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How to Teach Alphabetizing

Welcome to our mini teaching guide on alphabetizing!

Alphabetizing is an essential literacy skill, and the resources in this post will make it easy for you to teach it. Let’s dig in!

Why Teach Alphabetizing?

recipe box with alphabetical dividers

Even with modern technology, alphabetizing is used in many areas of our lives. In fact, you’ve probably used your alphabetizing skills this past week without even realizing it. Maybe you looked up a friend’s phone number in your contact list, or maybe you’ve looked something up in a book index.

Here are some other common uses of alphabetized lists:

  • Finding a song on your music playlist arranged by artist’s last name
  • Locating a recipe in a recipe box
  • Filing a document in a cabinet
  • Using a map for public transportation
  • Locating a store by using the mall directory
  • Looking up information in a textbook glossary
  • Finding a book on a library shelf

Four Stages of Alphabetizing

Children go through four stages when learning to alphabetize.

the 4 stages of alphabetizing chart

Here are hands-on activities and tips for each stage.

Stage 1: Put Letters in Order

At this beginning stage, kids learn to arrange letters in A to Z order. You can use letter tiles, Scrabble tiles, or squares of paper, or you can download our free ABC Caterpillar activity.

ABC Caterpillar Download

Play with Our Colorful Caterpillar

This adorable hands-on activity promotes letter recognition and builds pre-reading skills. And as an added bonus, you can use the letter cutouts from this activity for some of the additional activities described in the tips below!

Follow these tips to help reinforce Stage 1 alphabetizing skills:

  • Work with your child to put the letter tiles in order at the beginning of each spelling or reading lesson.
  • Sing the alphabet song together.
  • Demonstrate how to start from different points in the alphabet. For example, lay out letter tiles A through M, and then have your child start the alphabet song from L and finish alphabetizing tiles N through Z.
  • Hand your child the letter tiles in random order. Teach him that M and N are in the middle of the alphabet, so that when he gets those tiles he knows he should set them in the middle. As you hand your child each tile, he should decide if it is in the first half or the second half of the alphabet.
  • Ask questions such as “What letter comes after P?” and “Is H in the first half of the alphabet or the second half of the alphabet?”

Stage 2: Alphabetize to the First Letter

Once a child has mastered putting the letters in alphabetical order, teach him that words can be alphabetized, too.

Sort the Seeds

Play “Sort the Seeds”

Sorting the seed packets in this hands-on activity from All About Reading Level 3 is a fun (and colorful!) way to practice alphabetizing words according to the first letter.

Stage 3: Alphabetize to the Second and Third Letters

In real-world applications, your child will come across multiple items that start with the same letter (for example, the names of children’s authors Sendak, Seuss, and Silverstein). The next step is to look at the second or third letter to alphabetize them correctly.

Who's Coming to My Party?

Play “Who’s Coming to My Party?”

Alphabetizing to the second and third letters can be tricky—but not when you can play “Who’s Coming to My Party?” from AAR Level 4. This engaging activity will make learning this skill seem more like a party than a lesson!

Stage 4: Teach Common Rules for Advanced Alphabetizing

When your child is more advanced and is consistently able to alphabetize words to the second and third letter, you’ve reached the fourth stage of alphabetizing. Now your child will learn what to do with last names such as McAfee, Macauley, and O’Kearney; book titles that start with The; and numbers.

Common Rules for Advanced Alphabetizing

Download the Common Rules for Advanced Alphabetizing

Although alphabetizing is more difficult at this level, this handy quick-guide takes all the guesswork out of applying more advanced alphabetizing skills.

Remember, alphabetizing is an important skill, but it doesn’t have to be a boring one. With these tips, your child will be alphabetizing like a pro in no time!

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Leave a Comment

Katherine Blundstone

says:

Thank you. Helpful to have the stages outlined as you have.

Thia

says:

As an Occupational Therapist who works with children with writing delays, I am constantly emphasizing alphabetical a-z knowledge. Classroom teachers who have so many things to teach often miss this skill. I LOVE this post, particularly your example of the functional uses of the alphabet. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thia,
Interesting that you need to emphasizing alphabetizing in your Occupational Therapy work, but it makes sense now that I think of it. Thank you for sharing this.

