Listening and Initial Sound

All of the activities below are designed to support children in Phase 1 who are learning to listen to the sounds around them and orally blend and segment words that they hear. Some of the activities also support the recognition of initial sounds of the alphabet learnt in Phase 2.

Click on the titles of the activities to link to the original Facebook posts to see more photos and videos or search the title on the Facebook page.

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Nursery Rhyme Bag

This activity is aimed at pre school and nursery children. Singing nursery rhymes together are a big part of Phase 1 phonics and a great way to learn early phonics skills and develop language. Nursery rhymes are brilliant as they are short, snappy and rhythmic so children are much more likely to remember them and be able to repeat them. The ‘Nursery Rhyme Effect’ recognises that children who are exposed to stories and rhyme well before they go to School are much more likely to become more successful readers.

For this activity I found one object that represented a nursery rhyme and placed it into a bag. You could find objects together or draw pictures instead. Your child picks an object and you sing the rhyme together. In order to extend this you could miss out words and sentences for your child to repeat themselves, change words to try and trick them or make them funny, create actions for them or clap along together and keep a beat. Once you’ve finished the activity you can leave the bag out for your child to go back to and do independently. Have fun!

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Cheeky Birdy Phonics

We have a bird puppet in our house that likes to take things and hide them. Here it took some letters. You could use any hand puppet, soft toy or you could just hide the letters behind your back. The word cards can be adapted for age and phase you just have to have one of the graphemes (letters or combination of letters) on a separate bit of paper/card so that it can be taken away.

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Phonics Footprints

A perfect physical and sensory activity for children working to identify the initial letter sounds in Phase 2 and a great way to encourage correct letter formation. Children will need to think about where they start their footprint trail and what they need to do to form the letter correctly. They can say the letter sound as they are walking along the chalk. Works better for letters where you don’t need to take the pencil off the paper so not f, i, j, t and x.

Older children you could write words and they could hop, walk and print the sound buttons on with their feet.

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Chalk letters and paintbrushes

Chalk letters on the fence, say the sound and then paint it out.

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Throw a Rhyme

Enjoying rhyming activities and being able to continue a rhyming string are key objectives within the Early Years curriculum. It’s also great for older children to continue being exposed to rhyme. Here I used some balls from our ball pit. I used permanent marker but you could always use taped on paper or whiteboard pen (this does rub off easily though). Children read the word on the ball and then attempt to throw it into the correct basket. Once you have thrown all the balls read through all the words in each basket and see if you can think of another one to add (continue a rhyming string).

All the words can be adapted depending on what phase your child is working at, for example if working in Phase 5 you could have blue, true, flew, clue, new as they would be learning the ‘ue’ and ‘ew’ graphemes.

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Phonics Archaeologist

Set up a tray with a piece of paper at the bottom with letters on and cover with rice (if you are willing to spare! πŸ˜). Using a brush you hunt for the letters and cross out the ones you’ve found. You can make it harder by getting your child to write the letters they’ve found rather than match them or hunt for words instead.

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Poppin’ Phonics

A super activity for children learning initial letter sounds and who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap!

Place a piece of white paper with initial letter graphemes written on and spaced out so they show under the bubbles of the wrap. You could write directly onto the bubble wrap but it’s quite tricky to make a clear enough letter shape.

You say a sound and your child pops the corresponding bubble. Extend it by saying a simple CVC word and your child pops the corresponding bubbles. Simple, fun and effective!

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Phonics Hopscotch

Phonics Apple Bobbing

Now this one has been a massive hit in our house this afternoon. My three year old spent at least an hour playing here!

All you need to do is write some graphemes or words onto the apples in marker pen and place them in a tub of water. If your child doesn’t want to play this game the classic way then you could give them a pair of tongs and they can pick up the apples with these. Fantastic way to develop fine motor muscles too. Adapt by having different graphemes or tricky words on the apples. You say the phoneme or word they have to find and then catch the corresponding apple or they select an apple themselves and say the phoneme/word as they pick it up. Have fun and possibly 5 minutes peace! Winner!

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Saucepan Syllables

This activity is specifically for Pre School children and those that are working within Phase 1.

Phase 1 is designed to develop children’s speaking and listening skills and provide a good foundation for later phonic work. It is divided into 7 aspects all of which prompt children to listen and explore the sounds around them. The phase builds up to Aspect 7 where children start to orally blend and segment words.

This activity supports Aspect 4 where children develop awareness of rhyme and rhythm. I drew some pictures of minibeasts on some paper. I chose these ones specifically as they vary in the amount of syllables they have (ant – 1, spider – 2, butterfly – 3, caterpillar – 4). You can choose pictures of whatever is of interest. It could be transport, zoo animals or dinosaurs. Your child picks a picture and taps out the syllables on the saucepan. Just a different way of clapping syllables and children love a saucepan drum.

Leave the pan, spoon and pictures out so they can then continue independently or for as long as you can put up with a banging saucepan πŸ˜‚

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Phonics Dust Buster

This activity is in homage to Mrs Hinch (the Instagram cleaning guru). We’re mixing housework with homework! Although my son doesn’t see either as work, more like ‘houseplay’ and ‘homeplay’. He loves ‘helping’ with the hoovering.

