ABCs For Young Learners

UPDATE (September 8, 2011): Want more activities? Find a whole bunch here!


No doubt most of your 4- to 6-year-olds are learning the letters of the alphabet. If your kids are anything like ours, they’re really really excited by the whole process.

Here are some of the letter learning activities we do to keep that enthusiasm level high!

All of these take more words to explain than to do. Kids don’t want all that much explanation on these sorts of activities anyway, so usually you can just start doing. They’ll get it.

a) Put your finger in the air. If you’ve traced the letter with your finger on the page in the book, stand up! Now trace the letter with your finger in the air! Write it really big! Now write it really small! Write it slowly! Write it quickly! Finished? Nooo! Now write the letter in the air using your toes! Or write with your elbow! Or write with your nose! Or write with your backside! Or write with almost any other body part you can think of! Note that I said “almost”!

(Teachers, if you’re not already, you’re going to become really good at facing the class and writing letters backwards – the letters will be forwards and correct for the students following your finger.)

b) Full body phonics. This is great for little ones who are just learning their ABCs and for older ones who might want a break from writing another page of phonics. The short explanation is that you’re shaping your body into each letter of the alphabet while making the sound of that letter. It’s all easier done than said.

For example, the letter A (we tend to work with the upper case letter for these): Stand up straight with your arms at your sides. Start to turn in place. At the same time, your arms start going up up up, while you say “A-A-A-A-A….” After maybe 5 turns, your fingertips should touch above your head, and you can stop, face each other, and give a little hop so that your legs spread shoulder length apart. There’s your letter A!

Choose whether you want to tackle all the vowels first or go straight through from A to Z. After 5 or 6 letters, we like giving the phonics sound to the students and letting them come up with their own body shapes for the letters.

c) Correct me, please. Spend a minute or two showing on the board how to write the letter of the day. The fastest way to check comprehension is to then start writing the letter incorrectly. Ask the class if it’s correct.

By my 3rd attempt, my kids are usually shouting out the horrendous mistakes I’m making. When I then tell them to write in their books, they’re eager to start, and they tend to make far fewer mistakes than when I skip this process.

d) How far up? Most of our students understand that letters rest on the bottom line when they’re writing. Some students don’t quite understand how far up each letter should go.

Try this: Using your non-writing arm, make the gesture you make when you indicate the height of someone who comes up to your chest; now move your forearm just a bit away from your body. This is the top line of the letter you are writing. Now take your writing finger, and write the letter in the air below your arm.

Variation requiring 2 people: Don’t move your non-writing arm. Place your writing arm below it to create the bottom line, and you have a writing space. Now ask someone to use the whole space to write the letter you are working on. You can make the space as big or as small as you’d like.

Sign Language ABCs

Copyright © 2007 William Vicars, sign language resources at

e) Fingerspell. I’ve been teaching my kids the American Sign Language alphabet. I simply believe that everyone should know at least some sign language. Learn some sign language in your native language and teach everyone you know.

Comments, questions, or suggestions, please let me know!

14 Responses

  1. Hello,
    I teach kindergarten and I am always looking for interesting alphabet ideas. Thanks!

  2. Happy to share! What activities do you do?

  3. This ia neat idea! I can use this with my daughter! Thanks!

  4. @Denise: Thanks, Denise! I had a peek at your blog, and I’ll be back soon to scoop up lots of ideas!

  5. […] ABCs for Young Learners […]

  6. I actually used some of these with my little cousins :]
    It tends to fall on me to teach them their basic lessons XD
    But they were really fun! We also wrote them out with noodles
    Though, apparently they spent the next night doing that
    When my aunt made spaghetti for them for dinner >.> oops.

    • Hi, lastverse! Let’s see…so they were playing with their food…but it was educational. Yes, you’d have to break out the grins for that. Wait: did they make spaghetti letters with the sauce? Or without?

  7. What’s up with the ‘B’? shouldn’t the thumb be tucked across the palm? It’s like the Spanish ‘they’ taught in school. When I went to a Spanish speaking country-pick one; Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua-people were like “Don’t say that, only white people think that is Spanish”. This chart gives me the same feeling inside.

  8. My name is Lexie and I’m 9yrs old. I want to learn sign language. Your web sight taught me how to spell my name:). Thanks

  9. I am looking for an image of the asl alphabet to include in my upcoming book. Is yous copyrighted? If so can I get permission to use it in my book? I think it is the best looking representation I have reviewed.
    Thank you,
    Lois Brady

    • It’s a great image, isn’t it? It’s not my image, however. On the original post, I’ve given credit to Dr. Bill (as I gather he likes to be called) has a whole page just on permissions, so run over there and ask him what to do.

      What exactly is your book about? You’ll let me know when it’s been published, yes? Happy writing!

  10. […] A whole bunch of you adore this American Sign Language alphabet poster. […]


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