Articles for Teachers

Digital Camera Lessons - Using Cameras to Teach the Alphabet in Early Childhood
By:Kathy Cothran

Teaching and learning the alphabet is a huge part of early childhood. Only after beginning to make sense of the letters and their sounds can a child begin to understand the world of print.

Cameras can help cement the understanding of the letters in many ways. In addition, children become enthusiastic about learning when they get to hold and use the cameras.

The most common way to teach the alphabet with cameras is to find objects that begin with each letter and compile either a class book, individual book, or bulletin board. We would see a photo of an apple, an acorn, and Ashley for the letter A. Some letters will be tricky unless you have an x-ray or xylophone hanging around! One method would be to make a page for each letter of the alphabet and then give each child a page to work on at home. Or, go on a scavenger hunt as a class and take turns taking pictures of the objects you find along the way. (Note: it is best to have the entire alphabet written down on a piece of paper, and then write down which object is for each letter. That will also help you keep track of what letters you still need to find objects to represent.)

Another more abstract way to illustrate the alphabet is to look for the shape of the letters. For instance, the wheel or steering wheel would be the letter O. An edge of a cement block or a hockey stick could make the letter L. The criss cross of a wicker chair back would show the letter x. Two fence slats with the parallel support bar in the middle could be the letter H.

The Living Alphabet is a way to involve everyone in the class. Break the class into groups of 4 or 5 children. Assign a letter to each group. Have the children lay down on the floor to make the capital letter. Take a photo. Have that group also write a tongue twister for the letter (for the more advanced.) It is best to keep a list of the complete alphabet and check off each letter as you photograph it so you know which letters are left to assign to the groups as they finish. Create an alphabet book with your printed out photographs!

When moving into ending sounds, you could photograph objects that end in each letter. Again, there are a couple letters that could prove challenging.

Taking pictures is an exciting activity for children. You may want to require that the neck or wrist strap is always worn in order to keep the camera safer. You will see children engaged in learning when you introduce these types of learning activities.

Visit to download a free sampler of Digital Cameras in the Classroom activities that are ready for you to use in your classroom tomorrow.

Kathy Cothran is an elementary media specialist committed to helping teachers turn toys into learning tools. Her vast teaching experience ranges from preschool through Master's level education classes.

For years Kathy has been a "Gadget Girl." She loves technology! Tie that to her extensive teaching background and she has been able to interest, invigorate, and inspire children and teachers to use technology in a rich, exciting manner.

Interested in other ways that toys can become learning tools? Visit

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