Back to Basics: ABC’s

This blog piece is written by Rachel Sneyd. Rachel is currently completing an undergraduate degree in History and Politics at Trinity College Dublin. She is a keen writer and has just submitted her first teen-fiction novel for publication.

Young students (and not-so-young students) who have trouble reading and writing often struggle with the most basic building block of all: the alphabet. For some this means confusing Bs and Ds or forgetting what sound Q makes. For others it means not being able to identify more than a handful of letters. Not knowing the alphabet is a problem but luckily patience, revision and a bit of play-dough can make a big difference.

Aim: To revise the alphabet and build reading and writing confidence.

You need: Markers, coloured paper, play-dough, stencils.

Give the class the markers and coloured paper.

Write the day’s letters on the board and have the students copy them down. This works best if you break the alphabet up into manageable blocks and concentrate on 3 or 4 letters per lesson. It will take some time to get all the way to Z but the results are well worth it!

Get the class to think of three words that start with each letter. Write them on the board and have them copy them down. Sometimes it’s also useful to have them draw pictures of their words.

Give the class the play-dough. Ask them to make a capital and lower-case model of each letter.

Give them the stencils and have them write out all the letters that they have covered so far.


Students enjoy this lesson. They can see the results from lesson to lesson as they work their way through the alphabet. The play-dough and stencils keep them engaged and allow them to get a physical sense of the shape of the letters, which is particularly useful for students with dyslexia and non-visual learners. Thinking of words that start with each letter always turns into a game and allows students to connect with the sound each letter makes.

Students who came to the Homework Club terrified of reading have gone on to become eager readers after finally mastering the alphabet.