Strategy

Alphabet Blocks

UDL 3.3 UDL 5.2

Alphabet Blocks are cube-shaped manipulatives imprinted with letters of the alphabet which students manipulate in order to build early literacy skills (e.g., print awareness, letter recognition, phonemic awareness). The teacher can introduce the blocks as an instructional tool (e.g., introducing letters of the alphabet) or begin by including them as a free choice toy (e.g., for building or stacking). Then, as the class is engaged in literacy instruction and practice, the teacher utilizes the Alphabet Blocks to support students. As students grow their reading skills from basic letter recognition to beginning to spell words and recognize patterns, the teacher engages students in utilizing the blocks in increasingly sophisticated ways. Alphabet Blocks can be incorporated in instructional modeling, interactive practice, learning centers, or in games. As early learners are often strong kinesthetic learners, Alphabet Blocks are effective as they allow for physical manipulation of the letters.

Implementation Tips

Introducing Alphabet Blocks
Introduce Alphabet Blocks as an engaging visual and tactile method for building students’ foundational early literacy skills. Begin with letter identification and each letter’s corresponding sound, introducing new letters as students demonstrate proficiency.
Building Literacy Skills
Support students’ early literacy skills by utilizing Alphabet Blocks to visually represent phonological concepts. Target phonemic understanding through spelling and rhyming exercises and manipulative word play (e.g., use blocks to to spell out the word ‘cat’; replace the ‘c’ block with a ‘b’ block).
Instructional Exercises
Use Alphabet Blocks in learning centers to facilitate small group instruction or individual, independent learning. At a learning center, students can begin by using Alphabet Blocks to spell their names and progress to more challenging exercises (e.g., forming sight words) as their skills further develop.
Scaffolding
Use Alphabet Blocks as an instructional tool to scaffold instruction. Begin with the student’s name as it is the word with which the student has the most familiarity. Use questions to guide the student in forming and sounding out the letters of his/her name. Progress to simple words.
Integrating Throughout the Day
Integrate Alphabet Blocks in various activities throughout the day. Use Alphabet Blocks to guide small group instruction, for letter exploration during free play, or to activate students’ knowledge when leading circle/story time.
Incorporating Games
Play games using Alphabet Blocks to engage young students. Integrate games that target alphabet identification, phonemic awareness, and letter blending (e.g., “I spy the letter….”; “Find the letter that makes the /s/ sound.", "Match the upper case letter with its lower case buddy.").
Obtaining Alphabet Blocks
Look for affordable Alphabet Blocks in discount stores as well as the learning toy section of department stores, which will often have deals prior to the start of the school year. Alternatively, create your own Alphabet Blocks using blank wooden cubes and a permanent marker to write the letters.

Examples

Preparing Students
At the beginning of the school year, the teacher prepares a literacy learning center using Alphabet Blocks to engage visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners. First, the teacher secures a set of alphabet blocks and puts them in a labeled container along with a laminated alphabet number line for an alphabetical order activity. Next, the teacher gathers the class at the rug to model how to complete the alphabetic ordering activity. The teacher sings the “Alphabet Song” and shows students how to use the alphabet number line to put the blocks in alphabetical order. Following modeling, the teacher guides the class through collectively ordering the blocks. Finally, the teacher shows students how to clean up.
Small Group Instruction
During free choice learning centers, the teacher uses several sets of Alphabet Blocks, name cards, whiteboards, and markers to help students practice spelling their names. The teacher begins by gathering a small group of students and modeling spelling each student's name using the Alphabet Blocks. Then, teacher shares each student’s name card by reading the name, chanting the initial sound and spelling it aloud. Students are then given their name cards and work independently to form, spell and write their names, using both the Alphabet Blocks and name cards as a reference. As students work, the teacher circulates to offer each student individual support.

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