What comes after T in the alphabet?

Go ask a first or second grader this question: "What comes after T in the alphabet?" They will either say they do not know, or start with their only access node, A, and recite the alphabet out loud till they get to T and then discover the answer. Of course, due to experiences where the alphabetic order matters, we all gradually get better at knowing the next letter anywhere in the alphabet. In my research however, it is clear, that not every letter is an access letter for all adults. You might ask, "What comes after L?" and they might think KLM, meaning K was an access node to greatly ease the discovery of the answer.

The Problem:

Many struggle to effectively work the alphabetic system from any random place in the alphabet. This make it tedious and slow to look up words in a dictionary for example, or function with any process where the alphabet is employed, such as in indexing.

The Remedy:

It is time to revisit the learning of the alphabet in Kindergarten. Rather than start with "the alphabet", take a look at the triplet pairs represented below. The memorization of these triplets do not happen in any particular order.

I will focus on a class setting. Every pupil in the class would work at mastering every one of these triplets. The objective would be to place the first letter of the triplet on the front of the card, and the full triplet on the back. So, if I see F, I would say "FGH". (If I am not sure, I would look on the back of the card.) If I see J, I say "JKL" and so on. Once all the triplet sets have been mastered, it is time to compete in pairs of two pupils against other pairs of students. The goal would be to successfully say the triplet for every letter presented. The team finishing them all first, wins. Note, at this point, the pupil gamer would know every triplet by heart. The pupils are about to learn the alphabet from stitching the triplets together. You could have them start with any triplet, say K, so they would say KLM, and then already know that M is MNO, ... and O is OPQ, and Q is QRS, till they reach X for XYZ. Then they would work with the remaining triplets to build the A - Z stack.

With this memorization exercise prior to learning the alphabet, each pupil has developed a fundamental skill to make every letter of the alphabet and access node. You could give them the task to complete the alphabet out loud from any random letter of the alphabet, and they would have no difficulty in doing so. In contrast to the traditional method of learning the alphabet, traditional students would only have A as their access node, and the functional difference between the traditional group and the experimental group is projected to be stark.

Are you interested to put this to the test, please contact Jacques du Plessis at:  jacques <at> uwm <dot> edu. I look forward to hear from you.

Author: Dr. Jacques C. du Plessis