Tutor Tales, Volume 31
The alphabet is to any kind of English lesson (Language Arts, Literature, ESL/EFL, etc.) as tropes are to a drinking game. Add some music and you just sweeten the pairing further.
Words by Maurice Sendak, Lyrics by Carole King
I used this song to introduce Alphabet Lists to Star Shaker and Skid Breaker. These are, as you must have already guessed, lists with twenty-six entries that correspond to the letters of the alphabet, whether it's as a song about playful alligators or a Cinematic Alphabet.
We opened this unit with a worksheet that looked a little like this:
A - alligators all around, B - bursting ___________
C - catching colds, D - doing dishes
E - entertaining __________, F - forever fooling
and so on . . .
And then they had to answer questions like:
A child might become shockingly spoiled if:
a) he always gets what he wants
b) he never gets what he wants
c) he doesn't know what he wants
What I loved about this exercise was that it let them practice both listening and writing, deduce the meanings of unfamiliar expressions, and watch a "real world" video--all at once!
And when we were done with that, they got to work on a project that integrated research, writing and some art: their own Alphabet Lists.
I told them to pick a topic broad enough to give them a lot of entries to choose from, but specific enough to make the entries close cousins rather than distant relations. Too bad for Star Shaker's first proposed topic of Food and Skid Breaker's of Animals. To give them an idea of what I meant by "broad but specific," I suggested that Star Shaker narrow down the list of Everything At All That Is Edible to Vegetables, and told Skid Breaker that instead of looking at the entire Kingdom Animalia, he could focus on Dog Breeds.
In the end, I was surprised when they finally settled on topics I could approve: United States of America and World War II.
Since their Alphabet Lists are currently tucked away wherever their mother files their schoolwork, I can't reproduce them here. (And as usual, I forgot to take pictures!) But I'm sure you're wondering what they did for the more challenging letters like Q, X and Z. I'm pleased to say that I handed out only one "dispensation"--for X--so that they could have entries that used that letter, even if it didn't begin with it.
USA: Quilts, Texas, Zip Codes
WWII: Manuel L. Quezon, Axis Powers, Zyklon-B Gas
The finished projects included not just the entries, but also short descriptions of them that implied why they were important enough to be on the list. (I mean, I was hardly going to let them use a word for the sake of filling up the list faster! The entries must deserve to be there!)
I recommend Alphabet Lists to any English teacher, from Kindergarten to High School!