Tricky Words

All of the activities below are designed to support the recognition and recall of tricky words.

Click on the titles of the activities to link to the original Facebook post to see more photos and videos.

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Sticky Tricky Words

Roll up some strips of masking tape so that it becomes double sided and place on the floor, window or wherever it’s easy to remove. Write the letters for the tricky words on small bits of card/paper. I wrote each tricky word in a different colour in case they got mixed. The activity is to rearrange the cards to spell out the tricky word. Once they are certain they have the letters in the right order they stick it on the tape. You could have a sheet of the key words in the activity to help them know what words they are trying to make but you could challenge them to do it without the list. These are tricky words taught in Phase 4. Check over them once they have stuck them on the tape and discuss any mistakes they might of made. You can extend this by getting your child to write a sentence with each of the tricky words in. If they can put two of the words in a sentence then even better! πŸ‘πŸ»

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Popcorn and Sweet Cups

Having an afternoon watching a film? Give your cinema treats a phonics twist?

Write words on small pieces of paper. Scrunch them up to act as popcorn or twist them to make sweets. Your child picks a treat, opens it up and reads the words. Words can be adapted for age and phase. You could write alien words (non-words), key words or words that your child is struggling with. For younger children the treats could just have graphemes from the phase you have been working on or letters of the alphabet. Dig in and enjoy!

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The Three Rs: Reading, Writing and Rainbows

There are a few activities on this tray that encourage the reading and writing of words. I chose to focus on some Phase 3 and 4 tricky words but you could do the activities with initial sounds or decodable words too. A fun way to practise writing as children get to use different colours and different writing implements.

The activities on the table are:

1. Roll a dice and write the tricky word in the corresponding colour.
2. Using a rainbow outline your child practises writing the tricky words in each colour of the rainbow.
3. Rainbow writing – writing the word 7 times with each colour of the rainbow. Best to use colouring pencil for this one. It might look messy but great for muscle memory.
4. Put coloured paper at the bottom of a tray and cover in salt or flour and your child uses the brush or their finger to write the word. Great as a pre writing activity for children who are not yet ready to hold a pencil. They could form shapes or initial sounds with the brush instead of words.

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Sight Word Salt Shaker

I finished off the last of the salt in the bottle last night and thought it would make a great container to store tricky word cards.

I cut up small pieces of white card and wrote some tricky words on them. The ones in the video are from Phase 4. I also made the hole at the top of the shaker a little bigger to make sure the cards could be shaken out.

Your child shakes the bottle and reads all the word cards that come out. A great way to make reading tricky words more fun and engaging. Return all the little cards to the shaker once you’ve finished and keep building up the words as you work through the phases. You will then have a collection of all the tricky words and your child can shake the shaker once a day and practice reading the words.

It doesn’t have to be tricky words you could do initial sounds or graphemes from the phase your child is working in.

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Tricky Word Hunt

Tricky or key words are words within each phase that are not phonetically decodable (you can sound them out) and your child will just have to learn by sight.

This is a really easy activity to set up and should keep them occupied for a good while. A great way to prompt their recognition. Put out lots of different books not just children’s books (you might want to avoid the 50 shades thoughπŸ˜‚) for your child to explore. You could also have magazines, leaflets or takeaways menus that they have to search for the tricky words in. Once they’ve spotted a word they tick the sheet.

I’ve put up a list of the tricky words according to each phase. These words are tricky words for that particular phase and might become a decodable word once they move up the phases, for example ‘like’ in Phase 4 needs to be learnt by sight but then when they learn the split digraph i_e in Phase 5 it becomes one that they can sound out.

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Sight Word Suncatchers

Sight or Tricky words are those words within each phase that need to be learned by sight. Children will need repeated exposure to these words and a chance to find and read them in their books and the environment around them.

I good way to support your child’s ability to learn these words is to have them up on cards around the house. I thought an interesting way to display them would be to make suncatchers. You could make just a couple for the words that your child is finding particularly difficult to recall.

