The Alphabet Check

After establishing a baseline for my children’s spoken alphabet knowledge, it was time to work through the written alphabet. It’s one thing being able to say the letters of the alphabet, it’s another level again to be able to identify the written letters correctly and connect them with their sounds.

Over a series of afternoons, I went through the written alphabet with my children. I worked with each child individually and again, we made a bit of a game out of it.

I showed them individual letters I’d printed out and asked if they knew what letter it was. These letters were shown in a random order (not alphabetically).

The aim of the exercise was to find out whether they could:

  • Identify what each letter looks like in its written form?
  • Make the connection between the letter with its most common sound.
  • Can they write the letter?

I had my own list of letters in front of me and I made a note of any letters that were missing, unclear or caused confusion. This formed our starting point.

Learning the letters in the alphabet can be particularly difficult for some children. Some children need a longer time frame and different learning methods in which to process this information.

My children’s alphabet knowledge was mostly there. However, there were a handful of letters that caused a great deal confusion which we focussed on more intensely. I found that incorporating a variety of sensory learning activities to be of benefit to my children. This ranged from play-doe to writing letters in sand, to connecting actions with sounds.

The most important thing was to make the connection in a way that enabled their brain to process the information to their long-term memory. This didn’t happen in one sitting – it was many small activities repeated over time within a timeframe that supported their knowledge retention.

We spent many afternoons after school going over the alphabet until they were solid in their knowledge. I tried several different hands on and sensory based activities to help them. They were mostly play based and we had a lot of fun in the process of learning.

Here are a few examples of the activities we did.

Activity: Play Doh Alphabet

Resources: Play Doh, large tray, Modelling tools eg plastic fork /plastic knife /other utensils

Aim:         Create each letter in the alphabet with play doh starting with letter a.


1. Make the shape of the letter and then they had to think of something that began with that letter and make it.

2. Talk about the letter, its sound and what your child has made to represent the letter.

3. Put the letter and its matching object to the side and begin working on the next letter, repeating this process until your child has modelled the full alphabet.

Children love it when their parents join in. You can model the letters for your child (if needed). Children also love to show their parents what they can make from play doe. Likewise, they just love to see what their parents can make too.

This exercise can be broken up over a few afternoons. Keep your child’s creations on a tray, and display in a place that they will walk past regularly. This keeps the exercise in mind, even when walking past it, it will trigger thoughts about the letters they have made.


Activity: What is this letter?

Aim: Help your child with their Letter recognition.


  1. Point out letters on signs, or on products or books or anywhere there are written words.
  2. Ask your child ‘What letter is this? (Wait for child response) and then ask ‘And what sound does it make? (Wait for child response) or alternatively, ask “Can you point to the letter / x / on this sign / book / cereal package (wait for child response) and then ask, “What sound does it make?”
  3. Celebrate the wins along the way – high five!


Activity: Place letters of focus around the house for your child to see

Aim: Each time your child sees a letter that they are working on, it will trigger a thought in their mind of that letter thus keeping the letter in your child’s mind longer.


  1. Print out letters that your child is working on and place around the house. Eg on the fridge, on the wall in the lounge room, on the wall outside the entrance to their bedroom, on the toilet door etc anywhere that your child will see regularly.
  2. Just by seeing the letter will trigger the thought about the letter, keeping it fresh in their mind.
  3. Every now and then randomly ask your child “What letter is that?” followed by “And what sound does it make?”

In doing these exercises, it keeps these letters in the forefront of your child’s mind. The repetition of seeing these letters, talking about these letters, writing these letters, and connecting their sounds will help to strengthen the pathways in the brain.

There are many different activities you can do with your child to help strengthen their alphabet knowledge.

We’d love to hear about any exercises you find helpful for your child.

It’s important to continue to work on these areas with your child to give them a solid foundation upon which to build their reading skills.

If your child breezed through their alphabet knowledge confidently, that’s fantastic news!

The next check point after Alphabet Knowledge is the Alphabetic Principle. The Alphabetic Principle is like the ‘big picture’ of how words work and is often one of the missing links in learning to read for children with reading difficulties.


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About Author

Brylee Langley

Founder of The Reading Switch,
Mum of Two Dyslexic Children, Lived Experience,
Parenting Dyslexic Thinkers

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