A Lesson on the Difference Between a Letter, Word and Number

A Lesson on the Difference Between a Letter, Word and Number
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How Can they Tell?

Teaching young Kindergarten readers that letters make up words and numbers are symbols that have meaning can be confusing. Often it is difficult for them to see the difference between the number 0 and the letter o, for example. When they are beginning school they are learning letters, numbers and little words all at the same time. Here is a fun group activity that you can do to help them to learn the differences.

Kindergarten Reading Lesson

Materials for Whole Group Instruction:

  • Chart paper
  • Three colored markers- yellow, red and green
  • Alphabet chart
  • Word chart: word wall, name chart, math terms, or any theme created word chart
  • Number chart, number line or 100 chart

Materials for Individual Work:

  • Teacher created, letter/number/word sheet
  • Three crayons- yellow, red and green

Prior Knowledge:

This should be done after the students have learned letters, numbers and a few words. Create a chart with letters, numbers and words on it. This can contain any letter, number or word that you know you have taught. Do not include the words" I" and “a” as they can be covered in another lesson. Likewise, if you have not yet taught the difference between the number 0 and letter o, the number 1 and the letter l, then do not include them yet. See the image below for an example.

Start by saying, “We have learned our letters (or most of them, depending on when you are teaching this lesson). There are 26 letters in the alphabet. We have learned upper and lower case and we are learning that each letter has a special sound (or sometimes sounds).” Refer to the alphabet chart (or phonics chart) that you regularly use. I like to refer to both if I have used both. The more opportunities students have to see letters in print, the better. The same goes for numbers and words. Next say, “We have also learned our numbers. (Refer to the number chart, number line or 100’s chart.) We learned that numbers are symbols that have a value.” (Provide example depending on the how far you have taught).

Last say, “We have also learned some little words. Words are letters and sounds put together.” Show the word wall and sound out a word you have taught, for example, “am”. I like to include several word charts that we have created. For example, a name chart, and the Word Wall could be used.


Explain that the students are going to circle the letters in yellow, the numbers in red and the words in green. Call out a letter, number or word. Have a student come forth to circle it on the chart in the correct color.

When students complete this activity, review what they have done. They have created a chart of letters, numbers and words.

Send students back to their seats. Pass out a similar chart but with different letters, numbers and words.

Have the color key on the board or overhead projector: Letter= yellow, Number= red, Words= green

Students should complete the sheet in the same manner that was done as a group.


Formal: Students are able to tell the difference between a letter, number and word. If more than 20% of the class cannot, then reteach. Otherwise, if any student or students knows less than 70%, pull to a small group and reteach letters, numbers and words. Decide from your results if you need to reteach or move on to introducing the letters and words “I” and “a”.

Informal: Take conference notes as you walk around the room, noticing students that check the letter, number or word charts and those that do not. This will give you a general understanding of their knowledge and/or confidence level.

Extend the Activity:

Include sentences in your chart or repeat the lesson on another day using letters, words and sentences.

This Kindergarten reading lesson plan is sure to get your young readers excited about the differences between a letter, a number and a word. Pretty soon they will be pointing them out to you as they show you they comprehend what was learned.



This lesson has been modified from Word Learning, Word Making, Word Sorting, J. Lynch, Scholastic (2002)

Assessment sample- Laurie Patsalides; for personal use only

This post is part of the series: Teaching Reading: A Series for the Kindergarten Teacher

Below is an outline of some of the reading lessons that I have prepared for this series. Come back and browse again, as more are likely to be added. I have many more in other reading series that I cannot include here. Click on my name to read more, if interested.

  1. Teaching Kindergarteners to Read
  2. Teach Word Recognition to Kindergarteners
  3. A Lesson for Kindergarten on Letter, Number and Word Differences
  4. Creating a Personal Word Wall with this Lesson Plan for Early Readers
  5. Teaching Patriotism in the Classroom with the Shared Reading Model
  6. The Reason for Writing Instruction: A Teacher’s Reflection
  7. Teaching Kindergarteners to Read With Picture Books
  8. Book Review: Word Learning, Word Making, Word Sorting, 50 Lessons for Success
  9. Teach Children to Care for Books: Concept of Print
  10. Use Flash Cards as a Literacy Center Game