Just cut the word out of old cardboard (you could repurpose the cards from ‘Shadow Phonics’ if you have them lying around) and work together to stick small bits of tissue paper on the back with glue. It doesn’t have to look neat on the back of the card (see my photo) but once they are stuck on the window I think they look pretty striking.

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Tricky Word Tattoos

These are temporary! I’m not suggesting you actually tattoo your child πŸ˜‚

I thought these are a good way to have repeated exposure to some of those words that your child might be having trouble remembering. It could be tricky words, digraphs that are often muddled, or single letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’.

Using an eyeliner pencil, dry shampoo (you can use baby powder instead) and hairspray. Write the word or letters with the pencil, spray with the dry shampoo and then spray with hairspray to fix it. Leave the hairspray to dry. The pencil now doesn’t rub off very easily but wipes away with water! Your child can now wear the word throughout the day and hopefully it will prompt recognition.

I’m thinking that this would be great for name recognition or learning left and right by writing those words on your child’s hands.

The products are manufactored to be used on skin but don’t put any near eyes and face or on sore or broken skin. Obviously if your child has skin allergies it probably is best to avoid this activity.

WANTED – Read and Alive

This activity can be a long running one, as long as it takes for your child to find the ‘WANTED’ word.

Create a ‘WANTED’ poster for a tricky word and hide a small piece of paper with the word on somewhere it is not easily found. It could be inside your child’s shoe, lunchbox, or trouser pocket. Display the poster and explain to your child what the poster is, read what they are looking for and then let them get on with their usual daily business. Keep referring back to the poster saying that ‘we still haven’t found that word’ or ‘that word is still wanted’. When your child finally finds the piece of paper they will be super excited! You could offer them a reward such as a small chocolate coin or little treat. Change the word on the poster for another tricky word and repeat.

Having the poster displayed means that your child is getting repeated exposure to the tricky word and acts as a prompt for recognition. You could laminate the poster or put it in a punched pocket so the word can be easily changed. I just used blu-tac and a small card. You could also hide other tricky words around for your child to find and read to act as decoys.

This activity could easily be replicated with a group or class of children. Imagine the excitement when one of them finds the ‘WANTED’ word in their tray, pencil pot or on their peg.

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Tap, Tap, Read

An individual phonics version of the ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ game. Children love this game, well at least all of the classes I’ve taught have. This version works really well for tricky word recognition, I used some Phase 4 tricky words here, but can be adapted to initials sounds, digraphs, trigraphs or decodable words. Super quick and easy to set up too. You’ll need a set of plastic cups, the more the merrier. I used some stacking cups and some IKEA drinking cups. You could have little boxes just anything that can’t be seen through. Arrange the cups into a circle and then place a bit of paper under each one with a word or grapheme on. In the centre of the circle you’ll need to write down the winning word.Your child touches the top of each cup (just like a head in Duck, Duck, Goose) and says ‘tap’. They continue around the circle and then they choose to say the word ‘read’ whenever they want (they could just say Duck, Duck, Goose if they wanted). They read the word under that cup. If it is not the winning word they turn the cup up and continue to say ‘tap, tap, read’ etc. The goal is to obviously find the winning word. They could get a point when they do and repeat the game with a different winning word or grapheme.

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Tricky Word Penalty Shoot Out

Following on from the Sound Sorting activity I posted earlier πŸ‘‡πŸ» keep the milk carton lids as they are great to use in a finger football penalty shoot out. I used some Duplo as a goal, stuck some stickers on the lids and wrote on the Phase 2 tricky words. Adapt what you write on the lids to suit the phase your child is working. I also used a sticker as the penalty spot. A simple game to play. Your child reads the word on the lid and then tries to flick the lid into the goal. Perfect to give exposure to those tricky words and build fine motor skills at the same time. Win Win πŸ‘πŸ»

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Tricky Word Grass Cutting

I’ve used this cutting activity before in the classroom during what we called ‘Funky Finger Time’. A super way to build fine motor muscles and develop scissor skills. I’ve just snuck in a phonics element by hiding some tricky words behind the grass.I wrote some Phase 3 tricky words on some white paper and then put a strip of glue across the bottom of a sheet of green paper and stuck it onto the white sheet. I then cut strips into the green paper to make it look like grass.Your child now trims the grass and slowly reveals the word underneath to read. Instead of tricky words you could have letters of the alphabet, digraphs, trigraphs or decodable words.

