Learning How To Use A Alphabet Arc And Other Teaching Ideas

The alphabet arc is a really simple device that can help children learn their letters, to read, write, sequencing and to construct words for themselves. When you think about learning the alphabet, the song may be the first thing that comes to mind.

Learning How To Use A Alphabet Arc And Other Teaching Ideas

Yet, an alphabet arc is a great visual way to help youngsters to learn their ABC’s. There are many ways in which you can use an alphabet arc.

In addition to this, you can easily find a template to print off, or you could create your own alphabet arc for your students to use. An alphabet arc is simply a rainbow with each letter of the alphabet surrounding it.

In this article, we will go into more detail about the alphabet arc and how you can use it in your own lessons.

What Is The Alphabet Arc?

An alphabet arc is a board with printed alphabet letters arranged in the form of an arc or a circle segment, much like a rainbow. It contains every letter from A to Z that is positioned on the outside of the rainbow.

This leaves the center of the rainbow or arc free, which can be used in multiple ways for creating and constructing words.

This is seen as a tool for teaching letter sequence and encouraging the development of the numerous skills related to reading, letter identification, and spelling.

As children become more adept at automatically recognizing and sorting letters, the arcs help to support their learning.

There are two types of arcs, including a full arc and partial arc. Depending on the student’s skill level, this will dictate which arc they should be using.

Why Are Alphabet Arch Important?

With alphabet arcs, there are numerous ways to structure learning and offer a gradual release of responsibility. Letter knowledge is a significant predictor of success in reading, according to research.

Additionally, learning and retaining letter-sound correlations can be sped up by being familiar with letter names. All of these can be supported by the use of an alphabet arc. Research has shown that alphabet arcs helps to support learning in the following areas:

  • Letter sequences and orientations
  • Developing an understanding of the alphabetical order
  • Identifying letters
  • Enhancing long term memory
  • Supporting independence and alphabet knowledge

The most important reason why so many teachers will use an alphabet arc is the fact this tool enhances and encourages alphabet knowledge.

This is vital for all students, but is even more essential for any students who may have learning difficulties. Understanding the alphabet is the key step in helping to teach students how to read and write well.

While some children who suffer with dyslexia can chant or sing the alphabet song, they may not b able to point to particular letters. Hence, the alphabet arc encourages and offers more support for these students.

Who Is The Alphabet Arc Most Suited For?

The alphabet arc is most suited for younger children who are learning to read and write for the first time. Therefore, this teaching tool could be used from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten and 1st and 2nd grade(see also: 1st Grade Homeschool Curriculum Picks: Simple And Fun).

However, as the child gets older, the less they ought to use this tool. With that being said, if the student suffers from dyslexia or any learning difficulties, they may end up using this tool for much longer than other students.

There is nothing wrong with this, as it takes them slightly longer for them to remember and recognize the order of the letters in the alphabet.

Should You Teach Sounds Or The Alphabet?

It is important that you teach your students both sounds and the alphabet, as neither is more important than the other.

You will often start with teaching your students different sounds that they may come across, and then you can begin to build up their alphabet knowledge.

When we talk of alphabet knowledge, we are referring to students being able to recognize and remember upper and lowercase letters. Eventually, your students will understand the relationship between certain letters and the sounds they make.

This then aids in writing and reading. As a result, both sounds and the alphabet ought to be taught, as they both work in harmony with each other.

This is vital when you progress your students onto more difficult words that include letters that can sound different depending on the word.

Setting Up Your Alphabet Arcs

As mentioned above, an alphabet arc is a board or mat with the image of a rainbow or semicircle curve printed on it. You could also add the letters to the outside of the curve as well.

Once your class is familiar with 4 to 5 words, you should then start using these mats. Then as you introduce each new letter, these can be added to the alphabet arcs as well.

It is important to note that the best way to get the most out of this tool is to make them as hands on as possible. This includes using foams letters, letter cards or magnetic letters to be used on the mats.

By making these tools more hands-on, then your students will be more engaged. Use the mats with all 26 letters of the alphabet if you’re just beginning to use alphabet arcs with your students.

You can transition to the incomplete alphabet arc mats, which only have the letters A, M, N, and Z, once you feel that your students are gaining confidence and speed.

The alphabet’s initial, middle, and last letters act as anchors or launching pads for the letters that come before and after them. Hence, once your students are confident, they will know where the other letters sit by just using their name letters as guides.

However, always ensure there is a complete alphabet visible when utilizing an incomplete alphabet arc mat so that kids get the assistance they need.

Different Way To Use A Alphabet Arc

Each alphabetic arc can be used in a variety of ways. The exercises and mats you select will be based on the skill levels and the different requirements of your pupils.

It is always important you start with a complete alphabet arc and then work towards using a partial arc. However, the activities we have mentioned below can be used in conjunction with both complete and partial alphabet arcs.

Matching Letters

The most fundamental of all activities, letter matching, should be introduced using a complete alphabet arc. Start with the alphabet mat that has all 26 letters on it.

