Dollar stores are great resources for teachers.
You can find all sorts of materials there that make your classroom more interesting and effective. One such material is a magnetic alphabet. For just a dollar you get 26 building blocks for language that your students will love using and will learn from every time they do. Plus you get great versatility. If you aren’t sure what to do with these great little magnets, here are some ways you can use them in your classroom.
Check These Fresh Ideas for Using Magnetic Alphabet
Magnetic letters are a great material for practicing alphabetical order. Have one or two students make one or more words from the magnetic letters, or have everyone in your class make one word. (Note: you’ll probably need more than one set of letters if you are doing a full class activity.) Then challenge one or more students to put those words in alphabetical order. Not only will it reinforce that concept, it has the added bonus of reviewing spelling and possibly learning new vocabulary.
Find Your Word
Give your students a list of words you want them to find along with a loose pile of the magnetic letters. Your students must find the letters to make up the words on your list. Again, this reinforces spelling and also gives you an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary. This is particularly good for beginning students whose handwriting in English may need extra work.
Classroom Word Search
If you are looking for a way to get kinesthetic learners involved in learning a list of words, try a classroom word search. Give each person one or more words that he has to spell with the magnetic letters. Then scatter the letters around your classroom either singly or in small piles. (Make sure you have enough letters to spell all of the words you hand out.) Students race around the room to find the letters they need to spell their words. Once they find them, they sit down and spell out the letters on their desks or on the front board.
Help your students’ pronunciation by highlighting the different syllables in vocabulary words. Give them an example where you use different colors of magnetic letters for each syllable in a multisyllabic word. For example, difficult. When students see the different colors, it will reinforce how the word is pronounced. Then give them one or more words that they have to spell the same way, using a different color for each syllable in the word.
Teaching Word Families
You can easily teach phonic word families by using letter magnets. If you were going to teach “op” words (top, hop, mop, pop, bop, cop, lop, etc.) put the letters o and p on the board. Then show students that just by changing the first letter of the word, we can make many related words all spelled similarly and ending with the same sound. (Hint: this is a good time to teach about rhyming words if you haven’t already.) You can also give students the end of a word and challenge them to find other words in that family by choosing different letters to start it. For example, you might put “at” on the board. Then students go through the letters they have and decide which ones make English words (using a dictionary to check). They may discover that bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, etc. are all valid English words while dat, jat, kat, etc. are not.
Play Dough Prints
If you are teaching students young enough to enjoy play dough, use your magnetic letters as a type of printing mechanism. At a learning center, put out some play dough, your magnetic letters, and a rolling pin. Show students how they can roll out a piece of play dough and then press the letters into it to “print” words. It’s a great way to practice spelling and still have fun.
Want to see how well your students remember their new vocabulary? Make a set of magnets depicting your current vocabulary. Simply make a color photocopy for each word from a picture dictionary or other source on card stock, if possible. Stick a little magnet on the back (available in rolls at your local craft store) and put the picture magnets with the letters on a magnetic surface in your classroom. (If you don’t have one to spare, a simple cookie sheet makes a great magnet learning surface.) Students put the picture magnet on their magnetic surface and spell the vocabulary next to the picture with the alphabet letters.
If you have beginning students who are just learning the alphabet, this simple game is fun and educational. Print out a list of all twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Put the magnetic alphabet in a bag. Students draw a letter from the bag one at a time and mark it off their list. They keep pulling letters until their entire alphabet is marked off.
You can use magnetic letters to help students brainstorm vocabulary they already know. Put your letters in a bag and draw one for the activity. Display that letter where everyone can see it. Students must then think of all the vocabulary words they know that start with that letter. Define or explain unfamiliar words as students volunteer them or as you add them to the list.
Scrabble Style Crossword Game
You don’t need a fancy board game to get the same benefits for your students. Put several sets of magnetic letters in a bag. (You might want to remove all but one Q and X and as well as limit the numbers of V, J, K, W, Y, and Z.) Each student playing the game pulls seven letters from the bag. Students take turns making a word from the letters they have pulled. Each word must connect with a word that someone else has already played on the magnetic surface. Once someone makes a word, he pulls the correct number of magnetic letters to keep his total at seven. Playing this way challenges your students to use new vocabulary, practice spelling, and learn new words, but it takes away the stress that comes with points and keeping score as in the traditional game.
A few simple packages of magnetic letters can be more useful than you realize in your ESL class. The next time you see some on the shelf, pick some up and bring them in for your students. Try one of these activities with your class, set up a learning center, or encourage students to find their own ways of playing with the letters. No matter what they do with them, they will reinforce letter recognition, spelling, and vocabulary.
Do you use magnetic letters in your ESL classroom?
What activities do you use them for?