Are your students learning how to alphabetize words or lists? Knowing how to put words and lists in alphabetical order is very useful! Students who know how to alphabetize can:
- find words in a print dictionary
- find numbers in a phone book
- find music in a store
- find movies online
- find books in a library
Christmas-Themed Alphabetizing Activities
Alphabetizing doesn’t have to be boring! Why not practice alphabetizing with a theme such as Christmas? (Adjust these activities to whichever theme you are using.) Here are some activities you can try in December:
Alphabetize the Ornaments
Does your school have a Christmas tree? Do you have a small fake one you could bring in to class? Gather some ornaments and have your students place them on the tree alphabetically from top to bottom. Alternatively, you could draw a big tree on your board, and have students come to the tree one at a time, drawing ornaments in alphabetical order. You may want to brainstorm a list to work with first:
- candy cane
You could also use ESL Library’s Christmas Flashcards for this activity.
Alphabetize a Wish List
Invite students to the board to write one thing they want for Christmas. Then put students in groups of elves to alphabetize the list for Santa. Which elves work the quickest? You could also do this on a large piece of paper and tape it to your classroom door.
Alphabetize Christmas Carols
Give your students a list of Christmas carols and have them put them in order alphabetically. Then listen to a few Christmas songs and sing along with them. Here are some examples:
- Away in a Manger
- Deck the Halls
- Frosty the Snowman
- Happy Christmas
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
- Jingle Bells
- Joy to the World
- Little Drummer Boy
- O Christmas Tree
- Silver Bells
- Sleigh Ride
- White Christmas
Alphabetize Authors of Christmas Books
Take out some Christmas books from the library and have your students alphabetize them by author. Teach your students that books are alphabetized by the last name of the author. Which group can alphabetize the books the quickest?
Alphabetize Christmas Movies
Give your students a list of Christmas movie titles. Have them put the titles in alphabetical order. Whoever finishes first (correctly) gets to choose which one to watch. Remind your learners that articles (a, an, the) are often ignored when putting titles in alphabetical order.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- A Christmas Carol
- A Christmas Story
- Home Alone
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Miracle on 34th Street
- The Polar Express
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Alphabetize a Christmas To-Do List
Put your students in groups and have them make a list of things to do before Christmas. Then have groups exchange the lists and put them in alphabetical order.
- Bake cookies
- Buy a new dress
- Buy a turkey
- Decorate the tree
- Exchange gifts
- Go to a party
- Mail Christmas cards
- Sing carols
- Wrap presents
- Write to Santa
Tips for Alphabetizing
- First, make sure your students know the alphabet very well. You can use our Letters Flashcards for practice.
- Next, show students how to group a list of words by first letter. (Here is a fun video on alphabetizing that you can show, or use the video to see a demonstration of how to teach a lesson on alphabetizing.)
- Now show students how to sort words within each alphabetized group by second letter (in alphabetical order) and third letter (and more if necessary). Explain what to do when two or more words have the same first and second letters.
- Teach students to ignore articles (a, an, the) in titles when alphabetizing lists (such as book or movie titles).
- Talk about when it’s useful to put things in alphabetical order (e.g., attendance lists). Talk about the difference between alphabetical order and numerical order.
- When you are sure your students know how to alphabetize, show them how to do it quickly on a computer (using “sort” or an online tool such as Alphabetizer).
Note: The ESL Library team is currently working on some new sections that will help you teach letters and sounds. We hope to have many of these lessons ready for you in early 2018!