Depending on your preferences, select either capital or lowercase letter alphabet arc to use. Once children are able to recognize four to five letters, start with this activity, and keep adding more as you teach them new letters.

This activity is best used with magnetic or foam letters, which students can easily push or place in the correct positions. Below are the broken steps on how to complete this activity.

Matching Letter Steps

Learning How To Use A Alphabet Arc And Other Teaching Ideas

Follow these steps to complete this activity with ease.

  • Step 1: Place the magnetic letters and alphabet arc on a flat surface. You should randomly position the letters you’re working on in the center of the arc.
  • Step 2: Students select a letter, name it loudly, and then match it to the corresponding letter on the arc.
  • Step 3: Children keep matching letters and pronouncing the names of the letters until all the letters have been aligned, making sure that the letters are facing the proper direction. Ideally, students should aim to finish this part as soon as they can.
  • Step 4: Once finished, have the students touch each letter while they sing the alphabet song.
  • Step 5: Finally, your students may select each letter, state its name, and then place it back in the center of the mat to complete the activity.

Once your class can easily and quickly complete the arc on either a lowercase or lowercase mat, then you need to switch to the other mat. This is since your class needs to be confident in recognizing both lower and uppercase letters.

If you want to take this activity a step further, when using an upper case alphabet arc, provide your students with both the upper and lower case letters to put into position.

This will then challenge your class to make the link between both sets of letters and where they should be placed on the same alphabet arc.

Matching Partial Alphabet Arc

Change to the partial alphabet arc once your class is able to arrange all 26 letters of the alphabet without much assistance. Children repeat the previous steps, except they begin with the anchor letters (A, M, N, and Z).

Then, using the 22 remaining letters, your students need to figure out where these go in correlation to the anchor letter you have already placed.

Children will most certainly need assistance when doing this, but you’ll want to progressively advance them to a stage where they can recall the correct letter sequence from memory.

Letter Sounds

A more advanced skill compared to alphabet recognition is letter-sound correspondence, yet it can still be taught with an alphabet arc. This is a fantastic approach to deepen a familiar activity and support the reinforcement of letter sounds.

Make sure to limit your use of magnetic letters to those that have been specifically taught to represent letter sounds.

Letter Sounds Steps

Follow these steps, and you will be able to confidently use an alphabet arc to support the learning of letter sounds.

  • Step 1: Place the magnetic letters and alphabet arc onto a flat surface. In the mat’s empty center, arrange the magnetic letters there.
  • Step 2: Children say the letter names as they swiftly connect the letters to the letters that can be seen on the alphabet arc.
  • Step 3: Following the matching of all the letters, the teacher instructs, “Find the letter that represents /s/.”
  • Step 4: Children hunt for the letter on the alphabet arc after repeating the sound /s/.
  • Step 5: The students should pull out the letter that produces that noise. They should pronounce the letter’s name and sound as they draw it down: “S says /s/.”
  • Step 6: Then the students should try to correctly construct the letter and write it on the laminated mat with a dry-erase marker.
  • Step 7: Once the teacher has double-checked that each pupil has chosen the right letter, all the students can place that letter back into the correct position on the arc.

At the end, the teacher can ask for another sound/letter to develop this skill further. It is a great way to go over sounds that the class has been learning.

Building Words

To go even farther, your students can learn to spell words using the letters that have been placed onto the alphabet arc. When the class can rapidly and easily use the partial alphabet arc to sequence all 26 letters, they should move on to this task.

Additionally, they ought to be able to divide sounds into phonemes. For example, they should be aware that you can break down the word cat into c/a/t. The majority of sounds and letters should be familiar to the children.

If not, no problem, just select words with sounds they are familiar with. For this project, all the letters will be arranged in the arc, which frees up the entire center area for word construction.

To make this simple in the middle of the arc you may wish to create elkonin boxes (see also: How To Use Elkonin Boxes For Reading Intervention?)or lines to help the children form words.

Building Words Steps

Learning How To Use A Alphabet Arc And Other Teaching Ideas

Building words can easily be achieved by using an alphabet arc. Use the steps outlined below to see how you can perform this activity in your own classroom.

  • Step 1: The partially complete alphabet arc mat should be placed on a flat surface.
  • Step 2: On the arc, kids arrange all the letters in alphabetical order, with assistance if necessary.
  • Step 3: A CVC-formatted word is recited aloud by the teacher.
  • Step 4: Children say the word aloud and then tap their fingers to figure out how many sounds it contains.
  • Step 5: Children identify the letters that each sound is made of by listening for them and then pulling out the letters that begin with the initial, middle, and final sounds.
  • Step 6: The students ought to check their work after the letters have been lowered to the mat’s center. They check to see if the letter they see corresponds to the sounds that they hear in the word by saying the sound each letter makes.
  • Step 7: Children swiftly read the word while blending it together and tracing their fingertips under the letters.
  • Step 8: Finally, each pupil should put the letters back where they belong on the arc and start over with a different word.

To make things slightly easier when you first use this activity, in the middle of the arc, it might be filled by Elkonin boxes or sound lines. This way, the class knows how many sounds they ought to be looking out for.

