I remember when I just graduated from college and was about to start teaching in my first classroom. It was a Kindergarten teacher position and I was so excited about teaching the alphabet to those little munchkins. I sat down in my classroom looking at the curriculum, scratching my head in sheer confusion that destroyed my week 1 plans as a first year Kindergarten teacher. Wait…you aren’t supposed to teach the alphabet in ABC order?
So what order DO you teach the letters of the alphabet in? After reading this post, you will:
- Know why you shouldn’t teach in ABC order
- Understand why the order to teach letters is so important
- Answer the question…uppercase or lowercase?
- Get the exact order to teach letters that will have your child reading faster
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Why You Don’t Teach the Alphabet in ABC Order
Teaching the alphabet in order puts a big focus on those beginning letters. Those are probably going to be the ones that your child sees and remembers the most since that Alphabet Song is so catchy. =)
Why is that a problem? Some of those beginning letters aren’t the most frequently used letters that your child will encounter in text. Focus on letters that are most common in the beginning sight words your child will learn. Think of the words in, at, it, am, I, etc. Only one of those letters is in the first five letters of the alphabet!
Another reason to avoid teaching the alphabet in order is that research shows that children will recall a letter’s name more often than the sound that it makes (source). This makes it very difficult to start teaching how to decode words because these children aren’t able to recall those letter sounds to eventually blend words together.
Learn about other mistakes you may be making when teaching the alphabet.
Why Should You Care about What Order to Teach Letters?
There is a reason behind what order to teach letters.
You first want to teach the letters that appear most frequently in emergent reader books. This is because you want your child to actually apply what you are teaching them as you are teaching it!
Remember that the whole reason you are teaching your child the alphabet is to help them read. So why wouldn’t you want your child to practice their knowledge of letters by reading simple words in those emergent reader books?
This is also the reason why you want to ensure you are teaching letter names and sounds together. Think about it…they are labeling a symbol with the letter name and learning what it says with the sound. This is just like teaching your child to identify a cow and know that it says “moo”.
Uppercase or Lowercase?
Yes, when it comes to letter recognition, knowing and understanding all 52 letter symbols (both uppercase and lowercase) is important.
But if I had to absolutely choose one set to focus on 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵?
When you open up a book, any book, what type of letter do you see the most? Lowercase.
The ratio between the frequency of uppercase and lowercase letters in a book leaves no question in my mind which type of letter I should spend the majority of my energy on when working with a child.
Where to Start
There is definitely some pre-work that I think is important to introduce before you start diving into the my specific order to teach letters.
Your Child’s Name
First, you want to teach your child the letters in their name. Your child’s name is something very special and important to them…it’s something that is all theirs.
Children have a fascination with their name so learning the letters in their name first is great way to build interest around letters and print.
Your child will love the letters in their name and will start to identify them anywhere they go. Encourage this as much as you can as this is a great sign of their print motivation!
Before you start explicitly teaching letters and sounds, you want to be sure that you are providing your child with plenty of exposure to letters and print.
Create a literacy rich environment by having magnetic letters and bathtub letters readily available for play. Hop on that decor trend where letters and words are displayed on walls in your home.
Incorporate letters into your child’s existing play and take the opportunity to talk about letters while your child is playing. This may sound something like, “Did you put the letter T in your car? Where is it going?”
What Order to Teach Letters
I have a specific order that I teach letters in and it is a combination of two methods: the SATPIN method and the IMSE method.
Both methods are research-based and have good reasoning behind the orders. I’ve found that this combination has been magical with the students and families I work with. Let’s get started and learn that magic order to teach letters!
First, start with s, a, t, p, i, n. This combination of letters is perfect for introducing letter names and sounds and then actually APPLYING what you are teaching.
These letters also make up the most frequent words that are found in emerging readers.
This way, when your child starts to apply their knowledge of letters and sounds, they will be able to start reading simple words more quickly…that’s the whole point!
This next group of letters helps to support the first group. They aren’t necessarily in a lot of sight words found in those emergent readers compared to that first group of letters, but by adding these letters next, your child will be able to start spelling even more simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.
This helps your child with some more challenging decoding opportunities as well because you are adding a lot more consonants, but only one more vowel.
This opens up a lot more words, but is giving a wide variety to the words your child can then start to read without becoming overwhelming.
This next set of letters gives your child the rest of the vowels, helping them build on what they have already learned with the previous letters.
Be careful when introducing the letter sound for “e”. It can be tricky to distinguish between /e/ and /i/ in many words. Be very clear when saying the sounds so that your child can hear those differences.
These last letters are the letters that show up the least frequent in words.
This doesn’t make them any less important though! Still give these guys the same love and attention that you gave the previous sets of letters and make sure you practice these in context with decoding and blending just as much.
A lot of times these letters are rushed through because they aren’t high frequency letters, which causes children to struggle and mix up their letter sounds when they actually do come across them in a book.
Wrapping it All Up with a Bow
So there you have it! The research-based order I swear by to teach a child the alphabet so that they can learn to read faster. But don’t forget…if you really want to teach your child read, the alphabet is only one piece of the puzzle. You need all the pieces to make it click.
I hope that this was helpful to you as you are trying to plan out how you want to teach letter knowledge and the alphabetic principle.
I know that if you try this order out, you won’t be disappointed!!
Any questions? Drop them in the comments below=)