7 Alphabetic Principles Your Students Should Know

What is the Alphabet?

Can your students answer this question? Explaining the basics of the alphabet  (alphabetic principles) is a critical starting point for any phonics or literacy intervention program, whether in a 1:1, small group, or whole class setting. 

Alphabetic Capital and Lowercase letters

So, what should your students know about the alphabet? A good starting point would be to explain these key facts:

  •  Our alphabet is made up of 26 letters.
  • Each letter has a capital and a lowercase (uppercase and lowercase).
  • Some letters in the alphabet are vowels. All the rest of the letters are consonants.

When explaining these introductory facts, students should look at a complete alphabet, ideally presented in large format on an anchor chart or digital screen.

If students have individual alphabets stuck to their desks in any form, direct their attention to that spot. Remember, not all students come to school with this background knowledge. Not every student will look down at their desk name plate and think, “Look, I’ve got an alphabet stuck to my desk.” Break it down for all of your students so that when you refer to the alphabet in the future, students know what they should be looking at.

More alphabetic principles

Students must also learn that:

  • Each letter makes a sound.
  • Some letters make more than one sound.
  • When certain letters are next to each other, they make a sound together.

These three concepts together are known as the alphabetic principle – the understanding that written letters represent the spoken sounds of our language.

Alphabetic Principles

Students don’t have to memorize these facts or recite them verbatim. Rather, it’s more important that as the teacher, tutor, or parent, you’re explaining these facts as you work through your phonics program or engage in alphabet play.

A final alphabetic principle to each early on is that

  • the letters in our alphabet are found in a specific order (alphabetic order).

Most children can see the ABC song, but some have trouble reciting each letter in order slowly. Some activities to help students with the alphabetic sequence are:

  • providing an alphabet with missing letters and asking students to fill in the missing letters
  • providing alphabet manipulatives and asking students to order them
  • providing a sequence of letters and asking students to provide the next letter
  • asking students to take turns with a partner or teacher in reciting the alphabet out loud (ex. Student 1 says, “A,” Student 2 says, “B,” or Student 1 says, “A, B,” and Student 2 says, “C, D, through the end of the alphabet.

You can find posters that summarize these important alphabetic principles in my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY. 

You can gain access to the freebies by subscribing here.

You can also find lots of fun and engaging alphabet activities under the “Alphabet” category in my TpT shop!

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