What You Can Do with Alphabet Cards – 7 Creative ESL Activities
In ‘The Sound of Music’, Julie Andrews sings, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”.
She’s referring to the musical notes, the basic building blocks for any tune or melody. As ESL teachers, our basic building blocks are the letters of the alphabet. Whether you have a fancy set of alphabet cards or just letters handwritten on slips of paper, there are plenty of fun activities you can plan with your young learners. And here’s a good place to start.
7 Creative ESL Activities You Can Do with Alphabet Cards
“When you read you begin with ABC…”
One of the first things we do when we teach the alphabet is simply point and teach, and then point and see if students remember. Turn this letter recognition into a game. Place your alphabet cards one next to the other to lay out a path. You may place them in alphabetical or random order. Give each student or group a game piece they can move along this path. They take turns rolling the dice, they move their pieces, and they must say the letter they land on. If they can’t say it correctly they go back two spaces. The student or team that crosses the finish line first wins!
Learning to Spell
For this game prepare a set of copies with three, four or five-letter words. In the first column paste only the picture, like this:
Students take turns pulling letters out of a bag. If they get a letter they can use, they add it to their grid. If they can’t use it, they discard it. All of the discarded letters are placed together for all to see. Before students take a letter from the bag, they may choose to use one of the discarded ones.
The student that correctly completes his/her board first wins. This is a highly versatile game, as you can print out sheets with any of the vocabulary you wish to practice.
Learning to Spell – Version 2
For this game, prepare a set of images, photos or flashcards for words your students should be able to spell.
Each student gets a picture card. The student who gets this card has the goal of spelling “face”. Students take turns pulling letters from a bag. They take the letters they can use and put the ones they can’t use in a discard area. Students decide if they will pull a letter from the bag or use one of the discarded ones. Once a student successfully spells out the word, they take another flashcard. And so it goes till all of the words have been spelled out. The student who has successfully spelled the most words wins.
This is a classic and very easy to play with a set of letters. A great way to review vocabulary! Spell out a word using your letter tiles and then scramble them. Students must unscramble them to correctly spell the word. You can give your class one word at at time, or give each student one word – see who unscrambles theirs first!
Place your letter tiles in alphabetical order. Ask students to close their eyes while you remove one. Move the letters closer together to eliminate the obvious gap. Ask students to tell you which letter is missing.
Scrabble, of Course!
Scrabble is a classic that you simply can’t neglect in an ESL class. If you don’t have your own board game, here’s a great Scrabble board and letter tiles you can print out. Now here’s a game you can adapt to different levels!
There’s lots of fun racing you can do with alphabet cards. Divide your class into two or three groups. Each group chooses a flashcard with a word they must spell correctly as a team. Place the cards on chairs at one end of the room and the letter cards at the other end. A team member chooses a letter and races to the team’s chair to place the letter below the corresponding card. The next player chooses another letter and so on till the entire word is spelled out correctly. If they make a mistake they continue racing till the word is spelled correctly. The first team that successfully completes the task wins.
Also, bear in mind that you can print them in any size, laminate them, or even turn them into magnets. You can also use foam or rubber letters! It is a small investment to make, and they are much more durable than paper cards. It is indeed absolutely essential that you have your own set of letters if you teach young learners. They’re great for warm ups, fillers or cool downs!
Try these and let me know how it goes! Any more ideas to add to the bunch? Suggest them below!
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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