A great way to support grapheme recognition. I cut up small pieces of kitchen roll and wrote some graphemes on them. I chose to focus on just three letters. You say the sound and they hoover up all the corresponding bits of confetti.
You could write some digraphs and trigraphs from Phase 3. For children in Phase 5 you could write the different ways to write the same phoneme, for example ‘ai’ ‘ay’ and split digraph ‘a_e’ and tell them to hoover up the one they would find at the end of the word.

Note – I checked on Google that it’s fine to hoover up small bits of confetti and it won’t damage the hoover.

Monster Snacks

This activity is brilliant for children who are learning to listen to the initial sounds in words, looking at alliteration in Phase 1 and those recognising the initial sound graphemes in Phase 2. My son absolutely loved it and he’s been feeding the monster snacks all morning!

I cut a monster out of a piece of cardboard and gave it a mouth (the hole was already there on mine from the handle hole of the box). I then attached the cardboard monster to the front of a plastic basket with a couple of cable ties. You could just draw a monster on the front of a box and make a mouth hole but it’s quite nice having the basket so you can see the objects you have collected. I put a corner of a punched pocket on the front just like on the ‘Phonics Viewfinder’ activity I posted a while ago (search this in the search bar to find this activity). The punched pocket can hold a small grapheme card and you can change it in order to change the initial sound you are looking for.

Your child can now go around the house to find ‘snacks’ that begin with the same initial sound and feed them to the monster. Once you’ve collected a few objects you can go through them in the basket and emphasise the initial sound and therefore support alliteration.

You could adapt this for children working in the higher phases by finding ‘snacks’ that have the same phoneme in them like ‘ee’ in Phase 5 and find a ‘teabag’, ‘bean’ ‘cookie’ ‘monkey’ ‘seed’ etc and then writing the words in a list using the correct graphemes.

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Search and Rescue

This activity is perfect for all those explorers! I was so intrigued by maps when I was younger and absolutely loved looking at and using them.

I used an old OS Grid Map here. They are great as they fold out to a large sheet and have so much detail on. You’ll need to draw on the map but it won’t affect the use as you can draw the letters as small as you can and in areas without any reference points. You could also use a road map book or map at the back of a travel guide.

This activity is almost like a letter ‘Where’s Wally?’ Give your child a sheet of graphemes they are looking for. Adapt this to the phase your child is working in. It works best with single letter, digraphs and trigraphs as you can write them pretty small onto the map and they won’t stand out too much.

Your child searches the map for the graphemes and then ticks them off the sheet when they’ve found them, saying the phoneme as they do.
My son was saying things like ‘we need to find the ‘m’ next’ or ‘look I’ve found a ‘h”.

You could extend this activity by looking at grid references and map symbols.

We had to make binoculars too but these are not essential to the activity πŸ™ˆ

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Sound and Found Pegs

This activity takes just a couple of minutes to set up, so super quick and easy, and all you need are some clothes pegs and a marker pen.

This game is a mix really between ‘I spy’ and a scavenger hunt. Write a selection of letters onto some clothes peg. Your child picks a peg and then finds an object that starts with that initial sound and clips the peg onto the object. You could just start with having the same letter or a couple of letters on the pegs and build up to having more of a selection of Phase 2 graphemes. Just look around the room to make sure there are objects with that initial sound and able to have a peg clipped onto them.

A fantastic way to develop fine motor muscles too. πŸ‘πŸ»

Alternatively you could clip the pegs on to corresponding objects beforehand. You say, for example ‘find me the peg that has a ‘b” and they hunt around the room, find the peg and identify the initial sound in the object they found it on.

Older children you could write decodable words of objects around the room and appropriate for the phase your child is working in, ‘cup’, ‘book’, ‘lamp’ ‘teddy’ etc and they clip the peg to the correct object.

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Phonics and the Sleeping Lion

Just a really simple activity to do and will potentially give you at least 5 minutes peace and quiet🀞🏻

This is just an adapted version of ‘Sleeping Lions’ and a great way to support your child in hearing the sounds in words and practice blending them together as part of Phase 1 Aspect 7. It can also be adapted for children in Phase 2 and above as a more fun and practical way of reading word cards.

Your child lies down on the floor and tries to keep as still as possible. I know this can be tricky for little ones but they are not out of this game if they do wriggle about. The could perhaps get extra points if they do stay super still though.

For children working in Phase 1 you ‘sound out’ words that contain 2 or 3 phonemes (cat, dog, chair, bed, box etc). When you ‘sound out’ the word ‘wake’ your child springs up. My son liked to spring up with a roar too. They then get a point. Repeat the game until they score 10 points.

For children in Phase 2 and above you could show them word cards and have a card that means that they need to get up. Show your child the cards one by one and they spring up when the action card is shown. Tally up their scores on a board or a bit of paper.

