10 Simple Memory Tricks to Help Kids Learn the Alphabet

Sometimes, kids have trouble learning the alphabet.  And when this happens, teachers and parents will use anything and everything to help them learn.  And often, inventing a mnemonic device (also known as a memory trick, a memory booster, or even a gimmick) about the more difficult letters can really help!  In this article, I'm going to share the little tricks I use to help my kids that struggle remember the letter NAMES.  If you are looking for a way to help your kids learn the letter SOUNDS, then please see my post here!

I always start by teaching the letter sounds, and I do this with my trusty Zoo Phonics cards.  This is relatively easy because it is an active way of teaching and kids love it!  To find out more, please read the post I just mentioned above. This sound and letter name connection is EXTREMELY HELPFUL and makes the crossover from letter sounds to names easy for MOST of the children- but they have to have some good phonemic awareness skills in place.  That is, they have to be aware that the sound of the letter is the same of the sound of the letter name.  If they are unaware, then using this technique to teach the letter names will take longer because the relationship is not as obvious to them.  Until they develop the phonemic awareness that they need, the song “Sounds to Letters”  on the Letters and Sounds Animated Video (shown below) can be very helpful for establishing the connection so that they can learn the letter names.

Below is one sample movie of the Animated Alphabet Video, available on Vimeo for streaming online, and also on DVD.

Since many children needed more than just the Zoo Phonics cards, I developed a few tricks to help the children remember some of the letter names that have no connection to the letter sound, such as the letter Y.  I have included a tip for every letter.  Often times, just a motion will help!

C:  I have the kids make a sign language C, which is also in my C song on the video.  So the children start singing the C song, which includes sign language for the letter C, and then a second or two later they have already said the letter name, just like magic!  “To make a letter C, C, C, it’s half a circle, C, C, C….”

D:  We trace the tummy on the capital D and start singing the beginning of the D song, which goes, "I've got a great big tummy like a capital D.  D!"

G:   For the lowercase G, I have them trace it in the air, but when they get to the “tail” of the G, they turn it into a “pirate-like” motion, and say, “GEE, I wish I could remember!”

H:  I have them make the H sound and start running, just like they do at the beginning of my H song.  Once they start singing the song, the lyrics of the song itself will lead them to the letter name.  "Hop, hop, hop!  Make an H and stop!"

I:  We start singing the beginning of the I song, and that’s it!  “/i/, /i/, I!  /i/, /i/, I!”

J:  The children usually really like the J song, so when I show it to them, I have them shout out the end of the song, which ends just like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” but it goes “J, J, J, J, J, J, J, J!”  They raise their hands up in the air and bring them down to the ground as they do it, so it makes it fun.

Q:  The beginning of the Q song has the children making cuckoo clock motions, which the kids seem to remember, but I tell them to say “Q, Q!”  instead of “cuckoo!” (with my head popping forward and back, of COURSE!)  They think that is hilarious, too, and anything that tickles a kids’ funny bones is more likely to help them remember something, at least according to research.

U:  I draw a couple of eyes on top of it and say, “Its YOU!”  And then we sing a snippet from the U song:  “It’s a smiley, smiley, letter U!”  I always tell them that if the letter is a smile, then it's a U.  But if it's not, then it's an N.

W:  I have them draw a W in the air and start to sing the W song, which goes with the motion of drawing the W.  “It’s a W, a W!  Everybody make a W!”

Y:  For this letter, I tell them to throw their hands up in the air and make a letter Y with their bodies.  Then they should say, “WHY can’t I remember????”  This always makes them laugh, and they usually remember it from that point on.

To help the children practice these letters, I use fluency charts, which are also known as Rapid Automatic Naming Boards (RAN Boards).  These fluency charts are just papers with grids on them with just a few letters on them repeated over and over again for children to practice.  Below are some examples.  You can find them on TpT here, or on our own website here.

The idea is that you teach your child just a couple of letters that he/she is struggling with, and then work on them on the chart.  Have your child find each one and then point to it, and say the letter name each time he finds it.  Kids sometimes like to color letter box a designated color.  And this week, I had my kids put a rubber stamp on each letter as they told me the letter name.  They loved it!  In this case, I had made customized fluency boards for them so that they could each work on specifically the words that the child needed.

I also send these charts home with the children for homework.  I find that they are more useful than a stack of flashcards!  I think that if parents get flashcards, they may go through them once, or twice if we are lucky.  But if they go through the chart just once, they would HAVE to have reviewed the three or four letters on it several times!  And I think that would be much more effective for a child that is struggling to learn the alphabet!

I hope that these tips were helpful to you!

- Heidi :)

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