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ELT Game Corner

Welcome to my Game Corner. Here I introduce a game for you to use in your classes to help make English come alive.

June 01, 2005

Alphabet Train Puzzle

alphabet_train.jpg The Alphabet Train Puzzle is an easy-to-use ABC puzzle, which instantly captures the interest of beginning students, both in preschool and elementary school. Using puzzles in class for a short, cooperative activity is a win-win situation. Why? Youngsters have an innate desire to put things in order, and puzzles reach out, beckoning children to try to assemble the pieces to make the whole. Puzzles also facilitate cooperation among the students. Using this puzzle to learn the ABCs and their corresponding vocabulary helps plant the seeds of an English base.

The Alphabet Train puzzle is huge. Once assembled, it measures over two meters in length. This means it is an ideal floor puzzle, which works well on both tatami or a floor mat. It can be put together on a table - as long as it is a long one!

The puzzle is illustrated in strong, primary colors. The twenty-six large, easy-to-handle pieces consist of one capital and small letter along with two vocabulary words which begin with the corresponding letter. For example, the Aa letter reveals a plump, red apple wearing an apron. The Bb letter shows a smiling bear holding a balloon.

A good way to play the puzzle is as follows:

Lay out all the pieces on the floor. The teacher takes the Aa (apple/apron) piece to start the Alphabet Train. The teacher then asks the children to find Bb. The child who does so says Bb and inserts it next to the Aa. Then the teachers asks for Cc. The child who finds it says the letter Cc and inserts it next to the Bb. This continues until all the letters have been assembled in order.

I think it is very important for the teacher to insist that the children take his/her lead and assemble the puzzle putting the letters in order. This accomplishes two things: first, it teaches the children alphabetical order. And secondly, it fosters group cooperation.

After the puzzle has been assembled, the teacher can then point to the ABCs with a pointer (since the puzzle is so long, a pointer really helps). The children can recite the ABCs or sing the Alphabet Song with the teacher. Then the teacher can introduce the two vocabulary words for each letter. In addition, the teacher can ask each student to point to the letter their name begins with. The teacher can also point to one illustration on the puzzle and say, "I like DOGS," which is one of the Dd illustrations. Then the students, one at a time, can point to the illustration they like.

When all activities have been completed, the teacher can ask the students to take the puzzle apart and put everything back in the box. The students should do that as a cooperative group. And once the pieces have been put back in the box and the top has been placed over the box, a student should hand the box to the teacher saying, "Here you are," to which the teacher will reply. "Thank you."

I mention this final aspect because I am a strong believer in giving the responsibility of putting games back/away to the children. It puts them in control in a positive way. The children in my classes always want to be the person who gets to hand the game to the teacher and say, "Here you are."



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