Potential cards that mean your child needs to get up could be:
Phase 2 – get up
Phase 3 – morning
Phase 4 – jump
Phase 5 – wake up or morning time

For older children you could encourage them to read the word cards in their head and jump up when the action card is shown.

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Hungry Hippos

I made my own version of the classic Hungry Hippos game. A really fun way to prompt grapheme or tricky word recognition or practise segmenting and building words.I made this paper hippo puppet with inspiration from Easy Peasy and Fun. I hand drew mine onto an A4 sheet but there is a free printable on their website so your child could make and colour the puppet beforehand.

then placed some balls into a plastic tub. I said a phoneme and my son used the hippo to find the corresponding ball and pick it up with the puppet. A great pre-writing activity as using the puppet requires real control and builds hand strength.Adapt what you have on the balls. It could be initial sounds, tricky words or you could say a word and your child finds the corresponding balls to build the word.You could also make a couple of puppets and play the game with a partner. You say a phoneme and the winner is the first one to find the corresponding grapheme. Who will end up with the most balls?

The printed ping pong balls I used here were kindly gifted by Fun Phonics

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Letter Wands

A super tool to use in order to support children in identify the initial sounds in words.I made these letter wands by using a bit of hot glue to stick the wooden letters to the lollipop sticks. You could just write the letter at the top of the stick instead.Your child chooses a wand and then finds objects around the house that begin with that initial sound. They can say the name of the object as they find it and wave their wand.My son also adapted this slightly as he decided to choose a wand and then say ‘I’m going to turn you into a…’ and then we thought of animals that began with that initial sound and I had to act out being that animal πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ. So he chose a ‘c’ wand and said ‘cat’ and ‘cow’ etc. Thankfully no photos of that!

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Alphabet Bubble Snake

We couldn’t let the unnecessary amount of large bubble wrap that came with a recent delivery go to waste! I’ve seen this wrap used a number of times to support literacy either for tricky words, grapheme recognition or popping individual graphemes like sound buttons and blending the sounds together to make the word. We made ours into an alphabet snake. I wrote the letters of the alphabet onto the wrap and then placed out some objects. My son picked an object from the bag, identified the initial sound and then used the object to pop the corresponding letter on the wrap. He loves recalling the alphabet so it also gave me a chance to discuss the fact that each letter has a name and a sound.I didn’t have an object for every letter in the bag but that prompted him to go and find some himself. He found a ‘d’ for ‘duck’ and ‘r’ for ‘rope’ and then at the end he went down the snake singing the alphabet and popping the remaining bubbles whilst I reinforced the letter sound.

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Blending Match

A great game for all those School Starters in September and those that are practising the skill of orally blending sounds within Phase 1. An absolutely vital phase in Phonics and a really important foundation to all the other phases. A super game to encourage your child to listen to and follow instructions too.

I gathered a selection of matching objects into a couple of plastic boxes and two plastic serving trays where I wrote on the numbers 1-6 with whiteboard pen (you don’t need these you could just have paper or bits of masking tape stuck to the table). I then created a large screen out of the side of a box and held it in place with some Duplo. Either side of the screen each player will need the items in the plastic box and a tray (or somewhere to place the items).You ‘sound out’ one of the objects and your child blends the sounds together and finds the corresponding object and places it on spot 1. So, for example, you say ‘c-u-p’ and they blend the sounds to make ‘cup’ and find the object in the box and put it on space number 1. Repeat with the other items until you’ve created a pattern of objects on the tray.Take the screen away and reveal your objects and your child can see whether they’ve created the same pattern of matching objects on their tray (I turned my tray around for this so my son could see the objects in the same direction). My son then wanted to play again but this time tell me what I had to put on my tray. He was trying really hard to segment the words and at least tell me the initial sound. A great way to develop speaking in sentences and giving instructions too. You could extend this for children working higher up the phases by having word cards instead of ‘sounding out’ the words. You show a card over the screen and they find the corresponding object to place on their tray.

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Shopping for Syllables

This activity is a brilliant way to support pre-school children and those working in Phase 1 Aspect 4 where they develop awareness of rhyme and rhythm and play games where they clap the syllables in words. However, Phase 1 is designed to run alongside all the other phases so children working at a higher level would really benefit from regularly returning to activities such as this. Clapping syllables is really useful for children within Phase 4 and above where they are learning to write longer words. They can segment the sounds in each syllable to help break the word down and make it easier to spell.All you need for this activity is three bags with the numbers 1, 2 and 3 written on them and a basket of objects with words that either contain 1, 2 or 3 syllables. I also put out a till to support the role-play too.Your child picks an object from the basket and identifies how many syllables are in the word. My son was clapping the amount of syllables whilst saying the word but he also clicked the button on the scanner that number of times too, for example for ‘dinosaur’ he clicked the scanner three times. He then placed the dinosaur in the shopping bag with the number 3 on it.I was there to support him with the counting of the syllables. In particular he needed a little help with words with only one syllable as he was trying to make them contain more. He absolutely loved this activity and continued to play with the shop for quite a while after too.