Rebecca

says:

Thank you for the download!

Heidi Crawford

says:

What a great guide! Thank you!

Christine Nadolny

says:

My boys found it tricky at first. I put alphabetizing lists in our review.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christine,
Some students do find alphabetizing, especially alphabetizing to the second letter and beyond, tricky. Adding to your regular review is a great way to ensure they master this important skill!

Christina

says:

Great ideas!

JJ Lea

says:

Love the rules download!

Machalah

says:

I am excited to use the alphebetizing seeds activity that you wonderful people provided. My daughter is not quite to that point, yet as we are still on Level 2.

Julie

says:

This made me realize the importance of not just knowing the letters but the order. I’m backing up and refocusing on this.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julie,
Alphabetical order really isn’t necessary for learning to read and spell, but it does come up in so many different and often unexpected areas. Let me know if you need any ideas for going back and working on alphabetical order.

Rebecka Christenson

says:

Thanks! Didn’t even realize there were advanced rules!

Donald

says:

Fascinating…and very useful! As you say, an important skill.

Linda

says:

Where can I find some reviews about this program before purchasing?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
We have lots of reviews! Were you looking for a specific level or type of review?

You can find many reviews of All About Reading level 1 here. You can find mixed reviews of all our levels and All About Reading and All About Spelling on All About Learning Press Facebook Review page.

Here are a few blog reviews:
How All About Reading Saved Our Homeschool
All About Reading Review: The simplest, most comprehensive way to teach reading
All About Reading: How it Works for Our Family {a detailed review}

Here are some video reviews:
A Sample Lesson with All About Reading
All About Reading 1 review and tips
Reading Journey with All About Reading Pre-reading

Does this help? Please let me know if you have questions or need anything further.

Linda

says:

My grandson is going to be 9 in July. He can recite his ABCs but he cannot write them or identify half of them. What do you recommend for me to help him read and write

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
My third child had trouble learning letters too. Consider doing our Pre-reading level, as through it students learn letters and the other Reading Readiness Skills necessary for reading success.

Focus on just one letter until he has it down. Then add the next letter while keeping the first in daily review. Use lots of active and game-like review, but make sure each letter is mastered before the next is added.

Be sure to check out our Letter Knowledge Activities page, which has all kinds of hands-on activities you can do to work on letters. Other things you can do:

– Make a letter of the day or week placemats.

– Go on a letter-treasure hunt: Put letters on index cards and tape them on things around the house that start with a letter and have him find the letters, or just hide letters for him to find.

– Give him a fun pointer stick. As you both sing the alphabet song, he should point to each letter as it is sung. Do this every day.

– Play games: Take index cards or squares of paper. Write a letter of the alphabet on each piece of paper. Set out four NON-CONFUSABLE letters at a time. For example, set out a, b, e, and f. (Do not set out c and e together, or b and d.) Take turns being the teacher. The teacher says “Point to the f (or whatever letter).” If the student points to the correct letter, he gets to keep it. Continue until the student has collected all four letters. Over a period of days or weeks, gradually add in more letters. First work with the uppercase letters; then move on to the lowercase letters.

Free A to Z Letter Sounds App

– Swatting Phonograms–have him “swat” letters on index cards as you say them. There are a couple of other downloadable games in our article, How to Teach Phonograms.

– An idea for very active kids is the snowball game. You can just tape the letter cards to the wall. Shooting the letter cards with a nerf gun can also be fun.

– If he is also working on handwriting, have him work on writing the letter he is learning. Use tactile methods to practice letters, or practice them in various ways like a gel pen on black paper, or crayon that he paints over (or have him color with all different colors, then color over it with black, and use a coin or other object to write a letter–it will scratch away the black and the letter will be rainbow-colored).

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Jessica B.

says:

Great ideas! Thanks!

Sherrie

says:

I love the fun activities AAR incorporates into the lessons! My daughter loves them as well! They really are good hands-on teaching tools.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherrie,
I love that you and your daughter love the activities! :D Thank you.

great ideas for my class!

