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September 22, 2014

Alphabet Books That Every Teacher Needs

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    Even though the Jackson Five told us that “A, B, C! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3!" any early education teacher will tell you that once you hit 18, 21, or 24 kids in your classroom, teaching the alphabet is not all that easy. Because of this, alphabet books are big business! A great alphabet book is worth its weight in gold when trying to find new ways to introduce letters to a beginning reader.

    Here are my top five alphabet books and some great activities for each one. But the best advice that I can give is to have as many alphabet books as possible available because you never know what will draw a particular student to a specific book. Here is a quick video by my kinders who wanted to share their alphabet books and tell you why they love them.

     

    5. Z is for Moose (That’s Me!) by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

    Z is for Moose (that's ME!)This book starts out like any old ordinary alphabet book. A is for apple. B is for ball. C is for cat. D is for moose.

    Wait. What?

    Moose can’t believe that he is going to be in an alphabet book and he can’t wait for his turn. Zebra is running this show, and Moose is just too much for him to handle! Will Moose be able to wait until they get to his letter to strut his stuff? When you finally get to the "M" page, the twist will leave your kids in a social injustice outrage. It's a great book that you will find as fun as your classroom of 4- and 5-year-olds.

    Phonemic Awareness Activity

    • This book is PERFECT for introducing the idea of beginning sounds. Even if your students don’t know all the letters and sounds yet, the book does a great job showing items that begin with that sound. When Moose is on the page (and he is on a lot of pages), it’s a great time to talk about the sound that Moose begins with. Remember that this activity is a phonemic awareness activity, so the students don't have to know the letters to be able to hear if words begin with the same sound.

     

    4. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom CoverThis is possibly the ultimate alphabet book. I teach a whole week based on this one book and its sequels, Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3, and Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault and Suzanne Tanner Chitwood. My favorite thing about this book is teaching the class that when I say "Skit skat skoodle doot" they say, "Flip flap flee." Another reason I love this book is when I hear my class sing along with the fantastic video version by Weston Woods. It's a video they request all the time, and hearing a roomful of little voices sing along with this version can turn any day into the best day ever.

    Name Activity

    • I have students draw a coconut tree focusing on the length of the trunk, and then I show them how to draw the leaves and let their creative spirit take over. Next, the students color the tree and begin cutting out the letters of their name from old magazines. They then glue the letters of their name in order going up the tree.

    Drawing their Coconut Tree

    Tevyn

    Math Activity

    • I have two sets of bowling pins. So I bring in two coconuts, and we have Coconut Bowling! This is a math activity that is easy to differentiate for the different math levels in your class. Beginning math students bowl twice and then write down how many they knocked down (works on counting to 10) on this number sheet. More advanced math students fill in this math sheet to create their own math problems with sums to 10.

     

    3. Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

    Alphabet Adventure CoverThis is one from another series but, unlike the Chicka Chicka group of books, three of these titles revolve around Charley’s alphabet. Alphabet Adventure, Alphabet Rescue, and Alphabet Mystery will each capture the students' imagination in different ways, which is the most beautiful part of this series.

    A child may pick up Alphabet Rescue because they love fire trucks (like Dash in the video above) but then pick up the other two books because they know the characters, which are the letters of the alphabet. These books are not too wordy to be read-alouds and the illustrations are very child-friendly.

    Story Element Activity

    • This is a series of books that lets a teacher start working on the story element skills of the Common Core State Standards. While you are focusing on beginning sounds, rhyming, and letter sound correspondence found in the average alphabet book, bringing these books into your unit ensures that the students hear stories that still have a beginning, middle, and end. Using this graphic organizer will help your students retell the story while practicing writing their letters.

     

    2. Twenty-six Princesses by Dave Horowitz

    While girls love this book, Dave Horowitz does a phenomenal job of bringing the boys in too (if the teacher will get into the characters). With lines like “Princess Nell. What is that smell?” and “Princess Ruth. Mithing a tooth.” it’s easy to get the boys laughing. After reading this book I like to ask the class if this was a boy book, a girl book, or a kindergarten book. The debate that follows is always great.

    There is another book by Dave Horowitz called Twenty-six Pirates and I love it too but, of course, I save that and Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel and Henry Cole for my Talk Like a Pirate Day celebration. 

    Rhyming Activity

    • Every name has a rhyme. Have the students try to use their name in the pattern and see if they can find a rhyming word. Many may have to make a rhyming word up and that is OK because they are showing the skill of rhyming for this activity. The pattern is Princess ________ then adding about one more syllable for the second line.  An example is that the first line would be “Princess Tammy” (four syllables) and the second line would be “Wearing her jammies" (five syllables)

     

    1. I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan

    I Stink CoverThis is my favorite alphabet book because it sneaks the alphabet component into the middle of the book. What ingredients would be part of a trash truck’s alphabet soup? Dirty Diapers. Puppy Poo. Stinky Sneakers. What is not to love?

    Kids get engaged in this book SO easily. This is also a great book to ask, “Is this a girl book, a boy book, or a kindergarten book?” Let them share their opinions and make sure to ask them why.

    Beginning Sound Activity

    • Call out a letter’s sound and give the example of the ingredient from the book. You can give each student a different letter, or pair them up depending on the ability level of your class. Let the students find objects in your room that begin with that sound, and then report back to the class if what they found would be a good part of the trash truck’s alphabet soup recipe. 