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Posting Letters

… literally! Super quick, super simple set up. All you need are some wooden or magnetic letters and something to act as a postbox.Great for children who are learning to match phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters). You say a sound and they post the corresponding letter. A good way to reinforce the knowledge of what letters make up digraphs and trigraphs too. You say, for example, ‘oa’ and your child has to then find the correct letters that make that digraph or trigraph. This activity could also be a fun hands-on way to practise those spellings that your child might bring home. Rather than writing the words they could firstly post the corresponding letters to spell that word instead.

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Picture Palette

I’ve been building up a little collection of small pictures that I’ve cut from old magazines for a while now in the hope of using them in an activity. The Cbeebies magazine are great for this. Yesterday I spotted this paint palette in Poundland and thought it would be great to help sort the pictures. The palette is white plastic so if you write on it with a whiteboard pen you can wipe it away and change the focus when you return to it at a later date.A simple initial sound activity. I placed my collection of little pictures in the centre of the palette and wrote some letters in the compartments around the edge. My son selected a picture, identified the initial sound and then placed it into the section with the corresponding letter and pictures. A simple game but effective.

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Search and Stick

A different way to go on a Phonics letter hunt. I gave my son a lint roller. He had to search around the house for the letters, which I had written on small bits of coloured paper, and then roll over the letter to stick it on the roller whilst saying the sound. Simple yet fun, cheap and effectiveπŸ‘πŸ»This was a big hit and he wanted to play again. The great thing about a lint roller is that it’s made up of lots of sticky sheets so just peel off the old to get a new and play again! Easily adapted to suit each phase by writing graphemes from Phase 3 or 5, tricky or decodable words. If you’ve got a few rollers you could have one each for certain letters and then hunt for pictures that start with that initial sound instead.

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Laser Letter Rescue

I set this up for my son just before bedtime. We’d just had a glow stick bath (been wanting to give this a go for ages after seeing it posted lots) and I’d gathered all the sticks up in this basket. This gave me the idea to slot some of them between the holes and place some wooden letters at the bottom.My son had to try and rescue a letter (grapheme) without touching a ‘laser’ and say the sound (phoneme) as he pulled it out. He absolutely loved it! You could put small cards with graphemes on, decodable words or tricky words too. A great way to sneak in a little spelling practise before bed. Have all the letters at the bottom of the basket that are needed to spell the words. Your child rescues all the letters in the correct order to spell that word.

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Select a Sound and Search

A different way to go on a scavenger hunt whilst also having letters displayed to encourage recognition.Your child selects a letter (grapheme), says the sound (phoneme), tears off the corresponding strip and hunts for an object with that initial sound. The strips tear off just like flyers you might see on communal noticeboards with tear off contact details. You could do all the letters at once or just one a day. I’ve created a free printable of this activity which can be downloaded from the printables page on the website if this activity takes your fancy. Stick it to the fridge, put it up in your child’s bedroom, display in class or give pupils individual ones. If you do print it off I’d love to see the sheet and game in action.

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Syllable Splat Bingo

A perfect game for Preschoolers working in Phase 1 and developing their phonological awareness (identifying and manipulating units of sounds). This skill is a vital foundation in the journey to learning to read. Older children would also benefit from playing the game as Phase 1 is designed to run alongside all the other phases. A nice way to develop vocabulary and fine motor control too πŸ‘πŸ»I drew out some pictures on a piece of cardboard to create some bingo boards. Using bingo dabbers, your child listens to a word, counts the syllables and then dabs the picture the number of times for the number of syllables in the word. So, for example, for the ‘spider’ picture they would dab the picture two times and for ‘butterfly’ they dab it three times. A syllable is a part of a word that contains a vowel so when you break the word up each part will include a vowel sound.

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Roll and Match

A neat little game that is ideal to play with children learning to listen to initial phonemes (sounds) and recognise the corresponding grapheme (letter).

You’ll need a dice and on each face write an initial sound grapheme (I wrote d, c, p, m, t, d). Each player needs 6 small objects that start with each of these initial sounds ( I had dinosaur, car, mushroom, spider, tree and pig). Myself and my son had the same objects but to make it more of a challenge you could have different objects that start with the same sound like ‘car’ and ‘cat’ for each player. On a piece of cardboard or paper write the letters from the dice twice.

Take it in turns to roll the dice. Whichever letter it lands on you place the object from your pile that starts with that initial sound onto the corresponding letter on the board (so roll ‘d’ and place the dinosaur on the letter ‘d’ on the board). If you roll a letter that you’ve already had then you miss a go and pass the dice to the other player. The winner is the one that gets rid of all their objects first.

You could play this game as part of a group too. Each player just needs 6 objects that start with the letters on the dice and write the letters on the board as many times as there are players (so if you have 4 players write the letters 4 times). Ideal as a tuff tray game. You could write the letters with a chalk pen directly onto the tray. Easily adapted to suit the higher phases. Just write graphemes from Phase 3 or 5 and each player has objects/pictures with that grapheme in, for example ‘oa’ on the dice and board and place a ‘boat’.