Would love this for my daycare littles!

Annette

says:

Loved the caterpillar but would prefer circles were a bit smaller as these required a large area to play with.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Annette,
I think a smaller caterpillar would be great for smaller work areas and for on-the-go fun as well! Great idea.

In your printer settings, you can scale the size to print smaller. I wouldn’t recommend going below 50%, as that would result in each of the letter circles being just under two inches. Depending on your printer software, you may be able to set it to print two pages per sheet. This would also result in just under two-inch sized circles and would save paper too. However, not all printers have that option.

Carol Fye

says:

My Son and I will love this :)

Deborah Dell

says:

I love this! Thank you for distinguish great ideas we can all use.

C. Gould

says:

My kids struggle with alphabetizing after the first letter. This resource is just what I need to help enhance how I teach it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great point. Many students do get a bit tripped up when alphabetizing to the second letter and beyond. Hopefully these activities will help your kids master this skill. However, if they continue to struggle, please let me know so I can help.

Heather

says:

Great idea! Alphabatizing is so important!

Julie

says:

Thanks for this.

Charity Wittenburg

says:

All the blog posts I’ve read so far have had such practical tips. I can not wait to get started on this program!

Cindy

says:

Thanks for the tips! My youngest will be learning this soon and my 4th grader is still practicing second letter and beyond.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cindy,
You’re welcome. I hope your children enjoy the activities!

Amy

says:

Great ideas, i love this!

my kids and I thoroughly enjoyed alphabetizing with ABC caterpillar, thank you so much

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lolita,
I’m glad that your kids and you are enjoying the caterpillar! Thank you.

Jenna Clark

says:

So simple and automatic, I love that kind of homeschooling!

Dawn

says:

These are great! Thanks for sharing them.

Priscilla

says:

I am an alohabetizing junkie! As a kid I used to do the whole bookshelf, then pull them all off and do it again!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I bet you were a cute kid with your alphabetizing, Priscilla! My son does that sort of thing, and it always makes me smile.

Brandi

says:

This looks like what I was taught in public school back in the 1980s. To me, it is the best way to learn how to alphabetize.

Rachael Kuhaneck

says:

These are great resources!

Angie Bratton

says:

Thanks for all y’all do.

Carri

says:

This is great !
Thank you for the tips! Something we take for granted that we do! But it has to be taught

Ivy

says:

I love AAS!! We have used it for two years now. I can’t wait to try alphabatizing!

Ivy

says:

Ok how about I spell alphabetizing correctly!! LOL

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

No problem, Ivy. I knew what you meant! :D

Rachel

says:

These ideas are great! Can’t wait to try them out!

Yolanda W

says:

Love this program. I use AAS & AAR with my 3 kids.

Rashmi

says:

Wonderful article with lots of suggested activities. I will be starting with Caterpillar activities. Thanks :)

Jamie

says:

Looks like a good method.

Amy

says:

I downloaded the Who’s Coming to my Party activity since my youngest still seems to have some difficulty with looking up words in the dictionary. It’ll be good practice.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Yes, the “Who’s Coming to My Party” activity should help work on the skills needed for using a dictionary. However, sometimes dictionaries are overwhelming to children because there are so many words. It can be helpful for you to look up words while she watches and you talk through using the guide words at the top of each page and your thought processes as you search for the word. Also, if possible, start her out with a Children’s Dictionary, as they have fewer words and larger print that help with the overwhelmingness.

I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes or if you have questions.

Sarah M

says:

My youngest just started Kindergarten this year. We are using the Caterpillar download as a way to learn our ABC’s! She had a great time getting the pieces and putting them in order on our classroom wall! She got a head start by doing the ABC letter crafts from All About Learning!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
I’m very pleased to hear your youngest has enjoyed our ABC letter crafts and got a head start with them! I think the Caterpillar alphabet would be a super cute display on a schoolroom wall Thanks for sharing the idea!

