A. Pre-reading Games
- Word Chain (from Peggy Kaye) Take turns saying words that begin with the last sound of the other person’s word. Eg. cat-tip-pink-caterpillar-rest-turpentine-nest
- Rhyming Fun The ability to rhyme is an important reading-related skill. Have fun rhyming in the car or while out walking — you don’t have to use real words, either. Read Dr. Seuss, sing “Down by the Bay” and “Wibbly Wallaby Woo” (Raffi has great versions of these songs.)
B. Letter Sound Games
- Run To Post a few letters around the room. Ask the child to “run to mmmm” or “run to aaa.”
- Find the Sound Write letters on sticky notes and have the child post them on things in the room that start with that sound
- Letter Sound Bingo Make up your own cards and calling chips and remember to let the child be the caller, too!
- Short Vowel Go Fish Make up 8 cards for each vowel, mix them up and play “go fish” remembering to ask for the letter sounds and not the names.
- Short Vowel Memory Use 2 cards for each vowel, lay them face-down and take turns flipping them up to find a match. If you can find a match and say the sound, you keep the pair.
- Phonics Hopscotch (from Peggy Kaye) Using chalk outside or masking tape inside, outline a large square and then make smaller sections inside. Write letters in the sections and ask child to ‘jump to fff.” The traditional hopscotch shape doesn’t work well because letters are spaced along a narrow line.
- Letter Massage Write a letter on each other’s back and guess which it is.
C. Reading Games
- Two-letter Blend Bingo Draw one 5X5 grid of squares for each player. Use the 2 letter blends from page 26 (of Phonics Pathways) to fill in the squares. The middle one is usually marked “free” and players can cover it immediately. Make a list of the blends you’ve put in the squares, cut it up, and place in a bowl. Pick the sounds one at a time and read them out. Players can either color the squares with markers or cover them with something small like a Lego. The first one to have a row of 5, diagonally, horizontally, or vertically, wins. Kids learn even more if they’re allowed to be the caller sometimes, too.
- Three-letter Word Bingo For 3 letter bingo, same as above but use pg 36 for words
- S-shaped Board Game On a sheet of paper, draw a snaking S-shape starting in one corner and ending in the diagonal opposite. Draw a parallel line 1 inch away. Draw lines sectioning it and write either two-letter blends or 3 letter words in them. Choose several squares as silly squares and draw a silly face. When someone lands on it, they have to run around the table or make a face. I use a 4-sided die with this game to make sure that we have to do more reading, but you could use a 6-sided die and draw smaller sections.
- Disappearing Words Write the lesson on a white board. Each time the child has read a word they can erase it. We usually say, “Disappearing words. Spooooky!”
- Word Snail Tape two sheets of paper together on the long edges and draw a large spiral with a snail head at the bottom corner. Along the line write the following: li, du, re, be, mi, he, li, hu, be, bu, fe, la, de, ju, ha, be, mi, we, ca, gi. Then write multiples of the following on slips of paper and place in a bag: st, mp, nd, lt, nt, ft, ld, lk. We play by rolling a 4-sided die (gives us more practice). Start on the snail’s head and roll to land on a word beginning. Draw endings from the bag until a real word is formed, then roll the die. Play passes to next player. Then on the second turn, match an ending and then roll to move. The first to the snail’s center wins.
- Playmobil Team Drill Write the lesson on small pieces of paper (basically flashcards), ask the child to make a pile of that many Playmobil figures or stuffed animals. For each correct answer, add a team member to your child’s team (naturally they cheer for your child). A mistake adds a member to your team (naturally they grouse and generally act lonely). I am currently using this to encourage my child to say the words all at once rather than breaking apart the sounds — ‘sand’ instead of ‘s-a-n-d’. I give her one chance to say the whole word correctly (she’s permitted to sound it out behind her hand).
- Fishing This works for letters, two-letter blends, 3-letter words and the review sentences in Phonics Pathways (using larger fish for the sentences!). Cut fish shapes from construction paper, write the lesson on the fish, slip paper clips onto the fishtails and tie a magnet to a string on a stick/cooking spoon. Now go fish! Two additional ideas: 1) The first time we did this my daughter found a letter addressed to Little Bear from Mother Bear in the mailbox. It asked Little Bear to go catch some fish for fish soup since Father Bear was away on the ocean. So when we play this game, we usually put the fish my daughter has read into a little pot; 2)I often add a few fish with stars on them and my daughter gets covered with kisses when she catches these fish.
- Cornmeal Writing Draw easy dictation lessons in cornmeal in a shallow pan.
- Switch Roles Have the child be the teacher and teach either you or a stuffed animal — some serious silliness helps this one succeed.
- Magnetic Letters Another form to interest a child to do the same thing in a new way! Buy them or make your own using a permanent marker and magnetic vent covers available at hardware stores.
- Word Family Treasure Hunt Write words from a word family on notes and hide them around. Ask child to find them one at a time so that you eliminate guessing.
- Flap 3-Letter Words Cut white paper into rectangles about 2 inches by 3 inches. Fold in two so that it is 1”x3”. Cut the top flap 1/3 from the right edge. (Cut from the bottom to the fold.) Write the first two letters of a word on the left two-thirds. Lift up the flap and write the third letter. Make 12 of these and glue to a sheet of construction paper. This exercise helped my daughter remember to blend the first two sounds before adding the third.
- Flap Story (an adaptation of the pyramid story in Phonics Pathways) Make a flap book by laying several sheets of paper one on top of the other, so that the back sheet is 1inch higher than the second and the second is 1 inch higher than the third. Bring the bottom up and align so that all tabs are the same distance apart. Crease. (See pg 70 of Zike’s Big Book of Books.) Now write a short story like the pyramid stories in Phonics Pathways. I wrote one called “Yuck!”: A, A cat, A cat sat, A cat sat on jam, A cat sat on red jam. Yuck!
- Treasure Hunt This idea got us through a particularly rough patch of resistance to practicing three-letter words. I browsed the lists of words in Phonics Pathways and came up with enough clues to make a treasure hunt. At the end was a little piece of chocolate. Some of the clues I used were: wet mop, Sandra’s bed, big pot, red hat, Dad’s bed, rag bag, pop can. Other words that would easily fit: pen, rug, mug, nut, bun, den, jam, hot.
- Sight Word Circle Use a page from a magazine, or a photocopy of a storybook page. Have child circle all uses of a sight word. “The” is a frequently used sight word, others may need a bit of pre-screening to find a page with enough “woulds” to make the exercise worthwhile.
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