How do I Teach Alphabet Letters & Sounds to ESL Students?

Written by pallavi hallur
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How do I Teach Alphabet Letters & Sounds to ESL Students?
Visual aids help students learn the alphabet. (alphabet image by Blue Moon from

When teaching the alphabet, students of English as a second language respond well to a simple approach, no matter what their age. Start with alphabet phonetics, teaching the alphabet sounds through such familiar images as "a for apple," "b for ball" and so on. Tell your students the sounds created by each letter. Teach the entire sequence of sounds, asking students to repeat after you. Enforce and test your students' knowledge through learning activities, games and worksheets.

Using Visual Aids

Connect alphabet sounds to things your students recognise. If you are familiar with your students' native language, provide verbal connections for the new sounds you will be teaching. Whether you know your students' first language, provide connections to new alphabets by using visual learning aids. Some useful learning tools include a wall chart showing the alphabet in lower case letters and large flashcards with each letter appearing next to an image that begins with that letter.

Teaching Phonetically

Most ESL students struggle with the fact that the English alphabet is not phonetic. Using a phonetic approach to teach the alphabet will make it easier for students to understand English words and spellings. Think in terms of sounds when explaining new letters and break new words down into "chunks" of sounds so that students can learn how to pronounce letters. Teach new sounds in an interactive way and ask questions to test students' understanding.

Activities for Students

Once you have taught the alphabet sounds, plan plenty of activities for your students to apply their knowledge. Activities can involve such games as naming objects starting with a particular letter or showing which letter particular words start with. Games and songs are a useful way for you to assess your students' understanding in an informal way.

Worksheets for Students

After teaching new alphabet sounds and getting your students to use them through fun activities, test their knowledge in a more formal way. Worksheets work well for this. Help students as they complete the worksheets or allow them to work in groups while you help those who are struggling. Using a variety of worksheets to recap alphabet sounds will give you an indicator of how students are progressing with their learning.


If you use new words in your worksheets, teach those words before your students start completing the worksheets. Use activities and worksheets that are fun, such as matching letters with pictures or identifying letters from sounds. Use games and songs rather than worksheets if your students are very young.

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