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Home » Blog » Literacy » Foundational Reading » ABC Order: An Important Skill for 2nd Grade

ABC Order: An Important Skill for 2nd Grade

Foundational Reading, Literacy, Phonics

Written by: Angie Olson

Your second grade students have been singing their ABCs since they were toddlers. Now that they are growing readers and writers, teaching ABC order is an important literacy and life skill. Did you know that when kids can alphabetize words, they not only improve spelling, but also practice an essential research skill! for locating books in the library, sorting through computer files, using a table of contents or dictionary – it’s amazing to think of how many real-world applications there are for ABC order!

Keep reading to find out about easy ways to teach and practice ABC order in the second grade classroom.

Why Teach Alphabetizing?

With the influence and ease of technology, students are not as likely to use a dictionary or phone book. But alphabetical order is still an essential skill to learn. Make a brainstorm chart with your students to discuss all the places and ways we see ABC order.

what do we see in abc order chart

ABC Order is necessary to organize and find information in:

  • a library
  • glossary
  • index
  • building directory
  • map
  • name list/files

The 4 Stages of Alphabetizing

Stage 1: Put Letters in Order

ABC Order Student Desk Nameplate

Download HERE

The first step in teaching ABC order is simple – know your ABCs! No doubt your students have been singing the ABC song since they were toddlers. In 2nd grade, students should be able to recognize all letters and where they belong in the alphabet.

To practice this skill, students can use letter cards or magnetic letters. Using an alphabet strip as a guide if needed, students can place the letters in ABC order.

Stage 2: Alphabetize to the first letter

The next stage of alphabetizing is to alphabetize to the first letter of the word. To practice this skill, give students a small word list. The words can be written on index cards. Have students place each word in ABC order to the first letter. Browse our 250+ ABC Order activities HERE!

Stage 3: Alphabetize to the second and third letter

The third stage of alphabetizing requires a bit more attention. When all the words in a list begin with the same letter, what do you do? Move from the first letter, to the second letter. But what if the first and second letter are the same? Then you move to the third, and so on.

For example, if the two words in the list are cat and cup, cat would come first on an ABC order list, because a comes before u in the alphabet.

If the words are cat and car, which word would come first? Car would come first in this example, because r comes before t in the alphabet.

This skill is important when students are learning blends, digraphs, and trigraphs. Try some of our 2nd grade ABC Order activities below!

Stage 4: Advanced Alphabetizing

Once students have mastered the first three steps of alphabetizing, feel free to discuss advanced alphabetizing. This comes info practice with abbreviations, written numerals, or last names that are hyphenated or begin with Mc or O’. For a quick reference on advanced alphabetizing tips and tricks, check out this helpful guide here.

Resources and Strategies for Teaching and Practicing ABC Order in the Classroom

1. Alphabet cards

Print or write your own ABC cards, or check out these magnetic flash cards for practice with ABC order.

2. Magnetic Letters

Magnetic letters are a versatile classroom tool that can be used for everything from phonics instruction, word building, small group instruction, and more! We love to use them to practice making words and putting the words in ABC order.

3. Spelling List

Add some extra ABC order skill practice to your weekly spelling or vocabulary lists. Have students write their words on note cards, and arrange in alphabetical order.

4. Organize the library

Looking for a practical application of ABC order? Have students organize the books in the class library. They can organize the books by title, or by author’s last name.


toothy task kits

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5. Organize the class list

Have each student write their name on a stick note or notecard. Then, have students work together to figure out the ABC order of all their class names. Then, have them do the same using last names. Does the list order look the same or different?

6. ABC Dash

For this game, give each student a card with a word written on it. They can be sight words, vocabulary words, spelling words, funny words – anything you can think of! Once each student has a card, they must move around the classroom reading other classmates’ words. Cooperating and working together as a team, the class must organize themselves in an ABC order row. For a fun challenge, see how fast they can get in the correct order!

7. Read Alouds

For a fun ABC order read aloud, check out Al Pha’s Bet, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This is a fictional origin story of how the alphabet came to be in the order we know it today.

How To Other Teach Grammar Skills

Check out these links below for tips on teaching specific grammar skills.


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Hey there!  I’m Angie, owner of Lucky Little Learners. Our #1 goal is to support K-2 teachers.  We provide unlimited access to over 15,000 printables that are aligned to your standards.