The Best Free Phonics Activities
Its quite a bold statement, but i have been doing this for great number of years now, even before phonics was ”cool”. So i have put together a few examples of the tried and tested resources on the site. The only price for most of these… to learn why your using them first.
Here are 100s of free phonics games, phonics activites, CVC readers and worksheets, Blending and Digraphs games, Vowels – long and short and diphthong worksheets and activities on this site and i have picked some examples of our best.
All the resources you need to teach yourself then help your children learn one of the most important skills in English, and one we probably didn’t learn ourselves.
You may have had your 5 year old wandering back into the house after pre school or kindergarten and telling you that abc is not in fact like the ABC song like you have been singing for the last 5 years of their life. If they are my students this is a high probability. I enjoy teaching phonics to my students and seeing the results it has to them on a daily basis. The skills they acquire, the large words they can try to split up and cut up to enable them to say them. The reading levels they seem to gallop through once they are mastering these skills opens up more complex books for them, and with that more enjoyment and love for reading. This is true with all students, but doubly so with second language students. English has 44 sounds and about 500,000 words. Which one would you rather learn. ( in truth there are about 170,000 words in use – but the point stands I think😉 )
and yes I did RickRoll you with the ABC song just above.
The problem here is that it is unlikely, whether English is your first or fourth language, that you were at school when Phonics was rediscovered as the new next best thing. So how to help your children learn something you were never taught?
Well we have a whole section of this post just for that and you can skip ahead by clicking here if you need to. ( we are all busy people) there are also free resources scattered around the different sections for you to use as well as well as on my site in general. If google brought you here and its your first time, the section in the menu above takes you to the free resources, and we have paid versions that have more depth in them if you would like more options as well. Just to keep it interesting I will drop links into the text to some of the better resources we have as well.
Below I have linked directly to the resource sections so you can skip through the text if you need to.
- Initial Sounds
- Onset and Rime
- CVC words
- Digraphs and Blends
- Some more free stuff – printable games and more.
None of that helps unless you know …
What is Phonics
Phonics is the study of the sounds of a language. It is used to help children recognize between the different in sounds and their corresponding letters or spelling (some sounds have multiple different spelling) . This helps them learn develop both their reading and writing skills. It develops problems solving and coding and decoding skills in all ages of learners and means they can tackle (word attack) unfamiliar or new words with their phonic skills. Although it starts with the learning of single sounds, often the alphabet, it moves on to blending these sounds to make common endings and onto simple short vowel words ( CVC) that follow easily learnt phonics rules, and onwards and upwards to more complex structures like diphthongs, digraphs and graphophonic elements with a stegosaurs and flapjack blah blah…. You really don’t need to know all these terms. It just proves I know what im talking about but doesn’t help you any.
And if you are a teacher ready this you know it already so…
I will stop there, I often find teachers, and especially ones who are selling their wares online (just like me) always lose people in Jargon, I still haven’t worked out if this is by accident or design. You don’t need to train to be a teacher, you don’t need 4 years of study to help your children learn to read, you don’t need all the singing apps and programs, in fact you just need the following
- More knowledge than they do
- Some resources that are cool and engaging
- Suitable reading material / books etc that they like
- Enthusiasm and patience in equal measure
- Some time – little and often during the week.
The following is going to try to hit the first three of those things for you, the last two are all on you though.
now the first thing you need to know.
What is the order to teach phonics.
Phonics instruction is progressional, as much as you want them to be reading worlds like indestructible and supermarket they need to learn a set of skills to get to that point. Depending where you are in the world they will be will be learning these varying speed and stages in your kindergartens and elementary / primary schools. I will give you the order but not ‘’when’’ they are supposed to know it. Children are unique and I like them that way. So some will learn faster and some will learn slower, but they will all learn.
The order is loosely as follows:
- The learning of the letter sounds.
- I do not mean the ABC song that is drilled into children from birth. I mean the sounds of those letters. As a rule of them I do use the 26 letters of the alphabet for this reason, but teaching them that each letter has a sound attached to it is key to starting their ability to put sounds together. Other programs use different orders based on what they think are either common or easy sounds. SATPIN is the jolly phonics order. This is also used to push them fast to putting these sounds together into their first simple words.
