Teaching little ones the letters of the alphabet and all the letter sounds might seem like a simple task. But, finding new, engaging ways to practice that letter knowledge is always a challenge. Generally speaking, young learners are super spongy and soak up new information fairly quickly, but keeping them engaged and wanting to learn can be the tricky part.
So, here are 10 ideas for how to practice the letters of the alphabet in engaging ways that keep them motivated and loving learning!
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1. Building Letters
Building letters using a variety of materials is a fun, hands-on way to practice identifying and forming them over and over again. This kind of activity not only solidifies the formation, shapes, and look of each letter, but is also highly engaging because of the unique materials you can provide for students to use. Upping your engagement is as simple as changing out an old material for a new one. Here are some ideas for materials I’ve seen lots of teachers use to build letters:
Snap or unifix cubes
Pipe cleaners or “fuzzy sticks”
There are SO many other fun materials you could use and I’d definitely encourage you to use things you already have or things you can buy super inexpensively. Kids just love new stuff…anything will work well really! If you’re looking for a few resources to guide your students as they build letters, these free fall-themed letter cards and these letter building cards are a few of my current go-to’s.
Little learners definitely need a LOT of practice with hands-on activities to master their letters. BUT, I truly believe that building that letter knowledge through identifying, writing, and matching letters using pencils, crayons, and markers is an essential element of that learning as well. I definitely used a bunch of worksheets with my students to help them master their letter and letter sound skills. I always tried to find the most unique worksheets I could to keep it fun and engaging. I found that as long as I didn’t use them TOO often, use them for EVERYTHING, and included many different skills to mix it up every so often, my little ones enjoyed working on their letters this way. Finding worksheets that have some writing, coloring, cutting, gluing, matching, and drawing is a great way to make sure your kids stay motivated and wanting to work.
3. Hands-on Centers
Using a variety of hands-on center activities is another awesome way to keep your students learning and enjoying it. I always tried to use centers that involved a different action or material, but would reinforce a lot of the same concepts.
For example, when we were working on letter formation, one center would have dry erase markers to use on laminated cards. Another would have letter mats for students to create the letters using playdoh or pipe cleaners. A different center would have a few fun worksheets to complete. And yet another center would include a letter game or some free choice in creating letters. This way, students were all practicing their letter formation, but were doing it in so many different ways that they didn’t realize they were doing the “same” thing in each center.
Ohhh, singing! One of the best ways my students learned to master their letters was through singing them over and over and over again. YES, those songs definitely got stuck in my head on a daily basis, but it was so worth it to hear my littles humming them in the hallway or singing them together at recess because I knew it was constantly reinforcing their letter knowledge without them even knowing it.
Here are a few of my go-to videos to watch and sing with my littles!
5. Act Them Out
Taking some time as a whole group or even as an independent center activity to create letter shapes with your bodies is not only super fun, but can also help students to visualize what the letters look like. It can help your students to associate those letter shapes and sounds with a movement, making them easier to remember. Also, you’re most likely teaching very tiny learners who are constantly needing to wiggle and squirm anyway. So, teaching them specific movements, body shapes, and stretches to go along with their letter shapes and sounds is a great way to harness all that energy into activities that can be tightly tied to their letter knowledge.
These alphabet movement activities, these alphabet yoga cards, and this ABC movement freebie are a few great resources for incorporating movement and letter learning with students during independent times.
And, here are some fun videos to guide your students’ movement if you want to try them out!
6. Write Write Write
Little learners definitely need a LOT of practice with hands-on activities to master their letters. But, that being said, I truly believe that forming the upper and lowercase letters properly through a lot of writing practice is an essential part of mastering their letters and sounds.
So, giving them opportunities to practice writing their letters as much as possible is always a priority of mine. I have them write the alphabet using pencils, crayons, markers, dry erase markers, chalk, and, when I’m feeling super brave and nice, even my TEACHER pens on occasion (never the flair pens, but OTHER teacher pens). Haha! :) That last one REALLY gets them motivated to write because teacher pens are the coolest kind of pens, of course.
Another reason giving your students a lot of chances to write their letters is a great way to practice is that it’s super easily differentiated. You may have students who are focusing ONLY on mastering letters A, B, and C while another student may be working on sounding out and writing CVC words. Writing is a great way to focus in on where each student is working and give them assignments based on their current skill level.
Using journals like these from the beginning of the year to practice writing letters, drawing pictures, and learning other writing skills like directions and neatness is a simple way to keep all your students’ writing practice in one place.
