An Engaging, Painless Way to Teach Children to Alphabetize

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Nationally recognized tutor and AmeriCorps member shares strategy to teach alphabetizing to first and second graders.

Both teachers and parents often struggle with teaching young children the concept of alphabetical order and process of alphabetizing. Homework assignments often lead to parents giving up on trying to explain the concept and simply providing the answers to their children.

Enter Deborah Berry, an AmeriCorps member with America Reads - Mississippi. Berry has spent the past 9 months helping a group of first and second graders become strong, independent readers at Frazier Elementary in Natchez, MS. After seeing her students struggle with alphabetizing words, she created an innovative teaching strategy called "Picture Perfect Alphabetical Order."

America Learns has recognized Berry's strategy as the May 2007 America Learns National Strategy of the Month. Educators using the services offered by America Learns, LLC constantly share their most effective teaching strategies to share and learn from one another. Each month, America Learns' child development and literacy experts select one strategy out of thousands to highlight as the "National Strategy of the Month."

Berry's strategy involves asking children to paste a picture from a magazine on one side of a piece of paper and to then draw five or six rows on the opposite side. Children then write one word in each row, making sure the words are in alphabetical order from the top to bottom of the page. The teacher or parent then cuts the paper along the rows and the children have to put the "puzzle" back together so that the words are in alphabetical order. The children determine whether they put the puzzle back together in the right order by flipping over the puzzle pieces to see if the picture they pasted is in the right order.

"Deborah is demonstrating to all of us the importance of having well-trained individuals available who can work with students on an as-needed basis to help them boost their skills in specific areas," said Gary Kosman, Founder and CEO, America Learns. "We're thrilled to have the opportunity to share Deborah's creativity with educators and parents worldwide so that other children struggling to understand this concept through more traditional avenues may have another option to develop this competency."

About America Reads - Mississippi
Established in 1998, America Reads - Mississippi (ARM) is an AmeriCorps program administered through the Academic Affairs Office of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. It is the largest AmeriCorps program in the state and one of the largest in the country. ARM currently has 270 AmeriCorps members serving more than 5,000 students in 59 schools across the state daily. ARM is administered locally by its four university partners: Alcorn State University (ASU), Delta State University (DSU), Jackson State University (JSU), and Mississippi State University (MSU). Other major partners include the Barksdale Reading Institute, Head Start, the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, the Mississippi Department of Education, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and the Mississippi Red Cross. Additional information is available by calling 601-927-5443 or visiting

About America Learns, LLC (America Learns):
America Learns, based in Los Angeles County, is a national educational performance and accountability firm reaching more than 12,000 students nationwide. The company's flagship service, the America Learns Network, helps organizations track, evaluate and provide ongoing guidance and support to tutors, mentors and student teachers. Organizations using its services include universities (e.g., Dwight Hall at Yale, Duke, UC Berkeley, Georgetown and the University of Michigan), community-based nonprofits (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates and the YMCA of Greater St. Louis), after-school programs (e.g., Public/Private Ventures' YET centers), and school districts (e.g., the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Minneapolis Public Schools). The company also creates and publishes high quality, meaningful, stress-free learning opportunities for children that are steeped in relevant research and practice. Learn more at or by calling 310-689-0542.

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