Friday, August 3, 2012

Activating Prior Knowledge: Alphaboxes/Cuadros del alfabeto

According to Stra-tiques (which you still have a chance to win TODAY), "Alphaboxes is an activity that expands vocabulary and supports critical thinking on a given topic."  Similar to using the familiar K-W-L chart, Alphaboxes invite students to brainstorm words related to the topic of which they are about to read and study.

What preparation do you need?  Just a big ol' sheet of chart paper (I think chart paper is always the most expensive line item in my class budget...that AND sticky notes!) and markers.  Draw a 5x6 grid and write one letter of the alphabet in the top corner each of the squares.  You'll only actually use 26 of those 30 squares so don't stress if you find yourself with a few leftovers!

With younger students, I recommend having the class meet together on the floor to brainstorm aloud as you think through words related to the topic one letter at a time.  Be warned that this can take a LOONNNGGG time the first few times that you do it.  Learning to quickly activate one's own schema is a skill.  You may receive lengthy pauses as little minds try to skim through their mental file folders and locate relevant information.  Students, even the young ones, will get better and faster at doing this the more you give them the opportunity.  If needed, brainstorm part of the alphabet one day and come back to it the second day.  While it may feel like you are losing instructional time, you will definitely see the benefit in the long run of teaching your unit.

With older students that have experience doing Alphaboxes, let them work in small groups on their own charts.  After allowing them a set time, have them post their charts around the room and then have the students move in carousel format around the room from chart to chart.  They can read and discuss words on the chart as well as add in even more words to their classmates' charts.

Just as you would with a K-W-L chart, an Alphaboxes chart definitely becomes an anchor chart for your unit of study that you will continue to revisit throughout the entire study.  Words may eventually be crossed out if they are determined to be irrelevant and new words should definitely be added.  You might even choose to assess students' individual growth at the end of the unit by having them complete their own mini-Alphaboxes chart.

You can see below other ways that teachers have used Alphaboxes:

Have you tried using Alphaboxes in your own classroom?  If so, please leave a comment here with any tips or ideas you may have.  Have a post about Alphaboxes?  Leave a link here too!


  1. I love this idea! I've never tried it, but the wheels in my head are spinning with endless possibilities!

    1. Well, please come back and share all of those ideas with us once you've tried them!

  2. The general tip is that, as kids grow and their interests and academic requirements change, we as parents also need to adapt to these changes.
    buy cds online india


Join the conversation in English or español! You know you have something to say!