Are you looking for some fun activities for practicing alphabetical order with your ESL class?
Do your students like learning that gets their bodies moving while their minds are working? Here are nine fun and active activities that give your students hands on practice putting words in order from A to Z.
Try These 9 Hands On ABC Activities with Your Students
If you use story dice or word dice for other language building activities (and even if you don’t) you can have them serve double duty by playing alphabetical dice. Using dice with printed words, letters of the alphabet, or blank dice that you label yourself, have students take turns rolling three to five dice and then putting the words in alphabetical order. This game is best in groups of about three, though you may not have enough dice for groups that small. If that is the case, consider setting up a learning center with the dice you have and directions on how to play with one or two other students.
For students just getting familiar with alphabetical order, this simple activity may be just what they need. To prepare, write the letters of the alphabet in random order on a blank piece of paper. Make sure you scatter the letters over the entire surface of the paper but don’t crowd them too close. If you like, you may want to include multiples of each letter as well as capital and lower case letters. Using dot markers, students cover the letters in alphabetical order. In other words, they search the paper for any As and then dot over them with the marker. They then move on to Bs and so forth until they reach the end of the alphabet.
Once students are familiar with alphabetical order, increase the difficulty of the previous exercise by writing selected words over the surface of the paper rather than isolated letters. Students then use highlighters to cross out the words in the correct alphabetical order. To give your class more practice, simply make a new page of words and copy them for your class. This activity works well either as a class or as a learning center.
Hands on activities are great for ESL students as well as kinesthetic learners. With that in mind, give your students a set of vocabulary which they can file in alphabetical order. Write one word each on an index card which your students will alphabetize. For an easier game, include only one word beginning with each letter. For a more difficult game, give as many words for each letter as you like. Then, provide your students with a plastic index card holder and alphabet dividers, both available at office supply stores. Students then file the cards under the correct letter in the file box. If you give more than one word starting with each letter, students will have to alphabetize within the lettered sections as well.
Styrofoam cups are an easy manipulative for giving your students alphabetical order practice. Using standard Styrofoam coffee cups, make a set of words for your students to put in alphabetical order. To do so, turn the cups upside down and write one word on the outside rim of each cup with a permanent marker. Students then rearrange the order of the stack of cups until the words are in correct alphabetical order from the top of the stack down.
Alphabetical Clothes Pins
Another manipulative that works great for alphabetical order practice is clothes pins. Write one word each on an alligator style clothes pin. Students then clip them along the side of a file folder in the correct order. If you like, trim about an inch off the front flap of the folder and write the correct answers along the inside of the folder so the front flap covers them. When students have finished arranging their clothes pins, they can lift the folder’s front to see if they are correct.
Alphabet magnets are easy to come by at most dollar stores, and with a simple baking pan you can make a magnetic alphabet activity that your students can use over and over. To create a magnetic alphabet learning center, put the alphabet magnets in a basket next to a baking pan. Write current vocabulary words on index cards for students to reference. They then copy the words from the index cards with the magnetic letters. As they copy the words, students should arrange them in the alphabetical order.
This activity takes some preparation, but you can use it over and over once you get the materials together. Decide how many words you want your students to alphabetize, and gather that many popsicle sticks. Create word lollipops by attaching a circle to the top of each stick with one word written on it. Then create a paper doll chain with the same number of children as there are word lollipops. Laminate the paper doll chain and set it out with the word lollipops. To practice alphabetical order, students lay the words in alphabetical order on each of the paper dolls. To make the activity a little easier, use a dry erase marker to write the first letter of each word on the correct paper doll. You can always erase it when your students are ready for more of a challenge.
If you have the room in your classroom, have your students work with you to create alphabet containers. Label 26 small plastic containers (the kind big enough to hold a sandwich) with the letters of the alphabet and store them on a counter or spare desk in your classroom. Encourage your students to bring in small objects or pictures of items and put them in the container which corresponds with the first letter of the object. To practice more complex alphabetical order, have a student take all the items from one container and put the pictures or items in the correct alphabetical order. Once the objects are in order, have the student write out the words for each of the pictures in a list of alphabetized words. Once students finish, they can swap containers.