Jaime B

says:

I downloaded this to use with my oldest daughter today. Thank you! We love the support and customer service you give to your customers and AAL and AAR can’t be beat! It is one of the favorite parts of our school day. :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, you’re welcome, Jaime! Let us know if daughter enjoys and learns from the activity.

B

says:

Neat ideas! Thank you for helping keep learning interesting.

Kristen Faiola

says:

Love this thanks for sharing.

Jen

says:

This is awesome! Love the extra recourses you provide. :)

Erika

says:

These are helpful. Thanks!

Melissa

says:

I love that students can use the letter tiles to remind them of the order and manipulate the words as they are alphabetizing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
The letter tiles are a great tool for practicing alphabetizing!

Danielle Ray

says:

Very helpful!!

Megan Saxbury

says:

wow I went to public school. they never taught what to do with “the” and numbers and MC Mac… Im getting the downlioad for me cause it has confused me in the phone book for years and dictionary for years. my kids only half way thru level 1 so she has a way to go. but I need to know now. thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Megan,
Those advanced rules can be tricky!

These games look like so much fun, thanks for sharing!

Naomi Murrin

says:

I’m actually excited to give this a go

Rebecca

says:

Wonderful ideas!! Thank you 😊

Lisa

says:

Great ideas! Thank you!

Erin Davis

says:

Great article!

Heather Bergman

says:

We just started alphabetical order last week. It was fun looking up words in the dictionary!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
Dictionaries can be a lot of fun! My kids love my Children’s Dictionary (which had lots of great pictures) so much it fell apart.

Kirsten

says:

I need to try some of these. My eight year old needs practice, but he fusses about it when I have him do it…

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kirsten,
Yes, try these activities and hopefully your eight-year-old will not fuss. Alphabetizing is important but it doesn’t have to be boring!

Jenny Baker

says:

This is one area that my kids have done fairly well in-Thank you for the reminder of the 4th level!!

Cassie W.

says:

Love this! So clever!

Tammy Lane

says:

I really like the way you divide the levels of alphebitizing. I think this will really help us as we progress.

Michelle

says:

This is a great resource!

Amy

says:

Thanks for this! I was just looking into this.

Deavin

says:

This blog post is going to so useful for teaching my struggling reader to alphabetize! Thank you!

Kim

says:

I also think about concerts. We must be able to alphabetize to find our seat!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

So true, Kim! And large parking lots (like Disneyland) too. :D

Dawn

says:

Alphabetizing is definitely a skill everyone needs to know how to do. We don’t realize how often we actually alphabetize things in our life to make things simpler. Thank -You for a wonderful break down of it all.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Dawn,
Yes! We use alphabetizing in so many ways and we don’t think about it much. You’re welcome.

Sheryl

says:

Thank you. Effective learning strategies. I will be utilising the scaffolded strategies to support developing readers.

Sheryl

Jenny

says:

I’m going to do try this this week. Thanks!

Kayla

says:

Thank you for this. I was literally about to Google “how to teach alphabetizing,” but I read my email first. Thank you thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kayla,
What great timing! :D

Beth Cardin

says:

These look like great activities!

Selina Luppino

says:

Very useful! Thanks!

candace

says:

I really like these activities and I think they will be just right for my students. They are also differentiated for all learners. This is also helpful

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Candace,
Enjoy the activities!

Danielle

says:

This was such a helpful blog post. I will be working with my Kindergartener, 2nd grader and 4th grader on this!

I should have brushed up on those advance rules before starting my first secretary job ;)

Judith Martinez

says:

Thanks for the fun ideas!

Casandra Skaggs

says:

A great reminder for a very important skill.

Laura

says:

Thanks for the great information. This is a skill I have completely forgotten to cover!

Lynette Williams

says:

Great ideas that may even work for my special needs student. I’m eager to try the seeds game idea.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lynette,
Let me know how your student enjoys the seeds game! Also, let me know if you need further ideas to help your student master alphabetizing.

SHANNON ALEXANDER

says:

My older 2 kids love to alphabatize words. My younger ones I have taught yet. Love the caterpillar.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Shannon,
It’s sweet that your older two kids love alphabetizing, but I understand it! There is something very pleasing about putting things in the right order. :D

I hope your younger ones love the caterpillar!

