How do your students feel about phonics? When you are teaching phonics, one way to keep them engaged is to keep it fresh. Using a mix of activities and games can make learning fun. I like to use a mix of worksheets, white board activities, cootie catchers, oral games, writing prompts, and matching or paper and pencil games. Here are some ideas to help you mix it up when you’re teaching phonics.
18 ideas for teaching phonics
These ideas can be adapted for a variety of phonics lessons from CVC words to digraphs to alternative spellings.
Match words and pictures
Give students a sheet of pictures and words with the target sound or skill. Ask them to draw a line to match the correct word to the picture.
Draw the words
Instead of having students match words to pictures, give students a sheet with each word in an empty block. Ask them to draw a picture of each word.
Write a mini book
Writing prompts are a great way to give students more extended practice with phonics or vocabulary words. Writing a mini book about a specific topic is just one idea to get students practicing phonics and moving beyond the blank page. I like to give students sample pages with space for writing and illustration that they can use to make their book.
Complete the sentence
Write a sentence on the board (or on mini white boards). Ask students to choose from your word list the best word to complete the sentence. Complete the sentence worksheets can be used as homework to consolidate skills. You can also use them for independent work when teaching phonics.
This is a quick game you can play to introduce or practice sounds. I like to use it to help students practice blending sounds. Say something like, “I spy with my little eye the m-a-t.” Students can blend the sounds to say “mat.” You could spy things with long A sounds or a particular digraph. Ask students to write the word on the board once they guess it.
Fill your fluency board with target words. First, read the board with students. Then have students read through the board once slowly, looking for accuracy. Then ask students to read as many words as they can while you time them. If they finish the board before time is up, they should start again. Time students for 30 seconds and have them record how many words they read.
There are lots of ways to adapt Bingo when teaching phonics. You can create a board with words students are learning. Choose and read a word. If students find the word on their bingo card, they put a maker on it. Alternately, give students cards with pictures on them. If the word you call matches a picture, they can mark it. To add another level, read off descriptors such as ‘has a long A sound’ or ‘is a CVC word’ or ‘includes a digraph’. This version is a great way to review a variety of sounds and skills.
You can have students do this individually on white boards or a worksheet or play this as a round robin game in small groups. Start by writing a word on the board or a students’ individual white board. For example, write a word such as bat. Circle or underline one of the sounds in that word.
Have a student change that sound to a new one to make a new word, then write that word down. For example, if b was underlined, the student might write cat or mat.
Circle or underline one of the sounds in the new word. Continue with circling a sound that needs changing until all students get a turn or until you run out of changes. To create a worksheet, make a word ladder for students to fill in with different sounds.
Cootie catchers, fortune tellers or chatterboxes are always popular with my students. These folded paper toys often include numbers or colors that show you how to move and open the flaps. To use cootie catchers when teaching phonics, fill each spot with one of your phonics words. Students need to read the word, open and close the cootie catcher accordingly and record the final word.
Cut and match words
Like the first matching activity in this list, students need to find the picture that goes with each word. In this case, they will cut out the word and glue it under or next to the correct picture. Use this activity just to mix up matching, to provide extra practice cutting or to help students who do better with manipulating objects.
Find a word
Create a classic word search and give students a list of phonics words to find. Alternately, make a grid of words that includes target words and other words. Give students a list of target words to find, and have them circle those words. The second option provides more word reading practice.
Read and write
List words you want students to practice. For each word, have them read the word and underline each sound in the word as they say it. Then have them write each sound in a separate square. Finally, have the write the whole word and read it again.
You can play this fun game on graph paper, a white board, or laminated grids. You’ll also need two different color markers and a spinner with phonics words. The first student spins the spinner, reads the word and writes it anywhere in the grid. Then the next student goes. Play continues alternating until one person gets 4 in a row in any direction.
Students can use flash cards at any time in your phonics station to practice with a partner, for quiet individual practice, or for home practice. Print cards double sided with a picture on one side and the word on the other.
Print 2 sets of phonics words and cut into squares. Lay the cards word side down. Students take turns flipping two cards. They should read the words on both cards aloud. If they match, the student takes the word pair. If they don’t, the student turns the cards word side down again and the next person takes a turn. Continue until all the words are matched.
You can use single sided flash cards or the same cards you use for concentration to play this phonics version of the classic card game. Students seek word pairs by asking other players if they have the word they need. For another variation, create cards with matching spellings of sounds, for example tray and bay both use the ay spelling of the long a sound. Have students seek sound patterns that match even if the words don’t.
This is a great game for pairs to practice quick reading. Give students a deck of phonics cards to deal out equally to each person. Students flip cards at the same time. If there is a match, they yell Snap. Have students read the matching word and then collect all the cards. Students continue until one person runs out of cards.
Give students a series of pictures and words with a sound missing from each. Have students fill in the missing sound to complete the word. The missing sound could be a single letter or more than one letter that represents a single sound.
Pick one or many or all of these and try them out in your classroom when teaching phonics. To make it even easier, I’ve got a phonics kit ready to download and print that includes most of these activities and more.
Check out everything included and make teaching phonics a little easier with The Complete Phonics Kit >> https://topnotchteaching.com/downloads/phonics-kit/