooperative and incorporates movement.  Too many alphabet lessons only use a pencil and paper, and this one is simply more fun.

I have never completed the four rounds without a lot of talking/whispering despite all my pleas to the contrary.  Some kids can’t help but shout out or take control by telling others what to do.  I try to remain good natured about this, but if you have someone who is consistently spoiling the game for others, you might have to ask that child to sit out for one round.

Recommended books for this lesson:


Key Terms:

Alphabet, Alphabetize, Alphabetization, ABC Order

Word Card Word Lists

Letters (Red)

First Letter Different (Yellow)

Second Letter Different (Green)

Third or Fourth Letter Different (Blue)