Glad Holt

says:

Good morning , I am a 58 year old woman learning how to read ,write and spell.I find this a great challenge putting thing in alpehebat order.After four strokes life have been difficult,small things putting in order or can not comprehend what is said . I have found my present with you thank you in my time of need.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome. Keep up the amazing work in improving your own learning in this way.

Jim Cady

says:

You didn’t mention “insignificant words” (“the”, “an”, etc.). I see some alphbetizing where all titles beginning with “the” are grouped together. Who makes up these silly rules to replace what has always been most reasonable? Is it the same group that renamed the “library”, “the media center”? And why? Because few teachers were able to convince students that the word is spelled “library”, not “liberry”??? Take me soon, Lord. I can’t stand this lunacy any longer!

You also mention at what age alphabetizing is taught. I was not aware that it was still part of the curriculum. You probably realize many states no longer teach cursive and few teach how to read an analog clock!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jim,
The download in Stage 4 of this blog post, Common Rules for Advanced Alphabetizing, does address how to alphabetize with articles (the, an, etc.).

Sharon

says:

Can you tell me at what age children are generally introduced to alphabetizing in school?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sharon,
As we show in this post, alphabetizing is a skill taught a bit at a time over years, as students grow in ability. Alphabetizing is typically first introduced when young children, Kindergarten and maybe even preschool, start learning the alphabet in order. Alphabetizing words is introduced after students have learned to read and spell on a beginning level, probably around 1st or 2nd grade.

I hope this helps.

Sharon

says:

children are taught the skill of alphabetizing as early as age 3.

Nancy

says:

Great ideas for teaching alphabetizing!

Lydia R.

says:

I’m doing IEW’s Fix-it Grammar with my third grader. The book requires students to look up words in the dictionary four days out of a week. I had to help my son with suggestions the first week or so (“Is AL after or before AK?” etc.) but then I left him at it. He’s been doing it faster and faster, so all it takes is practice =D

Hazel Pyle Lewis

says:

Real practical skills and strategies

Amanda

says:

Thank you so much for this! It is my first year as an elementary librarian, and I am disheartened at how many students cannot find what they are looking for because they lack this skill. I will be using this in my classes.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
I remember the wonder and excitement of the library when I was a kid (and sometimes I still feel that way in a nice library!). Thank you for seeking to give the skills necessary to enjoy the library to a new generation! We are happy we can help you even a little your endeavors!

Julie

says:

I was just realizing earlier today this is a skill we are neglecting to teach explicitly here at our house.

Pam

says:

Thanks for all your great tips. Love the specific ideas of how to give them real world practice and how to teach this step by step.

Raquel

says:

Thank you for your dedication, Marie.

Megan Thomas

says:

Thank you for this! I had forgotten some of those alphabetizing rules, and this was helpful as a refresher and for fun game ideas.

Shannon

says:

There are some really great tips here. I am excited to dive into these.

Chere

says:

I love alphabetizing. Wish my kids liked it as much! ;-)

Sandrine

says:

Great and very helpful information. Thank you.

Rachael Niles

says:

Thanks for this excellent tool!

elin

says:

Thank you for this. This was very helpful for our little fun homeschool.

Renae B

says:

I have been doing a few alphabetizing games with my preschooler. It is great to know that this is also built into the program. Very useful article. Thank you

Nicole Murphy

says:

My son loves animals, so we named an animal for each letter of the alphabet in order.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Nicole,
Ooo, that would be fun, and I bet you had to learn about some new animals for some letters. But what animal did you find for X?

Ana

says:

We have started this yet, but I’m thankful for this article and the resource.

Carole

says:

Great ideas to teach alphabetizing! My son has struggled with this skill, but these practical ideas should be very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

Gale

says:

Alphabetizing is so useful. What ages do you suggest teaching the stages? Is there a developmentally appropriate time?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Gale,
It really isn’t about age so much, as it is about ability. Stage 1 can begin as the child has learned the alphabet and the alphabet song. Stage 2 would come with learning how to spell beginning words (approximately All About Spelling level 1). Stage 3 would be with higher levels of spelling, and Stage 4 would be after children are familiar with reading and spelling lots of names and titles.

