Are you looking for phonics activities and games?
Then, you are on the right place!
In this post I will share with you an array of powerful phonics games and activities to will help your children or students learn to read following the phonics approach.
Hold your breath, because we are going to cover a lot of ground!
From games and activities for children that are just getting started at learning to read (learning letter names and sounds) to activities for more advanced readers!
Kinetic activities, board games, card games… We got you covered!
These are, by the way, fragments from our manual “How to Teach A Child to Read from Scratch Step-by-Step?”
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Phonics games for beginner readers: Learning letter names and sounds activities
These phonics games are perfect for beginner readers that are just learning letter names and their most common sounds!
Drawing sound competition: A simple game that is perfect for beginner readers so they can review specific sounds is to do a “drawing competition.” This game was actually invented by my older daughter when, between the two of us, we were teaching my youngest letter sounds (and she just seemed totally uninterested in formal training at that point – maybe that sounds familiar to you too!). I was the judge and they both had to draw as many things as they could think of starting with the sound that we were focusing on. They loved it! And she came up with lots of ideas! By the way, if you want to take the “competition” factor out of the picture, you can just call it “drawing game.”
Kinetic activity with letter magnets: Get a set of magnets or letter tiles and a board. The possibilities are endless with these (also later on his/her journey of learning to read!). At the beginning, just get your child to actually play with the magnets, feel their shapes with his/her hands, and every now and again get him/her to say some of the sounds.
A good idea is to place the ones that your child has already mastered on one side of board, so you can keep track of which ones he/she already knows, which ones you need to review with him or her, etc.
When starting out, I prefer the letter magnets rather than the letter tiles, because children can touch the actual shape of the letters, which helps them learn kinetically.
Kinetic activity using Play-Doh or Play-foam: Another super-popular activity you can do with a beginner reader is to practice forming letters with Play-Doh or Play-foam. In fact, there are even some Play-Doh and Play-foam sets to learn all about the alphabet (see below)!
These kinetic activities can really help children learn their letters. Think about it: they are molding letter shapes with their own hands!
Walk-to-the-sounds game: Another favorite of mine is placing different letter flashcards throughout the room (classroom/playroom- whatever setting you might be working in) and ask children to walk to the sounds of the letters you say, and give them back to you. This one is great because it involves movement, which is always a big plus!
Fun and engaging worksheets (that do not feel like worksheets at all!): This last part (that do not feel like worksheets) is especially important when you are working with young children! Consider our FREE “A–Z” alphabet worksheets and “Practicing the Alphabet” worksheets, with all sorts of fun and educational activities (matching letters, missing letters, circle the letters, dot-to-dot, coloring by letter codes, and many more!)
For even more free resources, check our Library of Free Resources!
Letter bingo: This game is great for when your child already knows a few letter sounds for review purposes. If you haven’t heard of this one before, it is basically like normal bingo, but you play with letters instead of numbers. It is a lot of fun, children love it and it is a really good way to review letters, as I said. You can easily make your own bingo if you want, or there are very affordable options, for instance on Amazon.
The Very Long Alphabet Caterpillar game (literacy and numeracy board game!): Get a board like the one on the picture below, one chip and one dice per player.
Take turns with the rest of the players at rolling the dice. Movement of the chips along the board is determined by the number you get after rolling the dice. For instance, if you roll the dice and you get a “4”, move forward 4 boxes.
Once in the right box, you need to say the name and sound of the letter in the box and a word starting with that letter. If you don’t say it correctly, you have to move back to your previous position on the board. The winner of the game is the player that gets to the end first.
More advanced phonics games
Phoneme bingo and Initial sounds bingo: In the same way we’ve used the letter bingo game for learning and reviewing individual letter sounds, we can also play “the phoneme bingo” later on, when we are learning phonemes that are represented in writing (“graphemes”) by more than one letter, such us “th”, “ch”, “ar”, and many more. When calling out the grapheme, say the sound instead of the letters that represent it. Another fun bingo alternative game is the “initial sounds bingo.” Download the “Initial Sounds Bingo” for free here!
Phonics card games: There are a few great phonics card games out there. However not all of them follow great synthetic phonics principles. Take a look at the card games below. They both are based on sound phonics principles, and children love them!
Race-to-the-ice-cream board game (or whatever you want your students to race to!): Say each sound on the board as you try to the ice cream as fast as you can. If you make a mistake, start again. How many tries did you need?
Sounds Spinning Wheel: Ideally for groups of 2 – 4 players. Get a template like the one below and a set of spinners. Target 4 different sounds. In the example below, we are targeting the following sounds: /sh/, /ch/, unvoiced /th/, long /ā/ sound. Spin the wheel. Say the sound and find a word containing that sound. Read the word, and color in the box.
What’s the missing letter activity: Prepare worksheets like the one below including words that are appropriate to your children’s phonics level. Get them to say the word out loud, and add the missing letter on the blank. Missing letter activities worksheets here!
Sorting out words game: This is a more advanced game that will not only help children with their reading abilities, but also very clearly shows how the same sound can hide behind different spellings. This something that confuses many children, so activities like this one can really help them out! Besides, when we sort out words in this way, we discover pattern in words that we may not have realized existed before! Target a sound that is spelled in different ways (almost all of them are actually!), and a list of words containing that sound also spelled in different ways. For instance, you can target the /f/ sound (which can be spelled “f”, “ph”, “ff”, “ft”, “gh” and “lf”), and the following words: fun, fan, photo, cliff, huff, leaf, dolphin, elephant, laugh, tough, rough, enough, sniff, fill, half, calf. Write down the different spelling options and the different words on sticky notes. Get your student to read the words out loud and sort them out in the right place.
Learning with a phonics domino: Target a specific phonics skill playing a classic game. Replace numbers with letters, digraphs, r-controlled vowels or whatever phonics skill you want your children or students to go over. See some available options on Amazon below. Review while having fun!
Writing activities: Believe it or not writing is a considered to be a multi-sensory activity. In the same way other kinetic activities help children learn how to read, so does writing! Besides, the areas of the brain in charge of the communication between the brain and the hand are the same areas that process language and control reading. On top of that, the brain is visually engaged when we write, which helps reinforce our learning experience even further. In other words, writing will help your child learn how to read. An easy way to make sure you include writing every single day is to get small whiteboards for each of your students, and make sure you ask them write down the different concepts that you learn about. Even though we are living in the technology age, it is imperative that we continue to focus on penmanship!
Orthographic Mapping Activities
If you don’t know what Orthographic Mapping, I recommend you read this post! Also these activities will be shared in greater detail!
The High-Frequency Words game
Use our free High-Frequency Words Game to practice and make high-frequency words stick using Orthographic Mapping principles! See the game in action in this video!
Even though on the surface the High-Frequency Words may seem very simple, it is based on Orthographic mapping principles… And has the potential to achieve great results! Find out why here!
Practice any word with Orthographic mapping!
Materials needed: A piece of paper like the one below, some counters/chips. Any other manipulative will do as well – some people like to use Play-Doh balls!
You can also work on a whiteboard and use a set of magnets.
See me doing this activity with my daughter in this short video!
Unscramble Graphemes Game
Unscramble games normally focus on putting in order the LETTERS in a target word, rather than the actual GRAPHEMES that represent each of the sounds in a word. Let’s put an example to make this clearer. Say the target word is “ship.” Traditional unscramble games would give you the letters like this: P H S I, and then you would have to sort them out to make the word “ship.” How about giving children unscrambled graphemes instead: P I SH?
This set of Phonics Tiles can be useful for this activity. It include single letters tiles, but also digraphs, vowel teams and other letter combinations.