- This can be simply done with simple games and activities (see below). What is achieves is the recognition that sounds are a really REALLY important part of a language, and to read, speak, write and listen you have to know that.
- I will include a couple of resources for each ‘’section’’ to help you if you need them.
Colour the Lower Case: A simple put effective dab the sound page to help with learning initial sounds and relating them to the letter. there are about four versions on the site. This helps to teach phonetic sounds and upper and lower case at the same time.
Write my sound: An initial sound worksheets you can practice the sounds of these words with your students by saying them separately or as part of the word and asking them to listen and write them down.
2) Blending sounds – onset and rime
This step is a biggie. Take time with this as it’s a paradigm shift from that ABC song. It is the attempt to teach children that these sounds react with each other. That saying them in isolation is good, but blending them together is beautiful. One way of doing it and I will include a game to play for this. Is to teach them onset and rime. ( sorry for the jargon) this is simply put: the beginning sound sits alone and the last two letters, we are working up to three letter words, are the ones we try to teach them to blend.
This is great for high frequency words like in, at, on, but be used with others as well to really reinforce the concept. If they can take the single sound ‘’a’’ and ‘’t’’ and blend them together to make the word ‘’at’’, or the ‘’o’’ sound and the ‘’n’’ sounds and say ‘’on’’ Well lets just say they see their teacher do a happy dance on that day.
This is their first demonstration of using a skill to tackle a reading problem. It is not to be undervalued, but it must be nurtured as once this concept is in their head it is how they will tackle all new and un familiar words and that means they are on the way. There are a couple of resources below ( including a free dice game printout for you as well.)
Connect Four Game : This is a very popular downloadable game on our site. Children roll a dice and have to find the number on the board. IF they can say it they can cover it up. The aim is to get four in a row. We have multiple versions for all phonics levels.
Lady Bird Phonics games: 2 sets of phonics ”snakes and ladders” type games for younger learners. FREE and PAID versions on the site.
3) Making that Most beautiful of words – The CVC
- Once children have worked out that a vowel and consonant can go together to achieve rapturous applause from their teachers they will seek out new ways to demonstrate that skill. The next step is to teach them to blend more sounds, the easiest way to do this is with the simple CVC words. (CVC is consonant vowel consonant) these are basically the easiest Phonetic words in English. These are made of the onsets taught and practiced above with a beginning sound s(rime) added to make a word.
- Although not a huge step linguistically, it is massive developmentally as it opens up being able to read simple meaningful texts rather than just units of sounds. Now what the children read can have meaning and their language progresses from a pure focus on sound to a duel focus on sound and meaning. With this comes comprehension (and a risk of flash carding them into submission as well as people start to try to get them to understand more words than they need)
- I have hundreds of resources to both teach and practice this step as I like to be sure that my students have this skill well embedded into their skill set before moving on. I also love them reading simple CVC stories, but I try to limit after a while spending to much time on meaning just yet. They sill have a long way to go and though learning how to blend these three sounds is a victory, its isn’t over yet.
Colour the Short Vowel: I love using this in class. It is difficult to make but introduces the different between long and short vowels, and practices CVC words. Needs a little introduction first for students.
CVC Word Families: 5 activities on one page all related to CVC words. There is spelling, constructing, vocabulary recognition and more. We have two sets of 5 for all the short vowels on the site. this is set two. We also have them for digraphs and for blends as well!
4) Blends and Digraphs – Adding letters
Do try out the CVC generator on the site as it takes away all the picture clues that normally come with CVC words (including in some of my resources as well) Kids like pictures, it helps with meaning, but now and then we want them to read it not look at the picture and say it.
Once they have this skill it is time to expand the rules of words as they know them. This means working in digraphs. Some people do Vowel Digraphs first, I prefer to do consonant digraphs first. Simply put these are two consonants together. Like in shop, wish, fast, stop, bran, frog, flip, trap, chop, much etc. Some of these are their own individual sounds and some are consonants blending together. Check out the phonics chart at the top to see which are a separate sound. Though its not that many, wh, ch, th (two of those!) ng. and blends are consonant sounds like br, bl, dr, fl, fr, gr, gl and others.