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Tricky Word Toast

Sneak some tricky word recognition into breakfast time! A really simple way to expose your child to those words that they are finding tricky to recall. Works especially well with tricky words but it could be any high frequency word or spelling sent home from School. I used wooden letters to stamp the letters into the bread (you’ll need to push fairly hard) and then put it in the toaster (without the wooden letters!). Simple yet effective.

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Right Here, Write Now

One of the easiest, simplest and adaptable activities I’ve posted for a while. All you need is some coloured paper and pens.You can play with letters of the alphabet, graphemes from Phase 3 and 5, decodable words or tricky words. I chose to demonstrate here with High Frequency words.High frequency words are words that are most commonly found in reading books. They are made up of decodable words (and, on, with) and tricky words that need to be learnt by sight (the, to, said). The aim is for children to develop a fluency in reading them and eventually build up to writing them correctly too.

To set this activity up takes less than 5 minutes. Place out a selection of coloured paper. You will also need to have the matching coloured pens. Write out the words or letters onto a white sheet alternating the coloured pen that you use. Cut out the words, fold and place in a tub or cup. Now your child takes a piece of paper. Reads the word or identifies the letter, indentifies the colour it is written in and then writes it onto the matching coloured sheet of paper. So, for example, they take out the word ‘said’ that is written in green and then they write the word onto the green sheet.

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Phonics ‘Magic 8 Ball’

As I was cooking the dinner last night I was eyeing up this jar and then thought I could turn it into a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ .

I filled it with water and a small drop of red and blue food colouring (I was trying to make the water as dark as possible). I also added a little bit of glitter too. Using a wooden pyramid block I wrote some tricky words on each side and put it in the jar. You could just as easily use a Duplo block or some Lego pieces, just anything that floats. Screw the lid up as tight as possible and turn the jar upside down. I then coloured most of the bottom in with black marker pen leaving a viewing window.

Your child can now shake the jar and read the word that is revealed through the window. Perfect for tricky words but you could have initial letters or graphemes that you are focusing on. Just change the object inside when you want to focus on different tricky words or graphemes.

Caution – obviously it’s a glass jar so this activity does need to have some supervision. A plastic jar would be great (I’m thinking some peanut butter or chocolate spread jars) but we haven’t got any of those in the cupboard at the moment.

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Read and Wipe

Tricky words are words that need to be learnt by sight. In order to do this children need repeated exposure to the word and a chance to practise reading it.

If you are struggling to think of ways to make learning the tricky words more engaging, rather than just holding up a word card, then why not write the key words on the toilet paper! Your child could have their own roll and every time they use the loo they develop their reading skills too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Shadow Phonics

On a sunny afternoon this is a super activity to encourage the reading of tricky words, recognition of graphemes or the segmenting and blending of decodable words.

Using strips of an old cardboard box I wrote the word in thick marker pen in order to create an outline and then cut the letters out. For letters like ‘a’ and ‘p’ that have a centre circle I just left a very small strip so it remained attached to the rest of the letter but you could use clear tape to hold it in place. Cut out initial letters, digraphs, trigraphs or words and your child holds the card up to create a shadow and reads.

I also cut out a card that kept the middle and final grapheme and then a box so that I could replace the initial sound each time. You could play this like a full circle game. Replacing the first letter card and reading the new word each time until you get back to the word you started with.

Mirror Phonics

Three activities in one post now and all using a handheld mirror. All can be adapted for reading and writing initial letters, decodable words or tricky words.

