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5 English Alphabet Activities for Adults

We, as teachers, need to be aware that adults learn differently than children. For this reason, you need to choose the best activities for their maturity level.

We’ll take a look at five ways you can help your adult students master their ABCs, both by naming letters and by spelling out words. 

These drills and review activities, along with English board games and other English word games, should help to cement the names of English letters firmly into your students’ minds.

Contents

1. Flashcard Countdown

This is a random warm-up activity you can use in early classes until students have a pretty good grasp on the majority of English letter names.

You need:

  • An ABC card set
  • A progress chart (lines for students, columns for progress: 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20; 21-26)
  • Gold star stickers

Instructions:

  • Shuffle the ABC cards.
  • Have one student sit in front of you. Rapidly show the student each of the cards.
  • If the student names the letter correctly, put the card in a pile to the right.
  • If the student names the card incorrectly or takes more than a second to name it, put the card in a pile to the left.
  • Count the correct cards and put a star next to their name in the appropriate column of your chart to indicate progress.
  • Review the cards from the left pile with the entire class. Other students will share these failures!
  • Move on to the next student.

Present this activity to your adult students as an exercise in agility. Keep up a brisk, regular rhythm when showing the cards. Students don’t need time to think, they need to spontaneously say the name of the letter without hesitation.

Go easy on beginners; but when students have the alphabet pretty much in their pockets, speed up, challenging them to get the perfect 26 in less time than before.

2. ABC Rummy

This is a take-off on Old Maid and Gin Rummy, in which students gather pairs, trios or quartets of same-letter cards. It’s also good practice for basic question structure.

You need:

  • Four ABC card sets
  • Scrap paper for calculating scores

Instructions:

  • Shuffle the ABC cards.
  • Deal out seven cards to each player, leaving the rest in the center, face down.
  • Students check their hands for any existing combinations. The three combinations are: pairs, trios, quartets.
  • Students may lay down any of the three combinations now, or reserve pairs and trios in the hope of getting larger combinations during play, which have more point value.
  • The first student then asks any other student if they have a particular card: “Pietro, do you have a ‘w’?”
  • If Pietro has one or more “w” cards, he says “Yes, I do,” and hands them over. The first student can then either lay down the combination or continue trying for a larger one.
  • If Pietro doesn’t have a “w,” he says “No, I don’t, go fish!” and the first player takes a card from the pool. The turn goes to the next player who asks anyone for a card.
  • Gameplay continues until one player is left with no cards in their hand.

To score, add up the following points for each combination students have laid down:

  • Give 5 points for each pair.
  • Give 10 points for each trio.
  • Give 20 points for each quartet.
  • Subtract 5 points for each unused card in their hand.

You can speed up the game by using colored poker chips for scoring. Use red for 5 points, blue for 10 and white for 20. And at the end of the game, have students calculate their scores. That’ll give them the opportunity to practice their numbers as well.

3. Wheel of Fortune!

This is a good review game for material you’ve already studied in class. Unlike the somewhat limited (and lugubrious!) game of Hangman, Wheel of Fortune allows you to use complete sentences from classwork.

You need:

  • Sentences taken from recent in-class lessons you wish to review
  • ABC cards
  • One or two die
  • Play money ($100 bills are best)

Instructions:

  • Separate the ABC cards into vowel and consonant piles. Make sure they’re in alphabetical order for quick location.
  • Write each letter represented by a short line on the board, with appropriate spaces and punctuation for the entire sentence.
  • Student A throws the dice, the number they roll is the money they wager.
  • If the student rolls a three, you announce: “For three hundred dollars, choose a letter!”
  • Student A asks, “Is there an ‘f’’?”
  • If there is an “f,” write the letter above the appropriate lines on the board.
  • Award Student A with $300 for each “f” in the sentence.
  • Move on to Student B, who throws the dice as well. (You could let Student A continue as long as they get letters in the sentence, but moving on makes sure that everyone gets to play!)
  • Players may purchase a vowel with “I’d like to buy a vowel,” before rolling the dice at $100 a vowel.
  • A player who wants to solve says “I’d like to solve the puzzle.” The student then has to say the correct letter name for each of the remaining blanks on the board. For each correct letter, pay $100. If the student says an incorrect letter, they lose this bonus and you move on to the next player to continue the game.

Add drama by making a throw of one or a pair of ones, also known as “snake eyes,” a lost turn. Throwing a six or double sixes could result in bankruptcy, where the player loses all of their money.

You can do speed rounds, having students take turns saying letters and earning $100 for each correct letter until one student solves the puzzle.

Run this game quickly and agilely, act like a TV game show host, always positive and animate students to applaud and cheer on the current player chanting out “You can do it!” or “Awwww!” on a lost turn or bankruptcy.

For writing practice, rotate students to play the role of Vanna White by letting them fill in the blanks on the board while you run the game. Chances are, you’ll find that most students love bringing non-educational material into your lessons.

4. A Is for Apple

Students look up new words in the dictionary using the first letter of the word. This exercise combines letter names with vocabulary building.

You need:

  • An ABC card set
  • An egg timer

Instructions:

  • Shuffle the cards.
  • Hand a card out to each student.
  • Set the timer to one minute.
  • Students write down all the words they can think of that begin with their letter.
  • When time’s up, students must put their pencils down and spell out their words, one at a time.

For every word correctly spelled out, give a poker chip. For each word misspelled, take a poker chip away.

Alternatively, you can hand out two or three cards and have students think of words that contain all of the letters they have on hand.

For writing practice, you can have each student write out their words on the board instead of spelling them out.

This game can be played in pairs as well.

5. The Longest Word

In this activity, players try to make the longest word possible using random letters in a limited amount of time.

You need:

  • ABC cards
  • An egg timer
  • Poker chips

Instructions:

  • Put students in pairs or small groups of three or four. More advanced students can play individually.
  • Divide the ABC cards into consonants and vowels and shuffle each pile.
  • Each team calls out for a card, either consonant or vowel. Turn the card over so all can see.
  • Once seven cards have been chosen, give teams one minute to create the longest possible word they can from the letters available.
  • Vowels can be reused in the word (if an “a” is chosen, students can use it more than once).
  • Consonants can be used twice if necessary (for a more challenging game, restrict consonants to single use).
  • When the timer rings, each team spells out their word.

Award a poker chip for each letter in the word. After several rounds, the team with the most chips wins.

 

Learning the English alphabet can be as easy as cake. With enough practice and lots of fun mixed in, your adult students will become pros at it.

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