Learn to TEACH English with TECHNOLOGY. Free course for American TESOL students.

TESOL certification course online recognized by TESL Canada & ACTDEC UK.

Visit Driven Coffee Fundraising for unique school fundraising ideas.

Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

For ESL Teachers - Teaching the Alphabet Effectively to Adult ESL Students
By:Joan Pougiales

Many adult ESL students have had limited educations and, even in their native languages, have limited literacy skills. For many, the concept of alphabetical order is unknown. Yet alphabetical order is a basic organizing system of our society, and one that everyone who lives in the society needs to master. We use it to organize names in the phone book, to organize files in file systems, to organize inventory in our businesses, to organize parts in our repair shops. Our ESL students should be able to find a name in a phone book. They should also be able to retrieve equipment or parts correctly from a supply room, a task they might be called upon to do at a job. How can we prepare them to perform such tasks when they leave our classrooms?

Alphabetical order needs to be approached in steps, something like this:

Step #1: Teach the alphabet in whatever increments your students need. You might have to teach just a couple of letters every day. Some students can learn the alphabet quickly, in a matter of days. Some students will need several weeks or even months.

Step #2: Use the alphabet song, "disappearing alphabet", "Hype Up, or any other methods you are comfortable with to teach the correct order of the letters in the alphabet.

Disappearing Alphabet: Write the alphabet on the board. When students can recite it easily, start erasing letters one or two at a time and see if they can supply the missing letters themselves.

Hype Up: Go around the room, asking each student to supply a letter of the alphabet, in order. This forces them to listen to the student before them, to think fast, and to supply the correct letter quickly. It also gets the energy level up!)

Step #3: Introduce the hyphen as a writing convention that means, "and everything in between." For example, A-D means A, D and everything in between. That is, A-D = A, B, C and D. Give students practice with this notation.

Step #4: Provide examples of real-world situations for practice. For example, I have created "alphabet packs," that I ask the students to check. They need to make sure that all of the "parts" are in the pack. If a "part" is missing, they need to tell me. And then they need to put the part in the pack, in its correct position. I have also created "parts boxes," labeled A-G, H-Q and so on. Then I give students "parts," (perhaps pictures of a cat ("C") or a hammer ("H), which they have to put in the correct box. Now students are getting an idea of the many ways that alphabetical order applies in their everyday lives. Of course, it is only a start. Next, they need to learn to alphabetize by the first two letters of a word (for example, Debbie and Doug) and then by the first three and four letters (Fred, Frank) (Kathy, Kate).

Teaching alphabetical order can continue for many months. Have fun with it.

Joan Pougiales, Ph.D. has taught English as a Second Language for over 30 years to college-bound students in the U.S., as well as to adult immigrants and refugees. Her web site is devoted to helping refugees and immigrants, beginning and intermediate students, to learn English and succeed in their new lives in the U.S. Visit her at http://www.growenglish.com

Go to another board -