What do children actually need to know to learn to read and spell? It may seem obvious, but as a new teacher, I really didn’t know how to teach reading or spelling—and I’ve met other teachers in the same boat. Kids need 3 essential skills to decode the English language: blending, segmenting and manipulation.
Which do you think would go over better: Today we’re going to practice blending and segmenting or Today we’re going to play a game?
The game wins hands down—and with quality reading and spelling games, kids practice these critical skills while you make phonics fun.
How to make phonics fun
The beauty of many phonics games is that you can adapt them to the specific sounds or word types you are working on. Need to practice /ee/ sounds or CVC words—or longer words for older readers? It’s simply a matter of choosing and using words that fit your criteria.
Here are 3 games I use frequently to make phonics fun for my students.
What sound next?
In this game, students will guess individual sounds in the word to eventually build the whole word.
For example, the word might be plump. On the board, you would have the number of dashes to match the number of sounds: _ _ _ _ _. Also, have on the board 2 columns: Could Be or Couldn’t Be.
As students guess the first sound, if it is not the correct one say, “It could be /t/, but it’s not”. Then write the letter ‘t’ under the Could Be column. If students say the letter name, then remind them to say the sound.
For the word plump, when the students have the first sound and you move on to the second sound, if a student says a sound that is not plausible, such as /w/, then you say, “Do you know any words that start with the sounds /p/ /w/?” The student will not be able to think of any, so then that letter combination is added to the Couldn’t Be Column.
If a student says a combination that is plausible, such as /p/ /a/, then you say, “It could be, but it’s not” and add that letter combination to the Could Be column. The game continues until the word is revealed.
Change the sound
You can use this game if you have a spare 5 minutes, or play it to kick off or wrap up a literacy session. You can adapt the game for different levels by choosing words with different numbers of sounds.
Let’s try a CCVC word. Start by writing on the board a word, such as tram. Then circle or underline one of the sounds in that word.
Select a student to change that sound to a new one to make a new word, then write that word down. For example, if you underlined the t, a student might change the t to c to make cram.
Again in the new word circle/underline one of the sounds that is to be changed.
Continue with circling a sound that needs changing in the word so all of your students get a turn. If a student cannot think of a real word it is okay to use a nonsense word to keep it going. As long as the spelling combination is plausible and something we would see in English.
Bingo is a well-known game that can be readily adapted to make phonics fun. You can use bingo for CVC words, with a focus on certain vowel sounds, or for digraphs.
Perhaps the most obvious way to use bingo for phonics practice is to read the word and have students find and mark it on their bingo sheet.
But if you want students to work on blending, you could say the word in its sounds, so your students have to blend them to know what word to mark. For example, instead of saying bat you would say b-a-t.
Bingo can also be played as a matching game where students have to match word and picture.
Need to support older children? Use words with more sounds, such as CCVC words or even longer words.
These are just some of the many games you can use to make phonics fun and help your students learn to read and spell. You can adapt all of these games for different levels by choosing the sounds you are working on and adapting the number of sounds included in the words you use.
Ready to implement more games in your phonics practice? I’ve made it easy for you. The Complete Phonics Kit has over 1100 pages of games and activities that target different vowel sounds, digraphs, CVC words and more!