Alphabet Questions Answered!

Happy Saturday, y'all!  Anybody else feeling like this today??

Hahaha.  I wish that were true.  I did laugh at the thought of doing housework, but I'll be running around with the family all day, so I actually have to get out of my pj's.  Darnit.

Moving on. 

Y'all had some really good questions about my last post on Small Group Alphabet Instruction, so I wanted to answer those for you here in case anyone else has the same question :)   I hope this helps!!!

The only video I have is this one of my antsy son.  I asked him to recite the alphabet with motions the way he was taught by his teacher {who I taught right next door to}.

If he's hard to understand {which I totally get!  He's a crazy 5 year old!!!}, here's an explanation of each of the motions.  

A:  Place your hands on either side of your mouth and say "/a/". {kind of like Kevin did in Home Alone, but without the screaming}

B:  B is for bat.  Pretend that you are holding and swinging a bat.  

C:  C is for cold.  I have the kids cross their arms over their chest and shiver because they are "cold".

D:  D is for dig.  Use both of your hands to pretend that you are digging.

E:  E is for "eh?"  Cup an ear and say "eh".  Kind of like an old lady who's having a hard time hearing.

F:  F is for fly.  Flap your arms up and down like you're flying.

G:  When you make the /g/ sound, you can feel it on your throat.  Have your kids place two fingers on their throat to "feel" the sound.

H:  H is for hot or hello.  I taught my kids to wave "hello".  My son's teacher taught them to place a hand in front of their mouth and say "/h/" to feel how hot their breath is.

I:  We dot our noses for the letter I, just like we dot the lowercase letter when we write.  We actually made the "hang ten" motion with our pinky and thumb and dotted our chin with the thumb and our nose with the pinky.

J:  J is for jump.  In your seat, pretend to jump up and down.

K:  K is for kick.  When my son does this he kicks with his feet.  I had a very spirited group last year, so we kicked with our fingers.  It was a lot easier for them to manage that motion at the teacher table.

L:  L is for lick.  Make the letter L with your thumb and pointer finger and pretend to lick the L like a lollipop.

M:  M is for m-m-m-m-m-m good.  We rubbed our bellies for this one and I told them that M is the most DELICIOUS letter in the alphabet :)

N:  N is for NO!  Shake your head back and forth as if you're saying NO. You can also wag your finger back and forth, too.

O:  Use your finger to trace the shape around your mouth when you make this sound. {you're making the O shape :)}

P:  P is for pop. Pretend to make a popping motion with your hands, like popcorn popping. {you can see this better on the video}.

Q:  Watch the video for this one.  I don't even know how to explain what we're doing here :)  My son's teacher taught me this one when we were teaching next to each other.  It just stuck!!!

R:  R is for race.  Pretend to hold a steering wheel like you're racing down a race track.

S:  S is for snake.  Take a finger or a hand and make a slithering motion {like a snake through the grass}

T:  T is for time.  Tap your wrist like you are tapping your watch to check the time.

U:  U is for up.  Take both thumbs and thrust them in an upward motion.

V:  V is for vibrate {or as my son likes to say, "vimurate"}.  Shake your body like it's vibrating {great way to incorporate new vocabulary!!}

W:  W is for "wassup" or wings.  My son's teacher taught him how to do a little motion that indicates he's saying "wassup" {I LOVE IT!!!}  and I taught my kids to tuck their fists into their armpits and flap up and down like they have chicken wings.  

X:  Cross both arms in front of your body to make an "X".  I also explain to my kids that I have two pieces of bacon in the frying pan.  I'm taking those two pieces and crossing them over one another like an "x".  When it starts to fry, it makes the /x/ sound.

Y:  Y is for "yes" or "yawn".  My son's teacher taught them to put their arms above their head in a Y shape {like the Y in YMCA} and say "YES!".  I taught my kids that Y was the sleepiest letter in the alphabet...they raised their arms in a Y above their head, made the /y/ sound, and followed it up with a yawn.

Z:  Z if for z-z-z-z-z-z-z.   The alphabet is finally asleep!!!  Pretend that you are sleeping as you make the /z/ sound.  Place your hands together, tilt your head, and place your hands under your cheek like you're resting/taking a nap.