1. Write a letter/word on some white paper in black pen. Turn over and trace over the word. It should now be back to front. Your child uses the mirror to see and read the word the correct way around.
2. Cover the mirror in some flour or salt and using a paintbrush your child can write letters/words on to the mirror. You can have cards that they copy or you say a phoneme/word and they write it. A nice sensory activity and develops fine motor skills too.
3. Stick the mirror in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Once you take it out get your child to breathe onto it. The mirror should now mist up and they can practise writing letters or words with their finger.

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Tricky Word Torches

I’m not going to lie I was super excited to see if this worked when I had the idea. So easy to make and hours of fun can be had with these!

All you need is a toilet roll, cling film, a black marker and something to secure the film. I used an elastic band but you could just as easily use tape. A fantastic way to help with the recognition of tricky words (words that need to be learnt by sight). Use them just before bed on the bedroom ceiling. Once your child can easily recognise the word just change for a new one.

You need to write the word on the cling film before attaching to the toilet roll otherwise you need to write it backwards for it to be the right way on the wall. It doesn’t need to be tricky words you could do graphemes that your child is struggling to remember. Quite often children mix ‘b’ and ‘d’ so you could make a torch for each.

Tricky Word Cave

A fun way to prompt the recognition of those tricky words that need to just be learnt by sight and a different take on a word hunt.

I set up a cave using a couple of throws over a table. Try and make it as dark as possible inside. I then created a sheet with the tricky words on. One word written on the paper and one on a post it note. Take all the post it notes and hide them around the cave by sticky them to the underside of the table, legs, wall etc.

I had a lantern with a battery operated tealight but you could use any torch. The lantern just seems to make it a little more exciting. Your child takes the light into the cave and searches for the tricky words. They bring them out of the cave one at a time and sticks the post it note onto the correct place on the sheet. You can then encourage them to read the ones they have found and the ones they still need to find.

Extend the activity by getting older children to write a sentence with the tricky word in.

A super activity if you have been exploring light and dark in Science or reading the book ‘Can’t you sleep, little bear?’

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Tricky Word Sticker Books

A really simple and easy activity to put together and a great way to prompt the recognition of those tricky words in reading books, leaflets, magazines and the world around us.

Children absolutely love a sticker! Often obsessed by them! If you’ve got a sticker book or a spare sticker sheet hanging around the house put it to one side before they get totally ransacked and make a tricky word sticker book.

I made the cover of these books using an old spare party invitation and cut up a gift bag. I then attached sheets of paper to create a book. You could make a tricky word book for each of the phases or if you use a split pin have one book and then you can add pages as your child moves up the phases and needs to learn more tricky words. You don’t need the cover you could literally just fold some paper.

On each of the pages of the book write a tricky word and then when they spot that tricky word in books, signs and notices around them they can add a sticker to the page. Simple yet effective.

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Phonics Passwords

Just a really really simple way to encourage the recognition of tricky words or prompt your child to blend and segment words or recognise their name. I’ve had these up in my classroom before. The children have to say the word before they can enter or leave to go to the playground. I then change it everyday for a new word.

I made these ones into mini whiteboards by sellotaping the sheet of paper down to a piece of cardboard. That way you can move it around and easily change the word on the board. You can also just use post it notes. Stick them near a place where your child regularly goes. The snack cupboard in my son’s case would be a good option! Your child has to shout the word or words on the sheet before they can gain entry.

The other way is to draw around your hand (again I taped the sheet to cardboard to make a mini whiteboard) and then your child has to read the word and give the hand a high five.

