Monday, November 2, 2009

Game: Alphabet Words

10-15 minutes

I found "Alphabet Words" in Peggy Kaye's fantastic Games For Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read. It is incredibly simple to implement and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much my students enjoy it.

Simply write each letter of the alphabet on the board and tell your student(s) that the goal of this game is to think of a word for every letter. When you have them all, invite the students to repeat the words after you to review. That's it. The final product will look something like this:

This was the result of our Dictionary Alphabet Words game. As you can see, students come up with some strange words. Since this was a group of first and second graders, we were not striving for comprehension of words such as "helenistic." Simply compelling the students to look through the dictionary and spell new words is enough for me.

This game can be done in small groups or with an individual student. With a group, I assign each student a letter, which maintains a bit of order and gives them time to think. With five students, for example, the first will have A and the last will have E. Once we've filled in those blanks, I assign F through J.

It is easy to think of variations for this game. The first time I used it, we just thought of any old word for each letter. A week later, I included it in my "Introduction to Dictionaries" lesson. With a dictionary in hand, students had to find an interesting word for each letter. I was delighted by the way this game motivated them to dig into their dictionaries and by how excited they were by the strange words they found.

Kaye recommends the use of categories for this game. For example, you might set out to find an animal name or a food that begins with each letter. This might also be useful as a review for a particular subject or book for older kids. For example, challenging your students to think of alphabet words related to Charlotte's Web or American History might help them review the material and provide cues for recall later on.

This is a great way to build vocabulary. It also can help with phonemic awareness and strengthen skill with specific letter sounds. As I mentioned, it could also be a way to review material and build comprehension. Additionally, as mentioned, I have used it to introduce students to their dictionaries.

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