I hope this helps explain those motions!  Most of them I learned from my son's teacher.  She made most of them up.  I made a lot of mine up when I couldn't remember hers :)  Really, there's no right or wrong way to do this {in my opinion}.  As long as your kids can make a connection to a cue.   You might have some ideas for motions that you think would work better for your kids.  If you do, share those here!!  I'd love to know what they are!!!

My first year teaching, I was taught to use the McCracken order for introducing the alphabet.  It just stuck.  That's the way I started doing it and that's the way I've always done it.  It just kind of became second nature I guess.  

Here's the order:
M, S, F
B, T, C
short A, R, L
P, short O, D
G, N, W
short I, H, J
K, V, short U
Y, Qu, Z
X, E

In addition to teaching the short vowel sounds, I also teach the kids that vowels have two sounds....long and short.  I try to introduce the concept of vowels pretty early on in the year....maybe the third week or so?!  We sing the Vowel song and we are constantly identifying vowels in our shared reading/writing activities.  Each time we identify a vowel, I have the kids give me both sounds.  You might want to change up the order that you teach the letters if you do decide to use this sequence.  

For more info on McCracken Phonics, you should check out this book....

I haven't used the lessons in this book...I just use the letter order.  The theory behind using this order is that you start with the letters that are the easiest to hear and say.  There are SO many different studies that suggest one method is better than the other, so by no means am I saying I think this is the best.  It's just what's worked best for me in my classroom.  I would definitely suggest doing your research if you're wanting to see what other methods and sequences are out there!!!

I do not use a basal and have not for years.  When I did have a "curriculum" to follow, I believe we used houghton mifflin and followed the sequence of letter instruction in those books.  I was still teaching 3 letters a week during small group, but I'd use the basal to guide my planning for whole group and literacy stations.   Whatever objectives were supposed to be taught in our curriculum was incorporated into whole group {shared reading/writing, poetry, morning message}and literacy tubs.  

Again, the sequence for formal alphabet instruction was something I was taught to do my first year and it just stuck.  When I was at my last school, we used Horizons phonics to guide our "anchor" letter instruction....this was the sequence of letters we introduced during our whole group activities.  It was generally one letter a week and that was our "anchor letter".  I was still introducing 3 different letters {following the McCracken order} at teacher table.

Clear as mud, right?!?!?!

Great question!!!!  

This is almost exactly how it works out.  The first couple of weeks of school, I call the kids up to the teacher table individually to assess their alphabet knowledge.  I go through all the letters, both uppercase and lowercase, and I include the fancy g and a as well.  We ask the kids to identify the letters and sounds.  

I take all of that data and then use it to form my groups.  The kids who know very few letters are put in a group together and I know that those kids will need a more "intensive" approach to learning the alphabet.  I'll slow down with them and maybe introduce 2 letters a week as opposed to 3.  Really, I just take it week by week.  You'd be surprised at how quickly they learn!!!  

These groups are typically the same as my guided reading groups with the exception of a few kids.  These groups are constantly changing.  I do running records on my kids at least 3 times a week to ensure that they are comprehending and applying the skills they are learning.  I love having lots of "PROOF" of their learning.  

When the kids weren't with me, they were working in their literacy tubs/stations.

I can't imagine living the classroom life without independent learning stations.  This is what helps me maintain my sanity.  It takes a LOOOOOOOOONG time to establish a good routine when it comes to working independently without lots of help, but the time you invest in setting expectations and teaching them rules and procedures really does pay off in the end.  I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.  I'm sure you already do that now!

My other kids were always doing hands-on station activities...word work, pocket chart, etc.  I had a lot of stations set up so that they had a lot of choice.  I also had a shelf full of anchor activities so that if they did get stuck on something and I wasn't immediately available to help them, they knew they could visit the anchor activities to work on until I could help.   As the year progressed, my kids also had the option to read to self as well.  


  1. Could your Grant be anymore adorable! So cute!

  2. Thank you for the video!!! Love it!!! Leigh Ann

  3. Maybe a silly question. But the chart and the motions don't match is that how you do it in class? Or do you do motions for the pictures you have on your chart?

  4. So your kids are at literacy centers when you are calling skill groups. When do you call guided reading groups and what are the others doing then? I'd love to see a schedule of your day. I'm always looking to grow and improve!:0)