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EFL - ESL activities and games for teaching the alphabet and spelling

This ESL lesson plan contains practical ideas for teaching the alphabet to beginner (A1) level students. It includes a lead-in activity, several ESL activities and a couple of games. Our lessons are designed for low resource classrooms, and all you'll need is a whiteboard and some students.

The best way to view this content is through the TEFL Handbook app, so we encourage Android users to go check it out.

Lead-in activity

Start by adding the alphabet to the board, eliciting as much as possible. Then add the dialogue, using the students' L1 to clarify if you can. After that, draw some simple objects at the bottom of the board, add the spelling below and practise these as a group. Finally, the students can act out the dialogue in pairs, using the different words from the board.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for alphabet and spelling | Beginner

ESL classroom activities for teaching the alphabet

Point and shout

Students have to recognise and say different letters of the alphabet based on your instruction.

If you have used the sample board, point to different letters at random while the students shout them out. Alternatively, you could move around each student in the class and have them reply individually.

Spelling challenge

A simple writing and speaking activity that gives students the opportunity to practise spelling words out loud for their classmates.

The students have to think of three words not already on the board and write them down in their notebooks. Let them know that they are going to have to spell them out loud later. If they don't know how to spell a word, encourage them to ask you using the dialogue from the sample board. Once they have finished writing, let the students spell their words out for the class.

Alphabet catch

This fun classroom activity will test your students on the alphabet and vocabulary.

You'll need something that the students can throw around the class. Anything from a teddy to a paper ball should work. Tell the students that they must throw the object to another student while shouting a letter of the alphabet. The student who catches it must then say a word beginning with that letter. When students get good at this activity, you can turn it into a fun game.

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Related games

Here are a couple of group games that English teachers can use to teach the alphabet and spelling with beginners. As usual, our games require the minimum of resources (whiteboard, markers...and some students).

Noughts and crosses - Spelling

Students must spell words correctly to claim squares on a grid for their team.

Divide the class into two teams, draw a 'noughts and crosses' grid on the board and number the squares from one to nine. Assign words to each square, but don't show the students. For example:

1. Pear
2. Book
3. Computer
4. Kite
5. Skateboard
6. Train
7. Umbrella
8. Trousers
9. Ruler

On each turn, a student must spell a word correctly to claim the square on the grid. Make the centre square the most difficult. If you need a more comprehensive selection of words, check out this list of beginners vocabulary on eslgold.com.

I spy

A fun group game where students have to guess an object from its first letter.

On each turn, the ‘spy’ informs the other players that they are thinking of a word beginning with a particular letter. The other players have to guess that word. The player who guesses the correct answer becomes the new spy. Easy!

Teacher: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with D.
Student: Is it a desk?
Teacher: No.
Student: Is it a door?
Teacher: Yes.

More ESL lesson plans for beginners

If you've found these ideas useful, be sure to check out our complete list of ESL lesson plans for beginners (A1 Mid-level), as well as our entire collection of ESL lesson plans. Our suggested next lesson is on teaching numbers 1-100. Also, Android and iOS users can access all of our materials through the TEFL Handbook app. An ESL lesson planner for English teachers.

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