By the time students are in third grade, they should be ready to learn how to put a group of words in alphabetical order. By then, most students will know the alphabet and how to read. First teach your students that instead of counting from 1 to 26, students will be placing words in order from A to Z. Have a group of words that begin with various first letters, and have them listed under the alphabet.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Apples, Bananas, Pears, Cantaloupes, Oranges, Watermelon, Raisins, Lemons
Have the students put them in first letter order.
Afterward, ask the students if they had two A words what would they do, and give an example such as Apples and Almonds. Some students may figure out that they would move to the next letter to find out which order they should be in. If they do not know, then you would show them that Almonds would go before Apples since the second letter’s order would be L before P. The explanation should be followed with another example activity where the students place the words in order.
Once the students have mastered the idea of alphabetical order, they should be able to place words in order without the ABC guide on their worksheets. This will test if they can think it out in their minds. Remind them that they can say the alphabet quietly to themselves to remind them which letter is first, stopping when they get to the first letter on their word list, and so forth through the list.
Finally, the best way to ensure that students have mastered alphabetical order is to apply why they need this information. One good reason to know the order is the use of dictionaries, although online dictionaries have come more popular, it is still good to know how to use the book version. Teach students how to find words efficiently in the dictionary by looking up words. Students should also be taught to find words faster by checking the from, and to words at the top of the pages to see if their word falls in between it. Teachers can turn this activity into a double learning activity by introducing new vocabulary words. Students will be challenged to learn these new interesting words while learning to master alphabetical order.