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Eye Spy

Two different ways to play.
1. Play using initial sounds where we found objects that began with certain sounds and then matched them to the letter.
2. Segment (sound out) the word and then your child blends the sounds and matches the object to the word. I drew pictures next to the words as my son is just 3 so just exposing him to the written word is brilliant but older children will need to read the word and put the object next to it.

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What’s in the Bag?

What’s in the bag?
What’s in the bag?
Do you know?
Let’s find out.
What’s in the bag?

Younger children you say the sounds and your child orally blends them together to identify the object. You can then model reading the word. Older children can identify the object in the bag and then match it to the word independently. You choose the appropriate words and objects for the phase your child is working in (the word cards ‘key’ and ‘straw’ in the video include the grapheme ‘aw’ and ‘ey’ which is taught in Phase 5). Once you’ve modelled the game you could then leave your child to play it independently.

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Phonics Viewfinder

This was a big success for my three year old and so simple to make. I cut a camera shape out of an old bit of cardboard and taped on a small corner of a punched pocket at the bottom. The pocket was so I could change the focus of which initial sound we were looking for. We then went around the house and garden taking ‘photos’ of objects that began with that initial sound. My son absolutely loved pressing the ‘button’ and making the shutter noise as he took a photo. For children working in the higher phases you could have a different digraph grapheme in the pocket, for example ‘ar’ for ‘star’ and ‘car’.

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Spray it Out

Chalk letters on a fence but using a small spray bottle, rather than a paint brush, to wipe them out. You say the sound or word and they spray them out. Can be adapted for age and phase by drawing different graphemes or writing words instead. The use of a spray bottle really develops fine motor control too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Suck it up

Just small bits of paper and some straws are all you need for this game. A great way to encourage the recognition of graphemes. You say the sound and your child sucks the piece of paper up from the table with the straw. Adapt for age and phase by changing the graphemes on the cards. You could also put tricky words on there instead. You could make it in to a competition if you want to join in or you have more than one child. Say the sound and the winner is the first person to ‘suck it up’.

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Mirror Phonics

A really simple one to support the pronunciation of the sounds. Really great for pre school children and those learning the initial sounds in Phase 2. Hold up a letter card and then get your child to say the sound whilst looking in the mirror. This way they can look at the position their mouths needs to be in to make the pure sound, i.e making the ‘m’ sound their lips stay together if they are saying the sound correctly. From my experience younger children just love looking at themselves in the mirror too β€οΈ

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Silly Soup

Great for nursery age children to listen to the sounds and try and blend them together but to make it harder you could show word cards and your child reads the card and then adds the object to the soup. They love stirring the soup every time πŸ₯„

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Phonics Squishy Bags

To make the squishy bags you just need a punched pocket, duct tape and some opaque liquid. I used some shampoo, shower gel and bath cream. Have a sheet with some graphemes written on (this can be adapted to the phase your child is working on) and place it under the punched pocket. I then taped the whole thing to a floor mat but you could just use the floor outside, chopping board or any hard surface.

Your child squishes the liquid inside the pocket to reveal the letters underneath. They can then cross it off their sheet. If you want to encourage letter formation they could write the letters they find themselves. You can extend it by having missing graphemes that they have to find so, for example, searching for the ‘ar’ to complete the word ‘park’. You could even have key words to find instead.

My three year old little boy absolutely loved this activity. A great sensory game too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Put a lid on it!

If, like me, you’ve got a fair few takeaway containers in the cupboard then this activity is an easy one to set up.

Put an object inside each of the boxes (it could just be pictures), stick some masking tape on the lids (you can just write directly onto the lid with a marker pen if you don’t mind) and then write the names of the objects inside on to the lid. Remove the lids and it’s your child’s job to read the word and put it onto the matching box. Children love little boxes and putting lids on them! Great for developing fine motor control too.

For pre-school children you could say the sounds and they have to blend them together, find the right box and put the lid on. Adapt the words and objects depending on phase. In the photo boxes appropriate for Phase 2 would be ‘duck’, ‘cup’, ‘lock’ and Phase 3 ‘fox’, ‘fish’, ‘car’, ‘sheep’, ‘farmer’, ‘fork’, ‘spoon’ and they can have a good go at reading ‘train’.

Bottle Top Buttons

a really simple yet effective activity that not only prompts letter recognition but formation and fine motor skills too!

Using milk bottle tops and large letters on paper your child slides the bottle top with their finger around the shape of the letter. I put numbers on the letters (you could use arrows too) so that my son knew where to start, go next and finish. Your child can say the phoneme as they are forming the letter. Older children could practice first with the bottle tops and then move on to practising independently on paper. Great for those letters that regularly get mixed, like ‘b’ and ‘d’.

You could also use the bottle tops like sound buttons. Your child slides the bottle top under the grapheme and says the corresponding phoneme. This was really effective for my son. He placed the bottle tops under the ‘t’, ‘o’ and ‘p’ and he said the sounds. I then repeated the phonemes back to him and he was able to blend them together to make the word ‘top’. He read his first word!

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Erase Away

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be the best.

