Why Not Alphabetical Order?
People ask all the time why edlah lessons aren’t taught in alphabetical order. That’s a great question!
Most preschool curriculums do teach the letters in alphabetical order, but why? If you’re like me, you probably never stopped to think about it. Most of us assume that we have to teach in alphabetical order because that’s how it’s always been done, that’s how we were taught or because that’s how it was dictated to us by someone in leadership.
Years ago, when I was teaching first grade, my district realized that our kids didn’t have a basic understanding of phonics. We started a search for the perfect phonics program. We found Jolly Phonics. It really worked well for the needs of our first graders at that time.
One thing that initially surprised me was that Jolly Phonics didn’t teach the letters in alphabetical order. I had always assumed letters should be taught in order. It challenged me to start thinking differently about letter order. Jolly Phonics prioritizes the order in which we teach letters. They start with the letters that are the most common in the English language. The theory is that if we teach the most common letters first the kids will be successful readers faster.
Why was I so set on teaching in alphabetical order? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that teaching in alphabetical order didn’t make a lot of sense. I started thinking about when teaching in alphabetical order would make sense? As an adult, when did I need to know alphabetical order? When did I use it?
Honestly, only when teaching the alphabet song to my preschoolers or putting my files in alphabetical order. I was amazed at how rarely I used alphabetical order in my adult life. Why was I so hung up on teaching that way. Why wouldn’t I teach letters in the order that they made the most sense for my kids instead of alphabetical order?
I used Jolly Phonics with my first graders for several years. It worked really well. I was amazed by the success I saw in my first graders.
Then I moved to preschool.
For preschool, I needed something more than a great phonics program. I needed something that would align all of the skills I wanted to teach my students.
I wanted to take what I had learned and apply it to the curriculum I was designing for my preschool kiddos. I wanted to take it a step further that just phonics. I wanted to tie everything we did into a theme based around a letter. They would get maximum exposure to the letter all week while studying all subject areas and skills.
As I started designing the curriculum, I wanted the letter based themes to revolve around things the kids really loved and had a genuine interest in.
I stared with the theme ideas I thought the kids would be most excited about. I attached a letter focus to each one and then started building an experience around that theme and letter.
I wanted these themed units to be so much more than a simple phonics lesson. While teaching the phonics basics was extremely important, there was so much more that I wanted to include in the themes. I made sure they had a number focus along with the letters. I did keep the numbers in numerical order. I included a color that made sense with each theme. For example, in the O is for Ocean theme we talk about the color blue, because the ocean is blue. It just made sense. Sometimes it made sense to attach a shape to a theme as well. For example, during S is for Space it makes sense to learn about the star shape, right?
I really loved how the themed sequence came out. The kids had a deeper understanding of not only the letter, but the theme as a whole. By the end of the year they had a good letter sound understanding and basic reading skills.
I’m a huge believer in teaching in a way that the kids can make the most personal connections to. The more they connect to the theme, the better they will learn all of the individual skills tied to that theme, including the letter.
Many people still think I’m crazy for teaching the alphabet in non-alphabetical order, but there are other great programs like Jolly Phonics and Montessori that have been doing it for years.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what order you teach letters in as long as your kids are excited and learning everyday.
I’ve had great success with teaching the letters in the edlah sequence, but I understand that not everyone has the same feelings toward teaching letters.
That’s why I designed edlah curriculum in a way that it can be taught in any order. The only thing that would change if you mixed up the order would be the number focus for that week.
I hope that edlah curriculum will be a great tool to help you pull together all of the skills your preschoolers need to learn!