This are reasonably straight forward to teach as by this time they will have hear words like chair, shop, shut, this that, three etc. So at this point we can take words that have appeared in other lessons as well as their English lessons and ask them to use the skills like they did for CVC words and cut them up. It takes a little practice but it should come easier than the CVC stage.
Digraph Word Families: 5 activities on one page all related to Digraph words. There is spelling, constructing, vocabulary recognition and more. Similar to the CVC resource but with WH-CH-SH-TH words to show how different sounds function in English.
Farm Phonics: These 5 worksheets actually cover a whole lot of phonics. There are CVC versions, Digraph and blending versions Vowel versions and more.
5) Vowels – Unfortunately this can be more challenging
- Vowels are one of the more difficult aspects of phonics. So to be totally honest, although I have put them here at stage 5, I do actually cover these as an ongoing concern from CVC onwards.
- The reason I do is it is simply not possible to teach with just short vowels up to this point. Long vowels and vowel digraphs will be appearing all over the place in story books, at home, and even in the car . So around about the time children are getting fairly secure with CVC and that 5 short vowel sounds that make them I will introduce the 5 long vowel sounds and run a lesson or two on the different sound that the same vowel letter has.
- This is done so it can be pointed out during following lessons and they can learn that there are two sounds for these letters ( there are more but no need to freak them out just yet!) At this point it may time to give a couple of the rules for recognizing when the vowel will be long, magic E, when two vowels go walking etc. ( check out the two song links there – if you haven’t studied phonics before they will help you as much as any student)
- There are also more vowel sounds that just the 5 long and short versions of their single letters and this is the difficultly.
- Introducing them is not to difficult, remember that chair example from above. 99% of students will be able to say the word, and unless you have a young Dolly Parton ( chay – er) they will say the vowel sound like air, not ay-er. Vowels give us our accents, all over the world, from Liverpool to Louisiana, so unless there is a desperate need to sound like the Queen of England, there is also some leeway in the teaching of vowels as well. (I will be corrected on this at some point I know, but I have always been more the pragmatic than the dogmatic teacher)
- I said I wouldn’t get caught up with jargon so I will leave you with a few resources to try out for vowels, one is an app this time, which helps students to listen, read and say words with this vowel digraphs in them, the others help recognize if the sound is long and short which is a little simpler.
6 Long and Short Vowel Worksheets : These 6 worksheets help students hear and practice the difference between the long and short sounds. With diphthongs and magic e rules included.
Magic / Silent E Worksheets : a set of worksheets to help students master the tricky magic E sounds. We have hundreds more vowel activities on the site, R controlled, Y as a vowel and more. Check them out as well.
6) There are other random rules for phonics in English but they deserves a post on their own. So will will write it in the next post and link it in here when its ready.
I want to finish with a short bit of advice, it comes form 12 years of teaching Phonics to lower years and seeing the difference it makes. Learning a language is a skill, it takes practice. Schools can go so far with showing these skills, but in practice is where they are developed. If you are a parent who is reading this, I have my resources mostly for no cash at all on here, they are yours to use with your children. However, I would ask one thing, Don’t just give them as supplementary materials for study or homework, sit down a couple of times a week and listen to your children read, or go through their answers with you.
This will help them more than any worksheet or resource I put on here for you, no matter how cool the pictures I find are! If you still need to know if phonics instruction is important then feel free to check out these research topics here and here.
I am gonna link some more free stuff ( and maybe a couple of paid) below this just in case you want to do some more with your kids though. I will try to find my best stuff as you made it this far down the page!
Enjoy the journey!
Some More (mostly) Free Stuff
CVC Reading Cards and Comprehension: Great resource to use as students are practicing the CVC Stage of phonics learning. Normally a book costs about 5 USD which is a little steep. So we have 15 plus here for 3.99!
Wild Animal Readers : We have a lot of reading resources on the site. Here are the free samples of the Wild animals reader and comprehension questions for you.
Soundopoly Phonics : a monopoly style game for learners to play and practice, sounds, onset and rime and CVC words. There is even a blending and digraph version as well. This is editable for you as well.
Lady Bird Phonics games: 2 sets of phonics ”snakes and ladders” type games for younger learners. FREE and PAID versions on the site.
Kindergarten reading Comprehension : 5 Kindergarten Readers to practice all those phonics sounds hey have learned.
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on email@example.com, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!