7. Play Games
Games are one of the simplest ways to take engagement to the next level! And you can pretty much turn ANYTHING into a game with a little friendly competition or a fun reward. You can make alphabet cards into a matching or memory game, create scavenger hunts and “write-the-room” activities using any kind of letter identification/creation/writing cards, and even make letter building a little competition. “Whoever creates the most letters with their playdoh by the end of the day earns a sticker!” or “When you can write all your letters in your journal by yourself, you can come show it to the class on the projector.” These simple rewards can be SUPER simple motivators to help work and practice feel like a fun game. These are just a few really simple, engaging activities to turn what you’re already using letter practice into too!
Of course, you can also use some actual letter games, like this roll and cover, these alphabet games, or these alphabet dab it pages. They make great center activities or small group practice and use a lot of materials you probably already have in your classroom.
8. Use Manipulatives
Again, this one sounds pretty simple because it is, but getting out the magnetic letters or stickers can really bump up how interesting an activity is. If you’re sitting with a small group who needs some practice with the letter T, you could just have them practice writing it repeatedly or finding it in a letter search page. OR you could have them dig through a bucket of magnetic letters finding ALL the letter T’s, upper and lowercase, in any kind of font as they go on a “treasure hunt”. These magnetic letters from Amazon are super affordable and are a slightly different look than your basic magnetic letters, like these. Target also usually has some super inexpensive sets you can grab…use it as your excuse to go, AGAIN, this week. ;) Haha!
Anyway, using any kind of letter manipulative is a quick way to boost engagement. Here are some of my favorite manipulatives to use in small groups and centers:
9. “Reading” Activities
Okay, so this one is a DUH, BUT, I wanted to include it as a great way to practice letters because it just IS! When little ones first start “reading” (turning pages, looking at pictures, noticing that the words are on the page mean something, etc.), there are letters ALL over the place. Just noticing that these letters are grouped together to form words which form sentences is a great foundational skill for little learners.
I used to have my kindergarten students count how many times they saw a certain letter in a book, page, or worksheet, just as an extra challenge. “Good morning, friends! It’s Monday and we’re on the hunt for letter H today! Remember to write how many times you see the letter H in your morning activities and we’ll share in a bit!” We would pop over to the carpet at the end of morning activities or center time and share how many letter H’s we’d found, celebrating each one, whether greater or less than the one before. This was a great way for kiddos to be on the hunt for letters as they saw them in their normal learning environment, as well as how to support and encourage each other in their learning.
Just getting books and worksheets and activities that involve letters in front of them is a great way to improve their grasp of letter recognition.
10. Saying Letters and Sounds
Lastly, practicing saying letters and their sounds aloud to their teacher, friends, classmates, stuffed animals, parents, whoever will listen, is another good way to reinforce their letter knowledge. Give students opportunities to talk with partners in your classroom throughout the day, having them discuss letters and sounds and words and pictures that are related to those letters. This might seem like a simple, unnecessary task, but sometimes our students need to be reminded that they can talk and chat and help each other learn in really simple ways.
And these kinds of tasks can be incorporated into transition times or centers super simply! Maybe give groups of 2-3 students 5 minutes to draw as many pictures that start with the letter B as they can. The words one kid thinks of will be completely different from the words another kid thinks of. They’ll be learning from each other without even knowing it. Or, we used to play a game where I would pop a letter up on the board and give my students 30 seconds to find something in the room that started with that letter. I used this as a “brain break” and an opportunity to “speed walk” around the room a little willy-nilly. It was always okay if they found the same object as someone else did if they needed to, which was a great way to make sure that every kid felt successful. Even the littles who didn’t know what sound the letter G makes independently could feel successful and learn from their friends who knew it on their own by finding the same object they did. Then, I’d go around the room and call on a handful of kids to share the object they’d found aloud and we’d try another letter. This took us maybe 3-5 minutes and had so many positives effects by just letting kids talk and help each other learn.
So, there you have it: 10 simple, fun ways to practice the alphabet with your little learners, even using things you already have. I hope you found an idea or two in this post that you try with your students! I’d love to hear about things that you’ve tried and loved using in your classroom, so leave a comment below if you have an amazing letter-practice strategy you want to share. :) I love hearing your ideas!
OH! And here’s a little freebie for letter practice for you! Hope it’s helpful and fun.
As always, happy teaching! I’m cheering you on!