Glad Holt

says:

Thank you for the in sight that mean alot to me . I like you no I found i was below grade level. Can you send so material to help me on my way.

Glad Holt

says:

Can you send so material to help me on my way.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We have a lot of information on our blog that may help you in your learning.

However, our All About Reading and All About Spelling programs are not designed for self-teaching. Do you have someone that can help you with reading and spelling? Even adult learners make the best progress when a caring person can tutor them, providing feedback and help at each step along the way.

Diana

says:

Brilliant! I’ve been trying to get my son to look up words when he asks me something like “What does WHAT mean?” because it’s hard to define words like that ;) But I quickly realized that alphabetizing comes first! These are superb suggestions :)

Fawn

says:

Wonderful topic along with practical ideas.

Monica

says:

What a great article! Alot of very helpful ideas!
Thank you…

Jennifer

says:

Thank you for the post and all the ideas (and read ideas) on incorporating alphabetization. We’ve had some crash courses in using the dictionary, but I’ve been missing a lot of opportunities to work with this skill. The tip to have the kids organize the DVDs (that they are mainly responsible for getting out of order!) is golden. I might skip the “pay them” part, though. ;) Their reward can be getting to watch a movie!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
It’s great to hear that you find this article and further comments helpful!

Amy

says:

My sons struggle with this. Thanks for breaking down the steps.

Shevon

says:

Thank you for the simple instructions on how to teach alphabetizing!

Georgina

says:

This is really helpful. I have been through the alphabetical order of letters and using the first letters to put them in the right order; I was wondering what my next move should be. The tip to go to the library for some real-life practice is great! Thanks!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Georgina. It’s great to hear this was helpful to you to move onto the next step of alphabetizing.

Melissa

says:

I love this entry because I just started working with my daughter on this. She and I practiced at the library.

Love this summary of alphabetizing. My kids love putting things in order all the time. They read dictionaries!

B Brooks

says:

Love these tips! Thanks so much!

j

says:

Thank you for this article! It came at a most timely time. the other comments are good also.

I like to provide a letter and have the child select the letter that comes before and /or after it. I tend to do/provide three letters per week for child to select the before/after letter so that I don’t pressure the child. I also limit the number of select-able letters. Play quickly and put away and of course demonstrate, have child repeat, helping as needed. Example: (1) provide the letters A, z, L (2) have child select from the letters b, c, Y x, m, … Use only upper/lower/a mix whatever your child is ready for (3) repeat for a week.

This can be used successfully with any child who has pretty much mastered the names of the letters. Sometimes we skip a week before working with the next set of letters.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

This is a great way to review and play with alphabetizing, without taking very much time out of your week. Thanks so much for sharing this idea.

Georgina

says:

Thanks for this tip – I shall try it this week.

Ann

says:

Thanks for such practical tips. It’s what I love about AAL.

Rebecca

says:

Thanks for the tips! We may not use alphabetizing as often as we used to (I still remember having to use the card catalogs at the library!), but it is still a very useful and necessary skill to learn!

Jana Cannon

says:

Love these ideas! Thanks for the extra help. I will be sure to use it with my upcoming reader.

Amanda Roby

says:

I have a question, too! I don’t have your programs, yet, but my 4 year old has a really strong grasp on the alphabet. He’s not reading yet, and I don’t plan on starting for at least a year. Is it too early to teach the first phase of alphabetizing as a game? I think he’d love it, but I would back off if he didn’t.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Not too early at all, Amanda, as long as you keep it light hearted and fun! Check out this idea that Sharon shared the other day. She explained an alphabetizing game that is a bit easier than doing individual letters.

Amanda Roby

says:

Alphabetizing was fun for me as a kid. My first job was in a bookstore, where I got a little tired of putting the same books back in order day after day! They tested our mettle by giving us huge messy shelf on our first day… one of the girls got fired for “finishing” in an hour. The story goes they didn’t even bother to check her work before they fired her, because they knew it would take hours to finish. Ha! Anyway, I can’t imagine not using alphabetizing skills in real life, since I use them often. Thanks for a great article on how to pass on the joy to my kids.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
What a story, and what a test! It’s a smart way to ensure that someone is a good fit for a bookstore job, however. Thanks for sharing.