One year I had to hide the erasers from my Year 1 class because they were absolutely obsessed with using them! Lots of children seem to love using an eraser and this activity gives them a chance to.

A completely adaptable activity for Phases 2-6. You could have initial sounds, digraphs and trigraphs, decodable words or tricky words. You say the sound or word and they rub it out.

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Got your Back!

When I teach a new grapheme I often get my class to ‘sky write’ it in the air, use their finger to write it on the carpet, on their palm or on a partner’s back. This activity is just a step on from this.

Write some graphemes, appropriate to the phase your child is working, on small cards. You write the grapheme on your child’s back with your finger and they hold up the corresponding card. They can say the phoneme as they hold it up. Great for recognition and concentration. They could write the letter onto paper or whiteboard instead of holding up the card and this will encourage correct letter formation too.

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Sound Map

This activity is perfect for Pre-School children who are working within Phase 1, developing their listening skills and learning to listen to the sounds around them. It can, however, easily be adapted for children across all phases by getting them to write down what they hear.

I taped a couple of large pieces of paper together with masking tape and placed it outside in the garden. You can do this inside with the windows open instead. Your child sits in the middle of the paper and spends some time just listening (hopefully 5 minutes at least) and identifying the sounds they can hear in the environment around them. Pre-school children could just put a mark or cross on the map to indicate where they hear the noise coming from. They could also draw a picture of what they hear or you could work together and they identify the sound, make a mark and then you model the writing.

Children in Phase 2 and above could write down what they hear and make a phonetically plausible attempt at spelling the words, for example if your child is working in Phase 3 then writing ‘burd’ for ‘bird’ is brilliant πŸ‘πŸ»

If you haven’t got large paper then they can just create a map of sounds on a bit of A4. Hopefully you will find it an engaging way to encourage writing in those older children and potentially give you five minutes peace too. Bonus!

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Incidental Phonics

We have been taking photographs of letters and words that we have spotted incidentally in the environment around us whilst doing other things. No set up, no resources other than a camera, no directed activity, no fixed start or finish time, just keeping a look out and taking a photo when we see one. My son is now obsessed with finding the word ‘I’ and letter ‘x’! A lovely way to prompt letter recognition and learning outside the box of printed text. There are letters and words hidden in everyday objects if you just look at things in a different way

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Sound Shakers

A perfect activity for pre school children working within Phase 1 and learning to discriminate the sounds around them. I’ve made sound shakers before as part of Science lessons in KS1, where we were learning about our senses, so even though this activity is aimed at those in Phase 1 you can use it to support older children in their learning too.

I’ve been collecting up a few yoghurt pots over the last couple of weeks. I added some small objects or food items into the pots (pasta, sugar, rice, small pegs etc). The items need to make a different sound when they are shaken. I put the same item in two pots in order to make a pair of shakers. I covered the pots with some kitchen foil. You could use paper and an elastic band or anything that covers the top and can’t be seen through.

Your child’s job is to shake the shakers and find the matching pairs. Once they think they’ve found all the pairs they can take the lid off (or poke through the tinfoil) to reveal what’s inside and see if they are correct. A great way to develop vocabulary too by discussing how the shaker sounds and talking about the objects inside.

If you are trying to also home school an older child they could write down what they think is inside the shakers or write a sentence that starts with ‘I hear…’ or ‘The shaker sounds like…’

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Syllable Splash

This activity is specifically for Pre School children and those that are working within Phase 1.

This simple game supports Aspect 4 where children develop awareness of rhyme and rhythm. I just said some rainy day topic words and my son had to jump and splash for each syllable in the word. You could have pictures that they pick and then jump the number of times according to the amount of syllables the word has.

Topic words could be:
1 syllable: wet, rain, splash, splosh, boots, cloud
2 syllables: puddle, raining, thunder, lightning
3 syllables: umbrella

Watchtower Window

A twist on ‘I spy’ and a scavenger hunt and an engaging way to support grapheme recognition but can also be played with decodable and tricky words too. My son loves looking out of his bedroom window, and lucky for him it looks out over our garden, so we described it as a watchtower or lookout this morning. Ideally play this from a first floor window but it can be from any window that looks out onto some space where you can place some sheets of paper.I drew out some letters onto A4 paper, making sure they were really big and bold so they can be seen from the window, put them into a punched pocket and then placed them around our garden. I then quickly wrote up a watchtower record sheet.My son wanted to use some binoculars for this game too. You could make your own with a couple of toilet roll tubes if you haven’t got any. Your child looks out the window and searches for the letters on the sheet. They tick the letters off the sheet once they have found them all. A great way to encourage prepositional language too, “the ‘u’ is on the fence” etc.For children working in Phase 1 you could play it as a simple game of ‘I spy’ but it offers a bit more excitement being at the first floor window and then tick off pictures of objects that they find instead and emphasise the initial sound.Your child could be Repunzal looking out of her tower or Jack at the top of the beanstalk to add an extra bit of excitement and role play.

