Do you remember cootie catchers? Maybe you called them chatterboxes or fortune tellers. These folded paper playground games actually have a place in the classroom. Surprisingly, they are a great way to practice phonics skills.
Cootie catchers are a win-win. Students love using them, and teachers can get a lot of mileage out of them because they are so versatile (more on that in a minute). Probably the hardest part is the set up, and if you get cootie catchers as a printable phonics game, that’s a whole lot easier.
See how fun they are yourself with this free sample:
Cootie catchers in the classroom basics
Your students may know how to use cootie catchers, but it’s a good idea to demonstrate so that everyone understands and so they know how to use them for learning. Demonstrate with small groups so that everyone can see the cootie catcher. If you can project your actions on a screen or whiteboard, you can do a whole class demonstration.
Choose a student to help you demonstrate. You will guide them to make choices as you go through these steps:
- Have the student choose a picture from the cootie catcher.
- Let’s say they picked jumps. Demonstrate how to segment the word, opening the cootie catcher as you say each sound. (Open once for each sound: J – U – M – P – S.)
- Now, have the student choose a word from the inner part of the cootie catcher.
- Let’s say they picked scrub. Again show how to segment the sounds and open the cootie catcher once for each sound. (Open once for each sound: S – C – R – U – B.)
- Have the student choose another word.
- Let’s say sulks. This time, open the flap for this word.
- Read the word under the flap to the student. Have the student write the word and then check their spelling.
You can have students segment words again as they write it down. If you’re working with alternative spellings, you could also have students underline the target sound, such as the spelling of the /ee/ sound or a digraph.
That’s one of the great things about cootie catchers. You can adapt them for practice with lots of phonics sounds, skills, or word types. You can have CVC cootie catchers or CCVC or CCCVCC cootie catchers. You can use Long E cootie catchers or cootie catchers for any other sound with multiple spellings. You can bring in sh or ch or any other digraph.
7 cootie catcher ideas for classroom use
Not only are cootie catchers versatile for what you can use them for, you can also use them lots of ways once students know the basics. Try them these ways:
- With partners—Cootie catchers are usually two-person fun, so having students use them in pairs is an obvious option. Students would follow the process outlined above with one of them manipulating the cootie catcher.
- Small group work with you—If you have an odd number of students or want to work with a group at one time, cootie catchers still work. Have one student work the cootie catcher and others take turns making choices and recording words. Students can pass the cootie catcher around and continue taking turns. They can also help each other if they get stuck reading or segmenting sounds.
- For independent practice in class—Students can use the cootie catcher as described above, but they would do all the parts: making choices, working the cootie catcher, and writing down results.
- In your literacy station—Students often regard cootie catchers as games, so they can make a good “choice” activity in your literacy station. Students can work in pairs, groups, or one-on-one in the station.
- Home practice—It’s hard to call cootie catchers work, but they are a great tool for home practice. Give each student a cootie catcher and a worksheet to record their answers. (You can send cootie catchers pre-folded or send them ready to fold with instructions. Kids usually catch on pretty quickly to folding them and it can keep the cootie catcher from getting crushed in the student’s backpack.)
- Review—If you are focusing on a particular word type or sound, you can use cootie catchers specifically for that purpose. So, for example, if you are working on CVC words, you’d have CVC cootie catchers out. When you move on to CVCC words, you’ll use cootie catchers with those words. Try bringing out cootie catchers for words or sounds students have already mastered. This adds variety when students are using cootie catchers and helps them review other skills.
- Refocus during the holidays—Ever notice your students lack focus during the holidays? Bringing in some extra fun that keeps learning at the forefront can help. Cootie catchers would be a great way to add fun with focus during the holiday season.
If you’re looking for printable phonics games, cootie catchers are a great option. You can find more than 100 of them in this Phonics Cootie Catchers Bundle. It includes:
- Consonant Blends (Beginner) VCC CVCC CCVC Words
- Consonant Blends (Advanced) CVCCC CCVCC CCCVC CCVCCC CCCVCC Words
- Vowel Sounds
- Word Overview Sheet
- Instructions for Making and Using Cootie Catchers & Fortune Tellers
Get your Phonics Cootie Catchers Bundle here!