Anna

says:

Thanks for the tips. We love your reading and spelling programs. They are amazing.

Deborah

says:

What a great reminder and awesome blog post! Thank you!!

Christy

says:

Thanks for all the wonderful tips!

Christy

says:

Thanks for all the great ideas!

Joy LeViere

says:

We would really like to try this curriculum

Sarah

says:

I am sad that alphabetizing isn’t emphasized like it used to be and think it is a lost skill. Thank you for sharing!

Beth

says:

Great points! Thanks!

Jessica B.

says:

I love to have my kids look up new words in the dictionary to practice this skill.

A very experienced teacher showed me this alphabet drill. On note cards she wrote the alphabet in groups of three letters except the M and N which are the letters in the middle of the alphabet. The cards looked like this: ABC DEF GHI JKL MN OPQ RST UVW XYZ Students have the MN card placed on the table. Then they place the other cards either before or after the middle letters. Timing the students makes a game of learning the order of the letters. It often takes five minutes for a student to do this the first time. With practice they get it done in less than a minute. Be sure to shuffle the cards.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Oooo, this would be a fun drill, Sharon. Thanks for the idea! I could see progressing it to fewer letters on each card.

Kelly

says:

I bought a children’s dictionary with teaching this concept in mind. Sometimes my daughter will ask what something means and I will get out the dictionary. I talk through with her how we know where to find what we are looking for. She thinks it is like a game so she has fun with the process and is hopefully learning. I am going to also try playing some alphabetizing games with our letter tiles. Thanks for the ideas!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kelly,
My kids wore my children’s dictionary out! They loved it for the pictures when they were very little and then they loved it when they were older for the words and definitions. It was a great investment for years of learning!

J Price

says:

Thank you for this post. I did not realize what I left out teaching my children in the Advanced Alphabetizing. Have not tried the reading program, but our family enjoys the interactive spelling program.

Lisa Hommes

says:

I like your spelling and reading programs. Seeing progress with my boys 7 &. 10.

Danielle M

says:

Alphabetizing is one of those lost arts- much like counting change back. These are skills our children must know even in this day and age. Great ideas. Thank you.

Pam S

says:

This was great information. Thanks!

Rebekah M

says:

My children hate it when I have the alphabetize. I try to make it fun but I guess it isn’t working. Thank you for this article. I will keep it up.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Rebekah,
If they have a good handle on alphabetizing, you can practice it just occasionally through real world use. The dictionary, thesaurus, specific subject reference books (we use Math On Call for looking up math things), book glossaries, and more give alphabetizing practice. And, if they are ready to use the advanced alphabetizing rules you can have them practice their skills by alphabetizing your DVDs or book. My kids are always willing to earn some pocket money by doing some organizing for me.

Kelly Mergner

says:

I teach alphabetizing using Alphaboxes, especially when using the second or third letter and when there are multiple words beginning with the same letter. Students write the word or words in each box the word begins with. ( ex. hair, here, hound in H box) Then they look at the second letter or third and put the words in order before writing them. This helps organize the words.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Interesting, Kelly. I’ve not heard of Alphaboxes, but it sounds like it could be a useful tool.

Jenn Khurshid

says:

This is great! I really love the download! Thanks for the great info.

Julie Wolf

says:

Thank you for this! Very helpful.

Felicity

says:

Thanks for these great ideas!

Kaylee

says:

Some great tips in here – I am inspired to get one of my younger preschoolers involved with the older one’s letter tiles, to learn her letters better! Great idea.

joanna

says:

Great information. Thanks!

Laura

says:

I appreciate this blog, it’s like having an extra free resource.

Shannon

says:

I will be starting to teach spelling this coming year. Very helpful.

Stacie

says:

So excited for this

Amanda B

says:

Great info! Can’t wait to implement it into our lessons!! Thanks! :)

Kim R

says:

Thanks for all your wonderful resources and continuing education for parents and teachers. Your ideas and advice have changed how I teach.

