Alphabet Arc: How To Use Them + FREE Printable Mat

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As educators, we all know that working on letter knowledge with beginning readers is important, and alphabet arcs are a great tool for that. An alphabet arc can help develop students’ letter knowledge, sequencing, automaticity, and so much more. Read on to learn how you can use alphabet arcs more effectively in your literacy lessons.

printable alphabet arc template

What is an alphabet arc?

An alphabet arc is a mat that displays the letters of the alphabet in the shape of an arc. The letters can be upper or lowercase, and some mats only display anchor letters.

Free Printable Alphabet Arc Mat

If you’re looking for a free printable alphabet arc, you can download my mat from the freebies library which is available to email subscribers. Sign up below and find the password in your email.

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Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is key to developing fluent readers. Letter knowledge lays the foundation for learning the alphabetic principle.

It allows us to make the connection between letters and the sounds they make to build our orthographic mapping.

And using alphabet arcs really helps students make all these connections and build the alphabetic principle. Students learn the correct orientation of letters, sequencing of the alphabet, letter names and sounds, and more.

Benefits of Alphabet Arcs

Using an alphabet arc offers many benefits including:

  • letter recognition
  • sequencing of letters
  • automaticity
  • visual discrimination
  • alphabet knowledge
  • letter orientation

Tips for Using Alphabet Arcs

You can use plastic magnetic letters, letter tiles, foam letters, or any letter manipulative you want.

Move from the most support to the least by starting with alphabet arcs that display all the letters, moving to alphabet arcs with anchor letters, then having students create the alphabet arc without the mat.

When you first introduce alphabet arcs to your students, you should use ones that display all the letters. As students get more comfortable with alphabet arcs and are more confident with letter identification and sequencing, you can move to using alphabet arcs with only anchor letters. These mats display only the letters A, M, N, and Z, and serve as anchors to help students sequence the missing letters.

Once students are confident with alphabet sequencing, have them create an alphabet arc without the mat. You should provide the alphabet for them to reference as they complete with activity.

Alphabet Arc Activities

Move through these activities in order so that they go from easy to difficult. Remember to keep it multisensory by having students say the name or sound as they touch or write the letter.

Also, only work on letters and sounds that you have explicitly taught.

alphabet arc letter matching

Letter Matching

You can have students match plastic letters to the letters in the arc. I usually start with the lowercase letters.

Start off by having the plastic letters spread out of order below the alphabet arc. Students pick up one of the plastic letters, name it, and match it to the letter in the alphabet arc.

You can work in groups of 5 letters at a time and build up to all the letters.

Once students are confident working with the lowercase mat, switch to the uppercase mat.

alphabet arc example

Name the letter/sound

You can do a similar activity to the letter matching but instead focus on the sound only.

Have students start off the same, with the plastic letters spread out below the arc. Students pick up a letter, say the sound, and match it to the letter in the arc.

You could also do a more teacher-directed version of this by asking students to “find the letter that says _”. Students repeat the sound and find the letter, saying the sound as they place it on the matching letter on the arc. You could also add writing the letter as a last step.

alphabet arc sequencing

Letter Sequencing

First, set up the mat with plastic letters spread out below it.

Have students match all the letters in alphabetic order, saying the letter name as they touch it. Make sure the letters are oriented the right way when placed on the mat.

Move on to having students choose a letter, say the name, and match it to the letter on the arc. Then ask them, “What letters come before?” Students should say the letter name, find the plastic letter, and place it in the correct spot on the arc. Then ask, “What letter comes after?” and follow the same steps.

You can increase the difficulty by naming a letter and asking which letters come before and after. Students can find and match the letters as they respond.

Even more difficult would be to switch to the alphabet arc with only the anchor letters. Students can add the missing letters and do the other activities outlined above using this mat.

alphabet arc missing letter

Find the missing letter

Display a sequence of letters where one letter is missing. This should be displayed under the alphabet arc. Ask students to tell you which letter is missing. They have to find the letter and place it in the sequence.

alphabet arc writing letters

Handwriting/Letter Formation

Laminate the alphabet arc so that students can write on it using a dry-erase marker. You can enlarge the mat for younger kids to make it easier for them.

Students can trace over the letters and practice writing in the white space below the arc.

word building with an alphabet arc

Build Words

Use the space below the arc to build words. Students can drag the plastic letters or write the letters they are using.

To do this, dictate a word. Students segment the word by finger tapping. Then they pull each letter to build the word in the middle of the mat. Students should make the letter sound as they touch the letter. Then students blend the sounds to read the word, and put the letters back in the arc.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, using alphabet arcs can help students in many ways. Work in some fun alphabet arc activities next time you need to have students practice concepts of the alphabetic principle.

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