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Initial Sound Playdough

We haven’t had Playdough out for a while now and my son asked for it this afternoon so I hesistently got the box out and crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t get trodden into the carpet. My youngest was having a nap so it took the likelihood that would happen down by half πŸ™ˆ.A simple way of adding in a bit of phonics is to put out some wooden letters alongside the playdough. We imprinted the initial sound of the playdough colour and identified the initial sounds of the shape cutters too. I also imprinted a few simple CVC words, ‘sounded out’ the word and my son found the corresponding cutter.He inevitably wanted to make cakes so I then added in some gem stickers, cake cases and candles so we ended up with ‘s’ for sparkles and ‘b’ for birthday cake too.

Phonics Fairy Doors

We went on a fairy door trail through a local woodland a few days ago. I didn’t think my son would enjoy it but I was wrong! He absolutely loved it! He didn’t want to leave and wanted to carry on hunting for the doors. With that in mind I thought I would set up a little trail at home obviously with a phonics twist! I drew a few doors onto some blank place cards as they seemed the perfect size. You could just use paper or card. Inside each of the doors I wrote a letter. This can be adapted for the phase your child is working. You could write digraphs, trigraphs, decodable or tricky words instead.I also drew a quick sheet for my son to record when he had found the door and tick which letter was inside. To add more of a writing focus you could number the doors and then your child has to write what is inside on the sheet. A good way to develop number recognition too.I placed the doors around the house and garden and my son hunted around for them. I encouraged him to say the phoneme, find the matching letter on the sheet and tick it off.He absolutely loved it and asked to do it again. Success πŸ‘πŸ»

Peel and Seal

A quick and easy tray to set up. Really great to encourage grapheme recognition and listening for initial sounds but this could be adapted for the higher phases by putting out digraph and trigraphs or words with missing graphemes that they have to fill with graphemes on the tape. Peeling the tape off the tray is an absolutely brilliant way to support dexterity and fine motor development. A super pre-writing activity πŸ‘πŸ»I put out a selection of different sized wooden letters, small wooden letter tiles, a few rocks that I had written letters on and some small objects. I then cut up some small strips of masking tape and stuck them to the tray and wrote some corresponding letters on the tape.Your child peels off the tape and then either matches it to the letters or initial sounds of the objects and tapes them down. You can encourage them to say the phonemes as they do.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Sound Sorting

Looking for something to do with your empty milk cartons? They are great to use in a simple sound sorting activity. This activity is just a different way to sort objects according to their initial sound and perfect to recycle any empty cartons. You can add more as you gain more and work through the phase.I cut a window out of the front of the milk cartons and then wrote a grapheme on each. I focused on two that my son is confident with (s and p) and two that he needs a bit more practise (d and l). I threaded the handle of a brush through the handles of the cartons. This can now be balanced between chairs or placed across a fence or gate. Alternatively, you could make a slit in the handle of the cartons so they can clip onto a fence or bench. Your child can now search for objects that can be placed into the corresponding carton with the correct initial sound, for example find a leaf and place it in the ‘l’ carton. You could also put out a small box of objects that they have to sort. If the objects are quite small your child could also post them into the top of the carton too as an added bit of fun and a good way to build fine motor skills.You could adapt this activity to suit children in the higher phases by having digraphs or trigraphs on the cartons and then sort objects according to whether they contain that sound, for example a ‘boat’ would go in the ‘oa’ carton. A fun way to sort word cards too.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Musical Hide and Seek

A brilliant game for Preschool children and those who are working within Phase 1. Really quick and easy to set up and perfect for a rainy day indoors.This game supports children in developing those vital skills that are the foundation to learning letter sounds and the skill of blending and segmenting those sounds together. The aim of Phase 1 is to provide children with the opportunity to listen carefully and talk extensively about the sounds around them. This activity will give children then chance to practise discrimating sounds (different sounds that objects make), remember sounds and the chance to talk about the sounds they hear.Gather toys and objects from around the house that independently make a noise. It could be a toy CD player, keyboard, your mobile phone or music on an Ipod or Ipad. Show your child the objects and get them to listen to the sounds they make. Now ask them to close their eyes and you hide one of the objects somewhere in the house. Your child listens carefully to what they can hear in order to identify what is making the sound and where the sound in coming from. They continue to listen carefully until they manage to find the object. Repeat the game with the other objects.In order to extend this activity for older children you could create a record sheet. They could do exactly the same as above but then write down where they found each of the objects i.e under the bed, behind the sofa, under a pillow. Remember your child’s spelling will depend on the phase they are working in. A phonetically plausible attempt is what we would be looking for. A child in Phase 3 writing ‘soafa’ for sofa is brilliant.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Rhyme Time!

