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Teaching Phonics in a Meaningful Way

I have found that making phonics enjoyable and meaningful by immediately using phonemes in context makes the teaching and learning much more enjoyable and relevant.

Teaching Phonics in a Meaningful Way

Students soon see why they are learning the letters and their sounds.
It’s important to know what letters and sounds your incoming students have mastered.   The FREE resource below will help you in this endeavor.  There is a simple checklist where you can type students’ names across the top and assess their grasp of letters and sounds.

There is an uppercase and lowercase letter in each box.  There is a slash in the boxes where you record responses so you can put a check for uppercase and/or lowercase.  If a letter is unknown, I put a question mark.  If they guess another letter, I write that incorrect response.  If a student also knows the sound a letter makes, I circle the check mark. I have also included digraphs, vowel combinations, etc. for those students who are ready.

Phonics Flash Cards Editable COVEr

You will notice that the flashcards are not in alphabetical order. That way, a student can’t rely on the order of the letters.  I also suggest evaluating uppercase and lowercase letters separately.  

The cards are arranged in the order that I use in my classroom for presenting letters and sounds.   It is an order that makes sense for letter formation, but also lends itself nicely to phonics and blending.

I do daily drills with the phonics cards, and students all have their own individual phonics rings to practice.  I send them home once a week for practice at home, along with an accountability sheet:

Phonics Homework Ideas
Phonics Homework Recording Sheet
Phonics Homeowrk FREEBIE

You can download the homework sheets I use by clicking on the image to the left.

They are editable in case you would like to add your own homework ideas or switch them up every so often.

I always tell students they can bring in the activities to share if they’d like to.

Each student has a spiral bound notebook.  Staples usually has them before school starts at a very low price! These notebooks stay in school, but each night for homework, students are asked to find at least 7 pictures of items that start with the letter that was introduced that day.

One is used for our large class chart, and the other 6 are used in the student’s notebook for “before school work”, Each student chooses one picture for me to use on our large chart of the day.   Students place their contributions in a cardboard box lid under the easel. They get their Phonics Notebooks and begin gluing their 6 remaining pictures into their notebooks, being sure to leave enough room to “stretch out the words” and write the sounds they hear under each picture.  

Students are called to the rug, and after our morning routines, we begin our phonics lesson.  I pick one picture from the box and say the word. Then I model saying the word slowly to hear its phonemes.  Students raise their hands to offer letters or letter combinations that they hear.
I try to keep students’ varying abilities in mind when calling on students.  If I am asking for the first letter, this is a good time to call on a particular student.  If I am asking for a more difficult sound, I will call on a student that I think is capable of supplying the answer. 

Phonics Big Book Page

However, I never make a student feel that his or her response is not correct.  I may respond with something like, “You’re right, the letter “c” can sometimes say “s”, but can you think of another letter that also says “s”? OR “Yes, there is an “l” in this word.  I am going to put it here at the end.  Thank you. 

Does anyone hear a sound before that “l” sound?”  I will s-t-r-e-tch the word slowly again.  If a student can’t supply the answer, I ask that student to call on someone else for me.  However, most of the time, I am able to get a response I can use.

Phonics Notebook Closeup

At the end of the lesson, students return to their desks and begin gluing and stretching their remaining 6 pictures.  You might also have a sheet of clip art for the letter of the day for those students who did not bring in (enough) pictures.
During this time, I circulate among the students, praising their stretching abilities and helping as necessary.  I do ask students to make correct letter formations for letters whose formations we have already been practicing.
Help for one student might be helping them to hear the ending sound.  Help for another student might be asking them if they know about silent e.  This is a great time for differentiating!

I create phonics rings for students to practice in school alone or with a partner. As letters are introduced, students add them to their Phonics Rings. They can also be sent home with students so they can practice at home.

Phonics Ring


Read about how I integrate handwriting with phonics to make Phonics and Handwriting go hand in hand here: Teaching Handwriting Easily and Successfully: A Handwriting Order That Makes Sense

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If you’re a primary teacher looking for ways to spark joy in your students’ learning, you’re in the right place. I just LOVE creating hands-on resources that help kids learn in a fun way. Our family is a family of teachers, and we all love contributing to The Teacher’s Post. Click below to learn more about us.

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