Lesson Plans: Grades K-2
Curriculum Unit

The Alphabet is Historic (4 Lessons)



The Unit


Alphabet is Historic: Curriculum Unit image

The evolution of our current western alphabet.

Credit: EDSITEment

The youngest and newest writers often have a deep interest in the origin of writing itself. The lessons in this curriculum unit will introduce young students to the history of our alphabet. First, students will learn about the Phoenicians, the great trading people of the eastern Mediterranean who invented many of our letters. We'll follow as the Phoenicians taught their alphabet to the ancient Greeks, and follow again as the Greeks taught their alphabet to the Romans. Finally, we'll learn that the Romans left their alphabet to us, and that we use the Roman alphabet to write in English.

By following this path through history we can establish a connection between these ancient civilizations and the youngest writers. We can show them that they are using the alphabet that was developed so long ago. The three lessons in this curriculum unit include short historical introductions to the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, hyper-links to selected illustrations, and suggestions for activities.

Guiding Questions

  • Where does the alphabet come from?

This is one of those questions, like “Why is the sky blue?” through which children try to define something basic and important in their world. Although the very first writing is lost in the mists of time, we can trace the development of our alphabet for about the last 3,000 years.

Learning Objectives

As the students learn the history of the alphabet they will be introduced to three important ancient civilizations, and to the idea of cultural inheritance. The concept of chronological order will be reinforced through an emphasis on the fact that each group of people passed on the alphabet. In addition to learning history, the children will practice language arts and art skills.

After completing this unit, students will be able to do the following:

  • Describe how first the Phoenicians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans passed down the alphabet.
  • Compare some letters from the earlier alphabets to our alphabet, and talk about how the alphabet changed over time.
  • Recognize the Mediterranean area on a map and show that the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans came from the Mediterranean area.
  • Describe two or three basic features of each of these cultures.
  • Complete some short writing and art assignments based on the alphabets.

Preparation Instructions

Read through each of the lessons and select or download the necessary materials.

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level


Subject Areas
  • Foreign Language > Ancient > Ancient Greek
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Ancient World
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Archaeology
  • Foreign Language > Ancient > Latin
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Ancient World (3500 BCE-500 CE)
  • Art and Culture > Medium > Visual Arts
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Other
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Visual analysis