You can simply increase the number of boxes or lines as the class progresses into longer and more difficult words.

The Missing Letter

Finding the missing letter in the sequence is another opportunity to practice your sequencing abilities and the alphabetical arc. Using their alphabet arc and letters, students can arrange the alphabet’s letters in order.

They can then determine which letter is missing from the alphabet’s order. Students’ memories of the alphabet’s written representations and order are tested by this activity.

When it comes to sequencing and missing letters, there are a couple ways in which you can do this:

Example 1: Before And After

Define the terms “letter before” and “letter after.” Then you can specify a letter. Students should locate the letter from the alphabet arc and then inform you on what the letter before and after that particular letter is.

Along with working on the idea of alphabetical order, this gives pupils practice with sentence structure and oral language.

Example 2: Missing Letter Game

Locating the missing letter is a fast game that your students will enjoy playing. Here, students will rapidly discover and pluck the letter needed to complete the sequence by looking at the missing letter card.

This sequence could be a simple word which has a letter missing. Hence, once your students locate the missing letter, then they need to read that sequence to discover what word it creates.

 Your students will enjoy seeing how to identify and locate the missing letter the quickest.

Enhance Handwriting

Letter formation and handwriting go hand in hand, and the alphabetical arc provides another way to practice handwriting skills.

If your alphabet arc is printed on a laminated mat or whiteboard, then your students can use dry-erase markers to write in the middle of their arcs to spell words. Thus, you can reinforce handwriting skills and letter formation in one simple activity.

You can use the alphabet arc as a guide to help students see how a letter should be written, and then they need to try to replicate it. It is important when you are using the alphabet arc, you get your students to say out loud the sounds and words that they are writing.

To begin with, your students could simply trace the letters that they see, as the letters are right there for them to use. Then, as they get more confined, they can begin writing the letters in the middle of the arc.

Also, you could also add spots or dots to show your students where they need to start when creating each letter.

Tips To Follow When Using A Alphabet Arc

Overall, using an alphabet arc is pretty simple and the majority of students will get the hang of it in no time. Yet, we have gathered together a few tips you may want to keep in mind. These tips will ensure you are getting the most out of the alphabet arc.

  • Bigger The Better – If you are finding premade alphabet arcs or creating your own, you want to ensure that they are large enough. We would suggest printing the arcs on 18 by 24 inch paper. This will ensure that the letters are big enough for your students to see them, and this is the right size if you do use magnetic letters as well.
  • Add Color – You could have a simple curved line that indicates the arc, however, a lot of premade alphabet arcs use the image of a rainbow instead. This then provides more color, so this will attract the children’s eyes to look at the arc. You could also highlight anchor letters such as A, M and Z, or why not highlight vowels such as A, E, I, O, U. This will make it clear that these letters are important.
  • Laminate – We would advise that you laminate your alphabetic arcs. Not only does this make them more durable, but also allows you to use dry-erase markers on them. Hence, the arcs being more versatile, and you can use them in a lot more ways.
  • Ziplock Bags – Since, there will be a lot of letters flying around, as each student will have their own set of letters to palace on their arc. We would recommend that when each student is clearing their arc away, they palace their letters into a ziplock bag. Then this ensures that no letters get lost, and makes for easy setting and cleaning up.
  • Timers – You want to keep these alphabet arcs exciting to use, so that the children stay engaged when using them. One way you can keep them engaged is by setting the children a timer to see how quickly they can arrange the letters on their own alphabet arc. Each time, you could challenge your class to see if they can beat their previous time.


If you are currently teaching your students their letters, then you should consider using the alphabet arc. It is a simple yet really effective tool which has lots of different purposes from helping to improve their long term memory and developing sequencing skills.

There are many reasons as to why you should be using the alphabet arc in your class. We hope you have found this article helpful. Hopefully, you now understand how to use the alphabet arc and the different learning activities you could employ with it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Use The Alphabet Arc?

Many teachers all around the world use the alphabet arc since it is a visual and multisensory way for youngsters to visualize and learn their letters. It helps with segmenting, writing and blending.

Hence, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be using this education tool.

What Sequence Should You Teach The Alphabet In?

It is important to start teaching your student the letters and sounds that they will come across most often. This will usually include the letters E, A, G, M, T.

Then you can look at letters that look similar but sound really different, such as B and D. With each new letter your students are taught, this can be added to their alphabet arc. 

Can Alphabet Arc Help Students Who Are Dyslexic?

Anyone who is dyslexic may struggle when it comes to letters and what they look like. Hence, the alphabet arc can be really helpful in this situation, as it allows them to see how letters ought to look and picking out the right letters for certain words.

As a result, in the end it allows them to improve their spelling, bleeding and eventually reading. They can go back to the arc for help and use it as a reference when they are struggling with particular words.

How Do Children Learn The Alphabet?

Usually, children will learn the alphabet through repetition. As a result, the more items they go over the alphabet song or use the alphabet arc, this is enhancing their memory and aids them in remembering the alphabet.

Since each child is different, others will remember the alphabet a lot quicker than others.

Suzy Anderson
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