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A lesson featured in the NNWP's
Six by Six
Print Guide: Traits Writing for Little Writers

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About this lesson's author:

Jodie Black is an all day kindergarten teacher at Rollan Melton Elementary. She started the kindergarten/tuition-based program in the Washoe County School District (WCSD). She has taught primary grades for over 20 years. She earned her Masters in education from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has a National Board Certification. Jodie was the Co-director of the NNWP for 5 years, during which time she hosted the Piñon Poetry Festival.

Jodie credits her lesson to two sources: 1) The inspiration for the environmental aspect of the alphabet came from Alphabet City. 2) The idea to involve the parents in our quest was inspired by “Family Writing Nights” advertised and utilized by the Northern Nevada Writing Project site.

This Lesson:
Enviromental Alphabet

Focus Trait:

Lesson's Mentor Text:

Alphabet City
by Stephen T. Johnson

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The lesson on this page is featured in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Six by Six Guide. Click here to see how to order your own copy, which contains thirty-five other trait lessons besides the one on this page.

Big Ideas behind this Lesson:

Trait Focus: Organization —The concept focus is Organization as sequencing. Our sequence is the alphabet, a sequence we concentrate on deliberately in kindergarten.

Standards Addressed:

  • With assistance, refine a topic by organizing ideas.
  • Sequence the letters of the alphabet to understand alphabetic order.
  • Recognize and name upper and lower case letters of the alphabet.


During the fall, when we are concentrating very hard on learning the letters of the alphabet, we decided to make an alphabet book based on the environmental alphabet idea found in Alphabet City. First, we spent a couple of short sessions looking for the alphabet hidden in the environment of our classroom. We found the bookcase looked like an “F.” The book cart looked like an “A.” The globe and its axis formed a “D.” On about the third day the children began taking home one of a pair of disposable cameras. The cameras were in a ziplock bag along with a note to parents and some examples of environmental letters that I had taken in my own home. In addition, each camera packet contained a card indicating which letters the family was responsible for finding and photographing. We hoped that each camera would go home one day and come back the next. It worked! We had all the letters, capital and lower case photographed inside of two weeks. Each morning, as cameras were turned in, the children loved sharing what they had photographed to represent their assigned letters.


Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson, who finds the alphabet represented by small and large architecture all over a city. Environmental print, at its most basic, gave us the inspiration to make our own environmental alphabet book.

Q Is for Duck: An Alphabet Guessing Game by Michael Folsom and Mary Elting. In this book, “Q is for Duck. Why? Because a duck quacks.” We loosely based our sentence structure on the idea from this mentor text.



** Note -- As it turned out, not all of the photos were of good quality, so be prepared for that. I took several extra pictures of missing letters from around our classroom and needed an extra day to get those developed. If you were taking all the pictures in the classroom with a digital camera, that problem would be solved, but you would miss the fun of including the families in the planning for this project.

  • Once we had a representation of each letter, the children chose which letter they would be adding to our alphabet book. Most had a picture of a letter they had photographed at their own homes, but not everyone did.
  • We spent one session sequencing ourselves according to the letter photo we were holding.
  • I called the children to the front of the room one at a time. Each child shared their photos, indicated what letter was represented and recited the sentence pattern we had decided upon. “A ‘K’ can be some brooms because brooms look like a ‘K’.” “A ‘Q’ can be a tub handle because a tub handle looks like a ‘Q’.” This repeating sentence pattern, using several high frequency words, helps us to read and reread this book beginning early in the year.
  • As the children shared and recited the sentence pattern, I used a simple template to fill in the specifics of their letter.
  • At another session, the children copied their sentences onto pieces of 9x12 white construction paper.

Tools Needed:

Camera kits (I had two of them). In large ziplock bags, I packed a disposable camera, a laminated letter to parents and a laminated sheet providing environmental alphabet photo examples (as seen below). In addition, each bag held a card with assigned letters indicated on it. You can adjust how many letters each child is responsible for depending on the size of your class.

(Click on the image above to open a full-sheet version of these examples.)


The children glued their photos to the white paper. In addition, my students used a session in the computer lab to type a large font alphabet and print it. Each child glued an alphabet near their photos and with a yellow crayon, highlighted the letter represented, further enriching our sequencing focus. We spent time sequencing all the letter pages A through Z, then bound them into a class book. This book, available in our class library, is read and reread throughout the year, the sequence and the sentence pattern making it accessible to even the most limited readers.


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