Kayla

says:

One question: When is a good time (age or grade) to start teaching this?

This has so many good ideas. Thank you for the downloadable rules too. I didn’t know some of those and it is great to have resources.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kayla,
Stage 1 fits in well with beginning spelling instruction, as in All About Spelling 1. Since we recommend beginning spelling after the student has completed All About Reading 1, or the equivalent reading level, that would mean starting alphabetizing would start around 6 to 7 years old for many kids. However, a student that starts reading later would start alphabetizing later.

I know this isn’t a straight answer, but I hope it helps.

Anjali

says:

Thank you for all the wonderful resources made available to the parents. It helps to enrich and teach kids in much more engaging and simpler way. Ian definitely going to try this one.

Karen

says:

I like to incorporate alphabetizing naturally by having my child look up a few of his spelling or vocabulary words in a children’s dictionary each week. It doesn’t take a lot of time and is not overwhelming, but is just enough to make him think about the concepts.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Karen,
Great idea for a natural approach. Thanks for the idea.

Amanda

says:

Thank you for this!! It’s so helpful to have these ideas and instructions!

Kathleen

says:

Thanks for this post!

Ida

says:

Such a great idea! I love the AAS manipulatives and I wish that I had known about this program before my children learned alphabetization. Even at middle school age, we find the program very helpful!

Byers mom

says:

Thanks for the article- super helpful for teaching my kids!

Virginia

says:

Thanks for the wonderful tip!

Alysia Boland

says:

This is a great post! So helpful!

Wanda

says:

Very Interesting. I will definitely be trying this.

Samantha H

says:

Everything is better when I take time to make it fun!! Thanks for the suggestions!

Tina

says:

Thanks for the great post. I didn’t realize how important alphabetizing was until I asked my 8 year old to look something up in the glossary…she couldn’t do it! Now I have some tricks to help teach her to do it.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Tina,
Yes, things like glossaries, indexes, and dictionaries assume the user knows all the advanced alphabetizing rules.

Ashley

says:

Very helpful! Thanks for this post.

Jennifer

says:

Thank you for your wonderful, fun ideas.

Ginette

says:

Thanks-I never thought of Stage 4 alphebetizing. I’ll be using your suggestions!

Victoria

says:

Just added my 5/6 child to our homeschooling day…it was our first day using AAR and when her Dad got home she told him she “was reading!!!” ;) Grateful for an easy to use program with tons of creative ideas!
Thank you for doing the extra work for me!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Victoria,
How exciting! Have lots of fun with your new reader! :D

Judy

says:

Thank you, this is very helpful!

JOY

says:

Is alphabetizing included in any of the AAR or AAS levels/lessons? Or are you writing that this needs to be worked on when it can be fit in? Is there a certain age you would say the different stages of alphabetizing should be mastered? Thanks in advance for the answers! Love AAR!!!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Joy,
All About Spelling covers alphabetizing here and there throughout the levels, although it doesn’t get into the advanced rules of alphabetizing. This blog post simply gives ideas on how to teach it if you aren’t using AAS, and ideas on how to expand upon what AAS teaches.

I estimate that most children would be ready to learn the advanced alphabetizing rules by AAS 5, or even earlier.

Kimberly

says:

I am so thrilled that I finally found this program. Both of my children will benefit it huge ways from it. I’m excited to start using it.

Mary Taylor

says:

We have been struggling here lately with alphabetizing so this comes at just the perfect time for me!!

Lydia

says:

Thanks for this post…

Becki

says:

Perfect timing, we were just getting to tackle alphabetizing!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

I love when our blog posts are timely for someone! Have fun alphabetizing, Becki!

emily

says:

I never really thought about the importance of alphabetizing, thanks for this.

Lindsay S

says:

I have thought about having my oldest (5.5) alphabetize our collections of books. She lives to organize. The thing is, she’d have to do it daily, as our third (2) likes to pull multiple books off the shelf and leave them all over the house.
I am thankful our kids love books though.

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