A really quick and easy activity to implement to give children continued exposure to nursery rhymes and the chance to hear, join in and independently recall them. This would work really well at home or within an Early Years setting. Set an alarm for different points during the day. When the alarm goes off everyone stops what they are doing and sings a nursery rhyme together. It could be the same agreed nursery rhyme each time the alarm goes off for the day or week or you could pick an object out of a bag that represents a rhyme and then everyone recalls that one. Children will love listening out for the alarm and knowing what it means when it goes off. Singing nursery rhymes together are a big part of Phase 1 phonics and a great way to learn early phonics skills and develop language. Nursery rhymes are brilliant as they are short, snappy and rhythmic so children are much more likely to remember them and be able to repeat them. The ‘Nursery Rhyme Effect’ recognises that children who are exposed to stories and rhyme well before they go to School are much more likely to become more successful readers.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Tumble Tower

A really quick and easy game to set up and great to engage those children who just love to knock towers down, like my son!I wrote all of the Phase 2 graphemes onto some Duplo blocks of varying colours. You could use masking tape or stickers if you don’t want to write directly onto the blocks. We chose one colour block to be the block that indicates the tower can be knocked down (we had a red one). All of the other blocks can be any other colour apart from red. I then placed them all into a bag. We took it in turns to take out a block, look at the grapheme (letter), say the phoneme (sound) and add it to the tower. Whoever picked the red block got to knock the tower down. How high can you build your tower before it is knocked down? My son found a toy cannonball that he wanted to use to knock the tower down too. You could play with building blocks or stacking cups instead and the game can be easily adapted for each phase by writing different graphemes from Phase 3 or 5, decodable words or tricky words on the blocks. You could also have a word instead of a colour that indicates that the tower can be knocked down. These could be:
Phase 2: hit
Phase 3: down, bash
Phase 4: smash, bump
Phase 5: strike, whack, push, knock, tumble

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Notice Boards

I created these boards by wrapping string around some foam floor mats. If you have the alphabet version these would be ideal! As ours were the blank mats I clipped a letter onto each one. Here we focused on ‘d’ and ‘b’ to encourage my son to listen to the initial sounds in words but also recognise the two letters that are often mixed. We used these boards in two ways. Firstly we took each one around the house collecting objects that started with that initial sound and then entangling them in the string to collect on the board. Secondly I drew some pictures onto small bits of card for my son to sort. He then used a peg to clip the picture onto the corresponding board. Great for fine motor skills. If you use enough string and wrap it tightly you can just slot the pictures in rather than using a peg if this is a struggle. Adapt this activity to suit the phase your child is working in. It could be initials sounds or words that contain certain Phase 3 or 5 phonemes. You could also make one board and your child reads a tricky word before putting it on.

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Toy Tea Party

This is a lovely game to play to help support Preschool children working within Phase 1 develop their understanding of alliteration (Aspect 5). You can extend this by adding in Phase 2 letter recognition if your child is showing an interest in spotting letters around them or a menu with words on for children in the higher phases. This is just a variation of the classic silly soup game where children place objects that begin with the same initial sound into a bowl. If you would like to see us playing silly soup to support Phase 1 Aspect 7 oral blending then click the link at the bottom of the post. In this game we are having a bit of a silly tea party. I found three toys around the house with names starting with a different initial sound (tigger, cat and buzz). I gave them all a plate and then found other smaller objects that began with the same initial sounds (t, c, b) and placed them all on a cake stand ready for the tea party. You can get cardboard cake stands fairly cheaply or just put them all on a plastic plate. Your child selects an object from the cake stand and places it on the corresponding plate next to the toy with the same initial sound (cat, cow, card, crayon, car, cup). To add an extra fine motor element you could give your child a set of tongs to serve the objects to the toys.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Spin the Bottle Version 2

This is a slightly adapted version of the ‘Phonics Spin the Bottle’ activity I posted back in April.

For this version I put out smaller objects in a basket and then drew some letters in bubble writing onto A4 sheets. The idea is that your child spins the bottle in the middle and then whatever letter it lands on they find an object from the basket that begins with that initial sound. They then put the object within the letter outline. As they game continues they will begin to form the letter shape with all the objects that begin with that initial sound. So the ‘c’ could be formed out of a crayon, cat, car, cup etc. This means that the game is encouraging the children to listen to initial sounds, identify graphemes and think about letter formation too.For older children you could have digraphs written in bubble writing (two letters that make one sound) and then when they land on a digraph they find a corresponding word card that has that digraph in and they fill the outline with the word cards. So the ‘sh’ outline is filled with the cards ‘shop, ship, wish, dish, fish, shin’ etc (see the final photo for this).

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Phonics Utility Belt

I made this to encourage my son to find and sort objects according to their initial sound. A great little tool to use as part of a Phonics scavenger hunt. He enjoyed wearing it and going around searching for small things to fit inside the pockets. It definitely encouraged some role play too.

I made it by folding and stapling the bottom of a toilet roll tube to create the little pockets. I then cut two slits in the back of the tube to thread a belt through. In each pocket I put a lollipop stick with a letter on which indicated what the objects needed to start with within that pocket. I made these as ‘Letter Wands’ for a previous activity and used them to build words into an egg box too. You could just write directly on to a lolly stick or have a piece of paper or post it in the tubes. I didn’t write on the tubes so that I can return to the activity at a later date and change the focus. I found a few small objects to get him started and then he happily went around the house on his own hunt!

Images Β© Phonics Family 2020

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