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14 Fun and Engaging Phonics Activities for Young Learners (Part 1)

Ahhhh phonics. One of the keys to helping our young learners read is understanding phonics. 

The National Reading Panel lists five key concepts at the core of early literacy and reading instruction: 

  • Phonics
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading comprehension

And there’s phonics… right at the top!

Since phonics is so important to learning to read, it’s also important to make phonics fun! When learning activities are fun, we can more easily keep our students engaged, focused, and most important… learning!

This is just part 1 in a two-part series. You’ll find the first seven activities in this post and then seven more activities in part 2!

What is Phonics, anyway?

Simple! Phonics is teaching kids to match sounds (phonemes) to letters or letter patterns (graphemes). 

For our students, phonics is the key to decoding new words. Breaking our words into sounds and syllables helps young learners connect the words they see on paper to the words they hear and speak each day. We know that kids learn words by orthographically mapping them out. 

But, how do we make that fun? Let’s get creative!

Here are Seven Fun and Engaging Phonics Activities for Young Learners!

1. Have a scavenger hunt!

Scavenger hunts can be so fun! Kids love to get out of their seats, explore, and find things! 

You can have a phonics scavenger hunt in a few different ways. 

  • Hide pictures – You can hide pictures around the classroom that use the sound/symbol correspondence you are working on. Then let kids search the classroom for the hidden pictures! Make sure you let them practice by saying the word for the item in the picture and identifying the phoneme and the grapheme. 
  • Beginning sounds – you can send students on a scavenger hunt to find as many items in the classroom that all have a certain beginning sound.
  • Scavenger hunt in a book! – Instead of having everyone up and out of their seat, you can do a scavenger hunt within a book! Have your students search for words within a book that start with a certain letter or letter team. 

You can also do a scavenger hunt within an image! Check out my phonics hidden pictures bundle! They are worksheets with pictures that have hidden images in them. Your students can read the words and find the pictures, then write about the picture, using at least one target word. Then, they can find the pictures and write the list of words with the target phonics skill. 

You can use these phonics pages to practice phonics skills during centers, morning work, or assign them as homework! You can also display them on your whiteboard and work on them together!

2. Tell a story!

Kids love to tell stories! Grab picture or word cards that go with a phonics skill you’re working on with your students. Then, challenge your students to come up with a sentence or a story using as many pictures or word cards as possible! 

3. Play Phonics Charades!

If your students are not familiar with the traditional way to play charades, you may need to begin by going over how the game is played. In Charades, students have to “act out” a word or phrase without speaking, while the other members of their team try to guess what the word is. 

For Phonics Charades, start with a list of words that follow a specific phonics skill. Then invite a student to come up, read the word in their head, and act it out for the class to guess! 

4. Picture and word sorts!

Picture sorts and word sorts are another fun and easy way to reinforce a phonics skill! Your students can sort words or pictures based on word patterns and then glue them into their notebooks. 

Check out my Phonics Word Work Sorts Interactive Notebook! It has 110+ sorts for the entire year.

5. Build words!

I am a professed word nerd 🤓and my latest obsession is Word Trip, which is an anagram game app. Word games like Wordle and Word Trip have really made me think more about spelling patterns and they’ve been a fun way to strengthen my daughter’s phonics skills, too!

You can set up an easy anagram game by having a word-building center.

Start with a word and then have kids build as many different words as they can using those letters. Here’s an example: If you start with the word PATCH, you can make act, cat, pat, hat, tap, chat, path, pact, chap, and more!

PATCH

  • cat
  • pat
  • hat
  • chap
  • tap
  • cap
  • path

To play this game, you could use whiteboards with dry-erase markers, magnet letters on a baking sheet, or letter tiles. 

Anagrams can be tough for little ones. It helps to give kids support with this activity. Using word family cards is a great scaffold! Have students place magnetic letters on top of the word family cards and use the remaining letters to find words.

If you want ready-to-go-anagrams for the year, my Making Words Interactive Notebook has 31 sets that include word family cards. Students just cut apart the letters and glue the word into their notebooks to get started.

6. Word family slides!

This is super fun and super simple!

  • First, make a paper slide or display a slide on your whiteboard. 
  • Next, place a word family at the bottom of the slide. 
  • Then, use magnetic letters to slide down the slide while making the letter sound.
  • Finally, have the letter bump into the word family and say the whole word out loud. 

You can do this as a quick whole-group activity or in centers. 

7. Play rhyming Duck, Duck, Goose!

Young kids love playing Duck, Duck, Goose! It’s fun and the rules are super easy for them to follow. Plus, they got to pop up out of their seats and run (or speed walk.) So, it makes for a great game to phonics-ify!

Here’s how I do it: I have my students sit in a circle, just like they’re about to play Duck, Duck, Goose! I assign one person to be the first “ducker.” Here’s the twist… instead of saying, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, until they choose to say goose, I instruct them to say rhyming words until they run out. Then, they say goose and run!

Looking for even MORE phonics activities? Check out these phonics-based sight word activities.

Phonics & Fluency Pages!

Love these activities? Excited to embrace more phonics activities in your classroom? I have just the resource for you! Check out my Phonics & Fluency pages. They will walk you through the entire lesson with your students from targeting the phonics skill sound to reading it in context, incorporating comprehension, and writing!

Check it out in my TPT store or my Tejeda’s Tots Shop:

I hope these phonics activities spark some creativity in you so you can make phonics instruction fun and engaging for your young learners! 

Remember, phonics is one of the five keys to learning to read! If we want to keep our kids engaged in learning phonics, we’ve got to hook them with fun phonics activities!

If you have any questions or ideas for even more fun and engaging phonics activities for young learners, please leave them below!

And, don’t forget to check out part 2 in this series, for even more fun phonics activities!

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