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Mini Books for Mini People

After posting the ‘Giant’s Giant Letter’ activity a couple of weeks ago it got me thinking of an activity that would be the complete opposite and so I made mini books for mini people. The books could be for Duplo people, Fairies, Trolls or Lego characters.Imagine your child discovering the characters reading the books. My son was so excited to find out what they were reading and then identify the initial sounds. A wonderful way to engage children in their learning, prompt reluctant readers and it only takes a couple of minutes to set up πŸ‘πŸ»I just wrote the writing as small as I could inside a piece of small folded card. Adapt what you write in the books depending on what you want to focus on. You could write letters of the alphabet, tricky words, decodable words or sentences for your child to read. You could give them a magnifying glass to help and make it more exciting reading the books too.

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Forget Me Knot

A quick and easy reading challenge you can set up that requires only a few resources. A great alternative to flashcards, perfect to prompt the recognition of tricky words and a fantastic activity to build fine motor skills and dexterity. All you will need is some gift tags (these ones came in a large pack from The Works), some rope (I bought this from Poundland) and a timer. You can vary the thickness of the rope or string to alter the challenge. A thinner rope will make undoing the knots trickier. Tie a knot at the end of the rope and then thread on a gift tag and tie another knot. Repeat until you have tied on all the tags. Explain to your child that their challenge is to untie the knots to release all the words, reading them as they do, within a certain amount of time. Vary the time to suit your child and how easy or difficult they find it. You could time them on their first go and then see if they can beat their time when they repeat it. I wrote the Phase 5 tricky words but you could play with letters of the alphabet, digraphs and trigraphs of Phase 3 and 5 or decodable words.

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Banana Bingo

You might have written words or messages on banana skin for your child to read. How about making it into a bit of a game too? A sneaky way of getting in some more tricky word reading. Write some tricky words onto each banana skin and then choose a word that is the winning one. Write this onto a board or piece of paper and display it. You and your child can now randomly select a banana each time you fancy one and see who wins Banana Bingo! This could work for snack time within a classroom too. πŸ‘πŸ»

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Roll, Reveal and Recall

A little twist on a pairs game. A super way to practise tricky words but it can be adapted to revisit and review graphemes from any phase.

You’ll need to make a dice or put stickers on one and then select 6 words or graphemes that you want to focus on and write them on each face. Phase 2 tricky words are perfect for this as there are six! Next draw 12 circles onto a sheet of paper and then write the words or graphemes from the dice inside a circle and also write a matching word to find (6 words written twice). Cover each circle with something so you can’t see the word. I used milk bottle tops and a couple of Playdough lids. You could use discs of card or cups.

This is a partner game. Each player takes it in turns to roll the dice to reveal what word they are looking for. They then take away a lid from two spaces to reveal the word underneath. If they manage to find the matching pair of the word on the dice they get to keep the lids. If it’s not a matching pair they replace the lids. Each player will need to pay attention and remember what words are revealed by their partner or themselves. If a player rolls a word that’s already been revealed the other player gets to roll. The winner is the one that ends up with the most lids when all the words have been revealed. πŸ†

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Pick Up Pairs

A simple little game that will prompt quick recognition and great for children who love a challenge.
I cut out some small bits of cardboard and wrote on the Phase 3 tricky words to create pairs. Your child throws the pile of cards up into the air and lets them land. Start a timer and time how long it takes for them to find all the pairs of cards. Can they beat their time? Can they find all the pairs in 2 minutes? 1 minute?
You could play with tricky words, graphemes, high frequency words or, like with my son, letters of the alphabet. Encourage them to say the phoneme or read the word everytime they make a pair.

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Tricky Treat Hide and Seek

Use some of your empty sweet wrappers that you might have at this time of year as part of a phonics activity before throwing them out. A super way to develop tricky word recognition but you could write anything. Really simple but fun and effective.

I tried a few different coloured sweet wrappers (which of course meant I had to eat the sweets too!) but the red wrappers work the best for this. On small pieces of paper write a tricky word in pencil and then using a red pen or colouring pencil draw over the word. A hatched pattern seemed to work the best to disguise the word underneath.

Your child now places the sweet wrapper over the top of the red pattern to reveal the hidden tricky word underneath. As the wrapper is red it filters the red colouring so that they only see the pencil.

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