I am a middle school teacher turned adjunct professor, but when I returned to the USA after teaching overseas for multiple years, the only job I could find was teaching K-2 ESL. It was, to say the least, a long year. Now don’t get me wrong, I think little people are cute and I love playing with them–in small numbers. But they are scary in larger groups! Thankfully, the next year I was made head of program and the my first official act was to move myself to middle school and hire a phenomenal lower elementary teacher for the K-2 position.
While no one was mourning my leaving the lower elementary world, the year was not a complete disaster. I did get to know some great teachers, interact with some amazing students, and have some unforgettable experiences (ask me about the men’s bathroom at the Detroit Zoo sometime!). I also had the opportunity to learn some different teaching techniques (some of which I used when developing materials, such as Phonics Based Vocabulary Acquisition, for my older learners) and develop some fun materials and activities. Today I’d like to share with you Alphabet Pizza Pan, an activity for practicing upper and lower case letter recognition/matching.
You won’t need much for this activity, I was able to purchase everything at my local Dollar Tree, and the total cost to make 10 sets was under $20. You will need:
- pizza pans (or another baking pan with an edge)
- foam letter stickers–upper case
- clothes pins
- letter stickers–lower case
The color of the stickers and pins doesn’t matter. I chose to make all of the consonant upper case letters one color and vowels a second color to help students begin to remember which letters were which.
To create the Alphabet Pizza Pans, I first stuck the capital letter stickers around the inside edge of the pans. Then I placed a lower case sticker on the closed (pincher) end of the clothes pins. I put the clothes pins into sandwich Ziploc bags, one alphabet set per bag, and I was finished. The entire process took me less than an hour, with placing the capital letter stickers taking up the bulk of the time.
At school, I gave each student a pizza pan and a bag of letters. They then worked to clip each pin to the edge of the pan next to its corresponding capital letter. The kids had a blast! It was a great opportunity for them to practice matching upper and lower case letters, and there was the added benefit of some fine motor skills practice (something many of my students needed).
Since the students could be quite independent with this particular activity, it gave me the chance to do some individual tests for progress monitoring purposes. It was also a great activity to pull out when we had some extra time to fill, a student finished his/her work early, or a para/substitute needed something to do with some students.
I usually store my materials in gallon Ziploc bags and plastic containers, but Alphabet Pizza Pans is too large. I experimented with different options but the one that ended up working the best was an old magazine storage box I found in the back of my closet. It was the perfect size to hold both the pans and the bags of clips, and it was easy to carry back and forth to school.
When I left my lower elementary teaching role behind I quite happily donated my Alphabet Pizza Pans to another teacher, but it still remains one of the most fun activities to come out of my time in K-2. If your students are working on the alphabet, particularly if they are still struggling to reconcile the upper and lower cases of each letter, give this activity a try. Happy teaching, everyone, and I’ll see you in the new year!