The signature of a great teaching strategy is its flexibility. That’s why I love the ABC Chart. Here are multiple ways to utilize this same tool to improve writing skills and content comprehension.

Smekens Original ABC Chart poster

1. TOPIC GENERATING. With “Things I Know About” written in the middle, students can brainstorm topics to write about–cats, skateboarding, brothers, homework, riding the bus, etc. Each topic is listed within the box of the first letter of the word. You can eventually change the subject matter to address a more targeted idea–“Pet Peeves” or “Feelings” or “Christmas” or something else.

2. PRE-WRITING. Consider using the ABC Chart with students as a pre-writing technique. First brainstorm details, as many as they can think of. Encourage multiple details per letter box, and don’t force all letters to have a detail. (This only encourages them to make up details. We don’t need any off-topic sentences in their writing.)

ABC Poster--Trait of Ideas--Plant Example

Students can jot these details on the paper version of the chart, or they can brainstorm as a whole class.

Then, when it’s time to use those details and generate a draft, facilitate the organization of all the details.

Trait of Organization--Sort & Organize Facts

3. COMPARE/CONTRAST. Using two poster-size ABC Charts, have students brainstorm details for two topics, events, rulers, books, or whatever you want them to compare and contrast. Generate details for item A on one ABC Chart and details for item B on the second chart. Again, using sticky notes might make this easier when it comes time to organize the details into paragraphs.

4. PARTS OF SPEECH. Fourth graders in Julie Meitzler’s Bluffton Elementary classroom love using the ABC Chart to review parts of speech. Julie says it’s great fun to come up with A-Z nouns, A-Z plurals nouns, A-Z verbs, etc.

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