The alphabet can be an easy way of collating new vocabulary and lends itself well to fun activities that will help your learners remember what you introduce into the lesson.

Jo Bertrand

Normally you should introduce vocabulary within a context to make remembering easier but having a whole lesson based around one letter can also be a means of grouping words together. Just remember that every word introduced should still have a context for it to have meaning for the children.


  • To provide a framework the children are familiar with to enhance memory skills
  • To expand general vocabulary
  • To introduce dictionary work as a learning tool


  • Card for frieze poster
  • Magazines (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Realia (objects for introducing new vocabulary as an alternative to flashcards) e.g. banana, ball, balloon
  • Crayons

Making a class frieze (Age: 5+)
This can be a good beginning of year activity to provide you with a year long poster display that you can refer to in your later lessons. Integrate the words they use as much as possible into your future classes.

  • Pre-cut the squares of paper you need – one per letter. These can be displayed separately or as one long line around the room. 
  • Allocate three letters to small groups of children. This way they can share their knowledge of vocabulary. The more uncommon letters like ‘q’ or ‘x’ could be used for demonstration purposes so that the children themselves don’t have to work with them.
  • Depending on the age of the children and the time you have available you can have them cut out small objects from magazines that start with the letter they have or draw pictures instead around the letters.
  • They could look through their English text book for words (if they have one). This is also a good way of making them familiar with their new book.
  • For those just starting English you can show them flashcards of objects and give them the word in English. They can tell you which letter they think it starts with.

Bananas (Age: 9+)
This is a fun game that helps older children think about how to categorize words, work together in a team and think quickly.

  • Each group needs a grid like the one below.
  • Ask one person in the class to go through the alphabet silently in his head and then interrupt him by saying stop. Ask what letter he stopped at.
  • Each group then writes the letter in the top left box in the grid under ‘letters’.
  • The class then has two minutes to fill in the first row with a word that begins with the chosen letter.
  • When the two minutes are up or when one team has filled in the entire row then count up the points.
  • They get two points for each word that no-one else has, one point for a word that another group has and two bonus points if they complete the row before the two minutes are up. If they do they should shout ‘bananas’ as with ‘bingo’.
  • Each team could then use the words they have in their grids to make sentences. Otherwise take a word from each team in turn to make class-generated sentences.
LettersCountry / CityAnimalColourHobby / Sport

Letter slot (Age: 5+)
You could have a five-minute slot in each of your lessons dedicated to a letter. This will obviously take you through 26 lessons. This could be a dictionary time where they slowly build up their vocabulary. Give them three words a lesson which they add to their personal dictionaries that you could make together at the beginning of the year. This will also provide them with something to take away with them at the end of the year.

  • Pre-decide which words you would like to introduce each time. It shouldn’t be left up to chance so that you are prepared for explaining the meaning correctly to them.
  • With the younger children you should concentrate on nouns so that they can have a picture dictionary which doesn’t involve the written word. Nouns are normally easier to draw than adjectives or verbs.
  • Some weeks you could bring in the objects for them to see. E.g. ‘B week’ could be ‘banana’, ‘ball’ and ‘balloon’. See below for some other ideas of vocabulary you can introduce. The words underlined are not nouns but can be drawn easily if you give the children a model.

Selection of possible words for dictionary work:
A: an apple, an acorn, an ant
B: a banana, a ball, a balloon
C: a car, a cat, a coat
D: a dog, a dinosaur, a door
E: an egg, an elephant, an eye
F: a fish, a farm, a flower
G: grass, a glass, glasses
H: a hat, a house, a hill
I: an ice-cream, an iguana, an island
J: a jumper, a jacket, jump
K: a kite, a kettle, a knife
L: a light, left, large
M: a mouse, money, a man
N: a nose, a nurse, a nest
O: an orange, old, on
P: a park, a person, a pool
Q: a queen, a queue, quick
R: a roof, a rabbit, rain
S: sugar, sea, sand
T: a tractor, a train, trousers
U: an umbrella, up, under
V: a vase, a village, vegetables
W: a woman, a wall, water
X: a xylophone, an x-ray,
Y: a yoghurt, yellow, young
Z: a zebra, a zoo, a zip

Name spelling (Age: 8+)
This activity is simple and effective. The children will enjoy thinking of words, making up silly sentences, or even poems using their own names as a framework.

  • Write your name on the board in a vertical line. If you have a short name then use your surname too.
  • The first letter can be your / their name. See below for an example.
  • If they have trouble thinking of words that begin with the letters in their name they can trade one word for another. They can do this only once with any given person to avoid having exactly the same selection of words. They also have to find someone who has two of the same letters in their name to be able to trade.
  • They can then display their name poems for everyone to read.

Example of a name poem:

Further suggestions

  • You could use their dictionaries occasionally for homework. The assignment being they have to ask somebody they know to help them find two more words beginning with the letter of the day. The following letter slot could be used for sharing their new words with their neighbours and furthering expanding their dictionaries. Be sure to check their understanding of the meaning.
  • You could teach them the classic Alphabet Song. Get them to make their own letter flashcards which they hold up as their letter is said.
  • ‘I Spy’ is another favourite which works well with the alphabet. Split the class into groups to play to avoid lots of bored children.


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