Although I earn my money up at the university, my main job these days seems to be teaching of young learners. Two of them, boys, aged two and four. I’ve started sitting down with Ibuki everyday for ten or twenty minutes to do our ‘letters’, and both boys love being read to, but I wanted to try something a bit different for fun. So here is the first part of our family alphabet…. twenty one more letters to follow.

Step by Step

Find words for each letter of the alphabet. The boys need help with this, but older children should be able to do it. I asked them what they liked, what they play with, what they could see around the house and so on to prompt them.

It is preferable, I think, if you can keep some consistency with phonics…especially in the early stages of trying to read. But on the other hand I wanted to use words which they know and which have some meaning for them. With this in mind I was able to substitute giraffe (Satsuki’s favourite animal) for Gorillaz (Satsuki’s favourite band), but I stuck with ‘Ice Cream’ over ‘Ink’ or ‘Igloo’ just because it has more relevance for them.

I used an Edirol R-09HR digital voice recorder for the sounds, and a lo-fi video camera called a Digital Harinezumi (get one now if you can, because they will go out of production soon) for the visuals, but that’s just because I like the effects and I like playing with video. Once I had enough audio, I clipped together the parts I needed in Garageband, then trimmed the video to fit the length and edited them together in iMovie. I added the text at that stage too. I did one letter at a time, then stitched them all together and added a drum loop from Garageband to top it off. However, you could do something similar in far less time if you use a video camera with a built-in audio channel.



  1. A class alphabet. You should check, but here in Japan I think just about every family has access to rudimentary video equipment, be it a mobile phone, smartphone, a feature of a point-and-shoot digital camera, or a full-on camcorder. If you are confident that your young learners have access to the technology, get the parents involved too. Give each student a letter or two for homework, and have them record a segment and email it in to you. You can quickly stitch them together for everyone to enjoy.
  2. If you have flip video cameras or the equivalent, and your young learners are old enough, you could do the same thing in class time. Send each team out with a camera and have them look for a complete alphabet around the school. (You might want to plant a few items in preparation). If they do it sequentially, there is no editing required.
  3. Other learners might benefit from recording lexical sets. Concrete nouns are obviously easier, but cataloguing abstract nouns, adjectives and verbs will force students to be creative.
  4. Check out Barbara Sakamoto’s great use of voicethread to make class alphabet book online.


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10 Thoughts on “A is for Ankylosaurus

  1. What a great project, Darren! I think I’ll give something like this a try for our next alphabet book ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Phil on June 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm said:

    Love it! And cute as ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing, buddy!

  3. Sean on June 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm said:

    Thought this was great. My wife loved it too so we might try it out. In HD with the 5D Mark II of course ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Darren on June 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm said:

    Thanks all. I’ll put the rest up when it’s finished….

    They love it. Especially Satsuki. He’s such a narcissist. Wonder where he gets that….

  5. Glad you stopped after D. And glad you have not been posting recently. With kids 2 and 4, you got your hands full. May they overflow with the natural interaction. As is with quantum physics, don’t look at it too closely, or it will change. Love those videos. Keep them short.

  6. Angie on July 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm said:

    Actually, I think the opposite of Mr. Ryan above. I would have liked to see more mainly because they have the cutest accents and I love hearing them. Glad BooBoo and Sasa are learning their letters so soon. On a side note – Would it kill you to add in a bit more American English?

  7. Please turn off the “auto-on” for the ABC video. PLEASE!

  8. darren on August 17, 2011 at 1:24 am said:

    Sorry Kevin, it’s been driving me nuts, too. Your impassioned plea pushed me to figure out how to fix it. It’s working on my iPad, so I hope it’s working on whichever machine you are using.

  9. Pingback: the lives of teachers » Blog Archive » creating and using digital video with learners – JALT National Conference, October 14th, 2012

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