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Learn the Alphabet with Play-doh

By: Marybeth Gamble and Elyssa Place

Description of Activity
Students are given a laminated sheet that contains an outline of various letters. The students
are also given play-doh. With the materials provided, the students will mold the play-doh into
the given letter using the laminated guide to properly shape the letter. If the teacher provides a
sheet that has both the uppercase and lowercase image of a letter, students will be able to
compare the shape and structure of each.

The teacher decides how many letters the students will focus on for the activity

Depending on the students learning level, fewer or more letters may be used

Once students are introduced to this activity it can be used to practice the alphabet at home

This can be used before, during, and after learning the alphabet and its correlation with phonics

Rationale and Objective
Rationale: Students use play-doh to practice their phonic
awareness of the relationship between letters and their
Objective: To develop the students understanding of the alphabet
Literacy Skills Activity Addressed
Students learn early-writing skills by physically molding and interacting with each letter.

Students can manipulate the play-doh and see the differences between letters, and capital and lower case

Students are able to make connections between the graphemes and phonemes

Students learn eye-hand coordination by manipulating the play-doh using control to correctly create each letter
This skill will later help students perform hand-based activities such as writing and drawing

Beyond Literacy
Making the letters with the play-doh helps develop the students fine-motor skills because the muscles
used to manipulate the play-doh are the same used to hold a pencil

Play-doh allows students to engage in meaningful and creative play (Mugurussa 2012)

Students learn spatial awareness by experimenting with the shape of letters and the space provided

Theory and Research Support

Explicit phonics instruction improves reading achievement. Phonics is important for students to learn
when they are being introduced to learning to read. The play-doh activity allows teachers to teach
phonics. The students physically see the letters and their sounds.

Teacher involvement in activity includes monitoring for alphabet recognition, encouraging students to see
different viewpoints of learning and play, expand of student learning through additional activities or
support. It is beyond just learning letters. The students are immersed through all senses. This leads to
students retaining the information

Can be easily individualized to fit each students learning needs, strengths, and interests. When learning
is differentiated, teachers can meet each childs needs. Students only benefit from this. When lessons
include student interests, students are more engaged in lessons.

Children have choice! Children can choose their colors and how they make the letters. When children
have choices they are engaged and motivated.

Vygotskys Preoperational Stage
Hands-on experience is invaluable in student learning and development.

During this stage children benefit from hands-on activities with physical objects.
They need physical hands on practice.

It helps the children move toward understanding conservation and two-way logic.

The play-doh activity allows the students to use their hands and manipulate the
object. They are able to see the letters and make the play-doh change into the
different letters.

Childrens books to accompany
Play-doh activity and alphabet awareness
Summaries from
While teaching upper and
lowercase letters to preschoolers,
Ehlert introduces fruits and
vegetables from around the
Kipper and Arnold are on an
alphabet adventure! What can
they find for each letter? They
find ladybugs for L. And toys
for T. But what begins with X?
That's a hard one. Kipper and
Arnold need your help!
The alphabet is
presented in upper
and lower case letters
accompanied by full
color photographs that
introduce farms and
thing associated.
Common Core Alignment (P, K-2)
WS.1- Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.

WS.2- Demonstrate an emerging understanding of spoken words, syllables and sounds
(phonemes). WS.P.3- Demonstrate emergent phonics and word analysis skills.

LS.1- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when
writing or speaking.

LS.2- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when
writing or speaking.

The Bottom Line
Students learn best when they are engaged in an activity that both develops their
understanding of a topic and connect to their personal interests.

Using play-doh to manipulate into letters shows students how similar the various letters
are to each other.

It allows students to practice awareness of phonics by sounding out the letter as they mold
the play-doh into its lower and upper-case forms.

This is a cost-effective activity that can be created and reused multiple times, all the
while continuing to engage students both creatively and academically every time.
Butler, A. (n.d.). Play Doh 'Alphabetica' Stop motion animation!. YouTube. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Cognitive Development in Early Childhood. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 1, 2014,

Smith, C. B., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, E. N. (2003). The Teaching of Phonics. ERIC Research

Mugurussa, T. (n.d.). Learning With Play Dough. Scholastic Teachers. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from