    Let’s connect on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next week.

    Even though the Jackson Five told us that “A, B, C! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3!" any early education teacher will tell you that once you hit 18, 21, or 24 kids in your classroom, teaching the alphabet is not all that easy. Because of this, alphabet books are big business! A great alphabet book is worth its weight in gold when trying to find new ways to introduce letters to a beginning reader.

    Here are my top five alphabet books and some great activities for each one. But the best advice that I can give is to have as many alphabet books as possible available because you never know what will draw a particular student to a specific book. Here is a quick video by my kinders who wanted to share their alphabet books and tell you why they love them.

     

    5. Z is for Moose (That’s Me!) by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

    Z is for Moose (that's ME!)This book starts out like any old ordinary alphabet book. A is for apple. B is for ball. C is for cat. D is for moose.

    Wait. What?

    Moose can’t believe that he is going to be in an alphabet book and he can’t wait for his turn. Zebra is running this show, and Moose is just too much for him to handle! Will Moose be able to wait until they get to his letter to strut his stuff? When you finally get to the "M" page, the twist will leave your kids in a social injustice outrage. It's a great book that you will find as fun as your classroom of 4- and 5-year-olds.

    Phonemic Awareness Activity

    • This book is PERFECT for introducing the idea of beginning sounds. Even if your students don’t know all the letters and sounds yet, the book does a great job showing items that begin with that sound. When Moose is on the page (and he is on a lot of pages), it’s a great time to talk about the sound that Moose begins with. Remember that this activity is a phonemic awareness activity, so the students don't have to know the letters to be able to hear if words begin with the same sound.

     

    4. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom CoverThis is possibly the ultimate alphabet book. I teach a whole week based on this one book and its sequels, Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3, and Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault and Suzanne Tanner Chitwood. My favorite thing about this book is teaching the class that when I say "Skit skat skoodle doot" they say, "Flip flap flee." Another reason I love this book is when I hear my class sing along with the fantastic video version by Weston Woods. It's a video they request all the time, and hearing a roomful of little voices sing along with this version can turn any day into the best day ever.

    Name Activity

    • I have students draw a coconut tree focusing on the length of the trunk, and then I show them how to draw the leaves and let their creative spirit take over. Next, the students color the tree and begin cutting out the letters of their name from old magazines. They then glue the letters of their name in order going up the tree.

    Drawing their Coconut Tree

    Tevyn

    Math Activity

    • I have two sets of bowling pins. So I bring in two coconuts, and we have Coconut Bowling! This is a math activity that is easy to differentiate for the different math levels in your class. Beginning math students bowl twice and then write down how many they knocked down (works on counting to 10) on this number sheet. More advanced math students fill in this math sheet to create their own math problems with sums to 10.

     

    3. Alphabet Adventure by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

    Alphabet Adventure CoverThis is one from another series but, unlike the Chicka Chicka group of books, three of these titles revolve around Charley’s alphabet. Alphabet Adventure, Alphabet Rescue, and Alphabet Mystery will each capture the students' imagination in different ways, which is the most beautiful part of this series.

    A child may pick up Alphabet Rescue because they love fire trucks (like Dash in the video above) but then pick up the other two books because they know the characters, which are the letters of the alphabet. These books are not too wordy to be read-alouds and the illustrations are very child-friendly.

    Story Element Activity

    • This is a series of books that lets a teacher start working on the story element skills of the Common Core State Standards. While you are focusing on beginning sounds, rhyming, and letter sound correspondence found in the average alphabet book, bringing these books into your unit ensures that the students hear stories that still have a beginning, middle, and end. Using this graphic organizer will help your students retell the story while practicing writing their letters.

     

    2. Twenty-six Princesses by Dave Horowitz

    While girls love this book, Dave Horowitz does a phenomenal job of bringing the boys in too (if the teacher will get into the characters). With lines like “Princess Nell. What is that smell?” and “Princess Ruth. Mithing a tooth.” it’s easy to get the boys laughing. After reading this book I like to ask the class if this was a boy book, a girl book, or a kindergarten book. The debate that follows is always great.

    There is another book by Dave Horowitz called Twenty-six Pirates and I love it too but, of course, I save that and Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel and Henry Cole for my Talk Like a Pirate Day celebration. 

    Rhyming Activity

    • Every name has a rhyme. Have the students try to use their name in the pattern and see if they can find a rhyming word. Many may have to make a rhyming word up and that is OK because they are showing the skill of rhyming for this activity. The pattern is Princess ________ then adding about one more syllable for the second line.  An example is that the first line would be “Princess Tammy” (four syllables) and the second line would be “Wearing her jammies" (five syllables)

     

    1. I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan

    I Stink CoverThis is my favorite alphabet book because it sneaks the alphabet component into the middle of the book. What ingredients would be part of a trash truck’s alphabet soup? Dirty Diapers. Puppy Poo. Stinky Sneakers. What is not to love?

    Kids get engaged in this book SO easily. This is also a great book to ask, “Is this a girl book, a boy book, or a kindergarten book?” Let them share their opinions and make sure to ask them why.

    Beginning Sound Activity

    • Call out a letter’s sound and give the example of the ingredient from the book. You can give each student a different letter, or pair them up depending on the ability level of your class. Let the students find objects in your room that begin with that sound, and then report back to the class if what they found would be a good part of the trash truck’s alphabet soup recipe. 

    Let’s connect on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next week.

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