Phonics Friday!

Welcome to Phonics Friday!

My plan is to post every Friday with some fun Phonics based activities and ideas.  With a holiday weekend next week and being in Vegas the week after that, I'm not promising consistency (at least for the next couple of weeks).  But I do plan on posting more ideas for you to add to your ever growing list in the weeks to come!!!

Just like every other theory/trend/philosophy/belief in education, there are always two schools of thought.  We either think the idea/theory/trend/philosophy/belief is important and relevant and believe wholeheartedly in implementing it into our classroom OR we don't think it has any value.  And no matter what the case, we always seem divided.  Things are no different when it comes to phonics instruction.  There is some research suggesting it's irrelevant while other research strives to prove its importance.

I think much of the way we feel about different ideas/theories/trends/philosophies/beliefs are based on our own personal classroom experiences.  I often feel like mine change from year-to-year based on the kids I teach.  While there are things that work like magic one year, they may look totally different and yeild completely different results the next.  I personally tend to see the value in phonics instruction and believe it holds a very important place in the classroom.  Of course, this is all based on my own personal experience :)

Research tells us that phonics instruction is particularly beneficial for students who are at risk of learning difficulties.  We ALL have those kids and I want to give them every opportunity to be part of the successful statistics.  This is just one of the many reasons I value phonics instruction in my classroom.  Here are some things to keep in mind....

While I know some districts and schools provide their teachers with a phonics curriculum, I don't always think it's a one-size-fits-all practice.  I think the same can be said for anything we do in our classrooms...nothing is (or should be) one-size-fits-all.  I do believe that we can take any program or curriculum, implement it as we're required to do, and then adapt it to fit the needs of our kids and make it as engaging, interesting,and relevant as we can.  This doesn't necessarily require us doing MORE work, but rather thinking smarter.
Sometimes we make teaching too difficult, don't we?!?! (Can I get an AMEN?!?!)

Research tells us how important it is to get our kids decoding words in and out of context.  Here's a quick and easy way to help with that.

You can grab these little notebooks at the Dollar Tree.  Just cut the pages inside leaving space for the onsets/rimes.  The first flap is filled with initial consonants, blends, digraphs.  The second flap is filled with vowel teams and word families.  I have these little notebooks in a tub along with a phonics phone and plain pieces of paper.  I encourage my kids to flip the flaps and read the words (out of context) then determine if the words they read are real or nonsense.  A super simple and effective way to get kids decoding words.  This is a great independent or partner activity.

Speaking of decoding words out of context, I also love using blending boxes.  I created these for all the short vowels and word families.  I keep these blending boxes in a tub for kids to use during independent /partner learning (literacy stations).  While this is the exact same activity as above, I like that the format is a little different.  Keeping the exact same thing out for repeated use can wear on the kids.  When the novelty wears off, the kids become disengaged and when they become disinterested the problem behavior comes out.  Thanks, but no thanks ;)

These blending boxes...along with LOTS of other short vowel activities/printables/puzzles/games....are in my Short Vowel Ventures Bundle.  Since we're on the subject, I'm making this my steal of the day.  You can grab it for half off TODAY ONLY (Friday, June 26th)!!!!  With over 400 pages of printable games/puzzles/activities, this is definitely a STEAL!!!

This is one of my favorite whole group phonics games.  I always try to get my kids up and moving and engaged in what we're doing.  I want them to have FUN learning and this little game is just that...FUN!!!

One of the most important...and oftentimes trickiest...skills to teach our early readers is how to blend onsets/rimes/phonemes.  Here's a game that garnered rave reviews from my kids over the years.  It's a little onset/rime blending game that'll get your kids up and moving, blending sounds, and identifying real and nonsense words.   Let's play, shall we?!

Label a small set of plates with various word endings/families {rimes}.  As you can see in the pic above, I have lots of different rimes on my plates.  You could play this game using as few as 1 or as many as you want!  Label a set of index cards with different phonemes/onsets.  Place the labeled plates in a circle on the floor and hand out one labeled index card to each of your kids.  While your kids are holding their cards, direct them to stand in a circle around the plates.  

Now start the music.  Crank it or yank it.  Pump up the jam {does that date me?!?!?}  I like to turn on KidzBop when we play this game because the kids love it and I actually know the words so I can sing along, too.  While the music is playing, the kids will move around the plates going clockwise/counterclockwise {just like musical chairs}.  When the music stops, the kids stop in front of a plate.  

The kids will take their index card {onset/phoneme} and blend it with the word ending/rime they're standing in front of.  If they blend a real word, they stay in the game.  If the word they blend is nonsense, they're out.  {You could potentially have several kids out at once depending on the number of different onsent/rimes you include in the game}.  Unlike musical chairs, you won't remove any of the plates.  Start the music again, sing for a bit, stop, and blend.  Wash. rinse. repeat.  The game is all over when only one person is standing :)

I have LOTS more fun and engaging phonics games and activities to share with you, so check back every Friday to see what I have in store.  I hope you are able to use some of these activities in your classroom no matter what your beliefs about phonics instruction might be ;)



  1. Cara, thank you for this great post! I love these ideas! Your blog is darling and I cannot wait to meet you in Vegas!

    1. Looking forward to meeting you, Diane!!!

  2. I agree that phonics has a place in learning to read, and that it should be fun. I love the musical blending idea. So simple, yet so much fun!

    1. I hope you can use that in your class this year, Sherry!!

  3. GREAT post! I love that you mentioned the goal of phonics being AUTOMATICITY! SO TRUE!

    Also...LOVE the plate game!! I'm going to have to do this with my kiddos!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and talent! I've been following your blog for the last four years (as long as I've been teaching). YOU have helped make me a better teacher! I am so grateful!!

    Cara TaylorSteele
    Columbia, Missouri

    1. That is so sweet of you to say, Cara!! :)

  4. Great Post... bummed I missed the sale.
    First Grade teacher

  5. Adding things like this to our phonics "curriculum" is JUST what I NEED! Thanks for sharing as always : )

    For the Love of First Grade

  6. I love finding new ways to work on word families with my kiddos. I love to teach phonics instruction and I think my kiddos could tell, which is a good thing. I am definitely going to borrow that game with the plates and index cards! I'm sure my firsties will love it :) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks so much for the post Cara! I am really revamping my phonics instruction this year and love all of your ideas! I can't wait to implement them for my kids:)

  8. I love this idea. What did you do with the children who were out of the game until the rest finished?