Understanding Alphabetical Order
by Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Taylor and Gillian Clarke
Tom Thumb’s Alphabet
A was an archer, who shot at a frog;
B was a butcher, he had a great dog;
C was a captain, all covered with lace;
D was a drunkard, and had a red face;
E was an esquire, with pride on his brow;
F was a farmer, and followed the plough;
G was a gamester, who had but ill luck;
H was a hunter, and hunted a buck;
I was an innkeeper, who lov’d to bouse;
J was a joiner, and built up a house;
K was King William, once governed this land;
L was a lady, who had a white hand;
M was a miser, and hoarded up gold;
N was a nobleman, gallant and bold;
O was an oyster girl, and went about town;
P was a parson, and wore a black gown;
Q was a queen, who wore a silk slip;
R was a robber, and wanted a whip;
S was a sailor, and spent all he got;
T was a tinker, and mended a pot;
U was a usurer, a miserable elf;
V was a vintner, who drank all himself;
W was a watchman, and guarded the door;
X was expensive and so became poor;
Y was a youth, that did not love school;
Z was a zany, a poor harmless fool.
This traditional nursery rhyme has 26 lines from A to Z and has both strong rhyme and rhythm. It uses alliteration. It also has some challenging words here and there which will be fun to look up and explain to the children!
Make an overhead projector trasparency of the text of the poem or put on board.
If possible, photocopy the poem for each child in the class.
Read the poem to the class once. Read it again and ask the class to call out the letters of the alphabet at the beginning of each line. Read it again and ask the class to stand up as they call out the letters and sit down as you read the line. Make it fun!
Ask the class to tell you all the rhymes they can find in the poem. Identify the difficult words and explain them. Ask the class to clap the rhythm of the lines- first you read a line, and then they clap!
Many of the lines in Tom Thumb’s Alphabet are pictures in words. Ask each child to find a word picture in the poem (for example, “B was a butcher, he had a great dog” or “Q was a queen, who wore a silk slip”) and to draw a picture for you.
Write your own class alphabet poem. Perhaps each child could pick a letter of the alphabet out of a hat and write one line. Or you could do it all together- let the class call out ideas and you refine and edit them onto the blackboard Don’t worry about making it rhyme- concentrate more on simple picture in words and the simple use of alliteration (for example, “A is an alligator...”, “B is a banana...”) as you write your alphabet poem together.
Here is a new poem by Carol Ann Duffy...
Aye! to avocadoes stuffed with prawns.
Bravo! to bowling on smooth green lawns.
Cool! to Christmas and Santa Claus.
Delightful! to dogs who extend their paws.
Encore! to everyone who takes the stage.
Fab! to the fairy on the storybook page.
Gorgeous! to the girl in designer jeans.
Hurrah! to the heir of the reigning queen.
I likey! to the ice-cream dripping down my cone.
Jolly good! to the jacket on my mobile phone.
Kiss! to the kid with the Kiss-Me-Quick hat.
Lovely! to the lady with the sleek black cat.
OK! to the owner of a brand new car.
Perfect! to the pop-star with the loud guitar.
Quintessential! to the queue for a bestselling book.
Respect! to the rapper with the coolest look.
Up! with umbrellas in springtime rain.
Vote! for Vegetarians Against Animal Pain.
Wicked! to waffles with chocolate sauce.
Xcellent! to XXX (means I love you, of course.)
Yes! to the yellow of a soft-boiled egg.
Zooper-dooper! to the Zoo with the dinosaur egg.
Here is another alphabet poem- a traditional nursery rhyme:
A was an apple-pie:
B bit it;
C cut it;
D dealt it;
E ate it;
F fought for it;
G got it;
H had it;
J joined it;
K kept it;
L longed for it;
M mourned for it;
N nodded at it;
O opened it;
P peeped in it;
Q quartered it;
R ran for it;
S stole it;
T took it;
V viewed it;
W wanted it;
X,Y,Z, and amperse-and,
All wish’d for a piece in hand.