I wish I could say I loved my phonics block in the classroom. I never had a solid phonics scope and sequence so I always felt like I was floundering around. What I did love was seeing my students engage with phonics activities as we worked together and did the best we could. We did a lot of activities to keep students engaged during our phonics block. I occasionally used phonics worksheets during morning work for extra practice or for homework when our grade level would send it, but I saw firsthand the effectiveness of hands-on activities that matched what we were learning. My students were having to think and apply what they learned during their phonics lesson to their activity.
Today I’m sharing seven different activities that you can do instead of phonics worksheets to give your readers authentic practice with important reading skills.
Make Word Families
This was one of my favorite activities to do with my students because it was effective, simple, and versatile. At the beginning of the year, we worked a lot on short vowels so we would work with short vowel word families. My students would write a word family on their whiteboard. Then I would ask them to write as many words as they could on their whiteboard with that word family.
For example: -op word family. Students may write top, hop, bop, mop, stop, etc. They will come up with so many words! Some students will think to use blends and digraphs at the beginning of words. This was a quick, easy way for me to walk around the room and see who has got that short vowel sound down and who still needs help.
Sometimes we did this activity whole group, other times we worked with partners. I could also pull a quick small group and work with them on a word family. This lends itself to vowel-consonant-e word families and r-controlled too!
Swat the Word/Sound/Number of Syllables
My class loved this activity! Using a fly swatter always amps up the excitement. This activity is also very versatile and can be used so many different ways. At the beginning of the school year, I would write numbers on the board and call out a word. The student had to identify how many syllables were in the word and then swat that number on the board.
We also did this activity with phonograms and words. You could use word families here too or high-frequency words for extra practice!
Toss and Make a Word
This activity works well for blends and digraphs. Grab a few plastic cups and a soft small ball. You will label the cup with a few blends and digraphs your class has learned. For example: bl, br, sh, ch and sw. Each student will get a chance to throw a ball into one of the cups. Once the ball has landed in one of the cups, the student has to think of and say a word that has that beginning blend or digraph! You could also use this with word families for short vowels and vowel-consonant-e.
Mix and Match Words
I’ve seen this idea in a lot of different ways and it’s a good one! Grab some popsicle sticks and a couple paper towel rolls. On the paper towel rolls, you will write a bunch of different word families. The popsicle sticks will have beginning letters or blends or digraphs on them. The student will slide the popsicle stick into the paper towel roll and see if it makes a real word. This activity could be done with partners or independently. I think it’s also a great one to have at your teacher table for a small group!
Hands-On Phonemic Awareness Activities
Phonemic awareness activities are great for one-on-one interventions, small groups, and even whole group. I love using fun songs as we have a few minutes to kill in our schedule. I have two sets of phonemic awareness activities that make practicing and assessing phonemic awareness skills easy.
These phonemic awareness activities are meant to help you easily organize your intervention activities and data-keeping. You can use the assessment as a pre-assessment, then provide interventions using the activities provided, then re-assess to see if progress has been made. All of the data sheets are provided! Grab Set 1 or Set 2 and get started!
Phonics Word Work Activities
Another alternative to phonics worksheets is hands-on phonics word work activities. From using sound boxes to playdough smash mats and games, word work activities provide meaningful practice in a fun way. You can use these during literacy stations, intervention time, reading small group time, or even as morning work.
To make word work super simple, I have created several different sets that progress in difficulty for kindergarten and first grade! Check them out: Kindergarten Word Work Bundle | First Grade Word Work Bundle
Phonics Clip Cards
One of my students’ favorite phonics activities was clip cards. I loved them because not only did they get to practice important literacy skills, but it also helps build their fine motor skills, too. These clip cards can be cut out, laminated, and placed in a literacy station. Just add clothespins! I also included recording pages if you want to be able to check students’ work.
While there is a time and place for phonics worksheets, engaging activities will benefit your students the most in the long run. Try out a few of these activities and resources for deeper learning!
Do you have any tried and true activities to share with me? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Happy Teaching!