How to Use ABC Books All the Way Through High School

Young child pointing at the letter A in an alphabet book
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We often think of ABC books as being educational only for young children. However, alphabet books can be successfully used for students in the elementary grades all the way though high school.

No, not your typical "A is for apple, B is for bear books," but ABC book format.

Using the ABC outline as a guide for writing allows for a creative, concise presentation of the subject matter and is versatile enough to use for nearly any age, ability level, or topic.

What You’ll Need to Create an ABC Book

ABC books are simple to make and don't require anything beyond basic supplies you probably already have in your home or classroom unless you want to get fancy with them.

You'll need:

  • A composition book or supplies for making your own book (such as a mini book or accordion book)​
  • Pencil or pen
  • Crayons, markers, or other art medium for illustrating
  • Sample ABC books (The series, Discovering America State by State provides a wonderful example of how much or how little detail can be included in a book using the ABC format.)

If you want to get a bit fancier, a blank book, available at craft stores or online retailers, is a good option. These books have a blank, hardback cover and blank pages, allowing students to customize and illustrate every aspect of the book.

A book intended for journaling can also make a fabulous option for an ABC book.

How to Write an ABC Format Book

An ABC format book is an excellent alternative to a traditional written report and an ideal tool for review.

By listing a fact for each letter of the alphabet – one letter per page of their book – students are pushed to think creatively (particularly for letters such as X and Z) and write concisely.

The requirements for an ABC book can be adjusted based on a student's age and ability level. For example:

  • Elementary-aged students may be required to write one or two sentences for each fact, A-Z, or even. Primary grade students may even be required only to write, “A is for…”
  • Older elementary and middle school students may be required to write a paragraph for each letter.
  • High school students might have a lengthier expectation for written work or simply be expected to include greater detail.

All ages should illustrate their work with the level of detail expected based on their age and ability level.

How to Use ABC Books

The ABC format allows for versatility across all subjects, from history to science to math. For example, a student writing an ABC book for science might choose space as his topic, with pages such as:

  • A is for asteroid
  • P is for planet
  • Z is for zero gravity

A student writing a math ABC book might include pages such as:

  • F is for fraction
  • G is for geometry
  • V is for variable

You may have to allow your students to be creative with some words, such as using words like eXtra or eXtremely for the letter X. Otherwise, those can be difficult pages to fill.

When creating ABC books with students, consider using them as a long-term project over the course of a particular unit of study. For example, your students might spend six weeks on one ABC book. This time-frame provides time for students to spend a bit of time on the book each day.

Suggest that students complete a rough outline on regular paper or in an extra composition book.

They can add facts as they progress through the unit or lesson and spend time developing the concepts before transferring them to the final book and completing the illustrations.

Encourage your students to complete their ABC book by creating a cover design and including an author page on the inside of the back cover. Don't forget your author's head shot!

Students could even write a synopsis for the book on the back cover or inside the front cover, and ask their friends for review blurbs to include on the front or back cover.

ABC books provide children with a framework for summarizing facts and details. This framework helps kids stay on track and flesh out the details of the summary without feeling overwhelmed. Not only that, but ABC books are a fun project for students of all ages and one that might even get your reluctant writers excited.