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Simple Activities For Teaching Upper Elementary Phonics

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

With the awareness of the Science of Reading more and more reading teachers are searching for how to implement the best strategies into their own classroom. That is why I wanted to share some of the strategies that I have utilized in my own classroom with the support of my kindergarten background. Let’s break it down!

Activity #1: Build it/Break it

Example #1:

  1. For this activity you will need a series of cut out letters.

  2. Start by building words using a specific pattern. I like to start by creating a list of words for the pattern that I am focusing on. This might be blends, digraphs, or vowel teams.

  3. Begin by telling your students to build a word: Point out where the pattern is located. Continue by giving students one syllable words and discuss how they changed from one word to another. For example: going from stay to slay, the t changed to an l.

  4. You can increase the challenge for your students by moving from one syllable words to two syllables and so on.

Example #2:

  1. Once students have built words, they can also begin to break them apart. For this activity, start by showing students the word on a dry erase board.

  2. Students will then build the word using the letter cards.

  3. Once students have built the word, have students begin to separate them by sliding the syllables apart from one another.

  4. Remind students that each syllable must have a vowel sound. I also use an anchor chart that is printed on legal paper to review the syllable types.

Activity #2: Write on whiteboard and breaking down words

This next activity is a perfect pair with the one above or it can be used on its own if you are limited on time. The key here is that students are practicing the formation of their letters when writing the word.

Tip #1: Create a system that works for you when having students look for the vowels and syllables. I have my students circle the vowels and then place a slash to indicate the syllable break. Stay consistent with this activity!

Tip #2: As a way to see the similarities in words, have students create a list of words as they are writing them down. You can have students go back to the top and read each word together.

Tip #3: Correct any letter formations as students are writing the words on their whiteboards. If necessary, you can provide students with smaller whiteboards to control their handwriting.

Tip #4: As students are writing, have them say each letter aloud to themselves. This will help trigger the letter and sound and develop their process for orthographic mapping.

Tip #5: Have students place their markers above their board and hands in their laps when you are wanting to explicitly model something. This will minimize your students drawing on their whiteboards versus focusing on the lesson.

Activity #3: Read decodables and highlight the focus pattern

  • Encourage students to read the patterns that you have pinpointed for your lesson using decodables.

  • I have students begin by practicing some of the words they will find in the text that follow the pattern using either one of the activities listed above.

  • Following this, I will share with students some of the more challenging vocabulary words that they might find difficult when reading. I do this very simply by writing the word on my whiteboard and having them repeat the word and discuss the meaning.

  • I tell students that as they read they will find words that follow the pattern in the story and that we are going to highlight those words as we read.

  • I save these passages and send them home for students to read with their families and continue the practice.

Activity #4: Sentence Dictation

  • Using a whiteboard students will listen to a sentence that the teacher reads aloud.

  • After the teacher reads the sentence, students make a light fist and (LIGHTLY) hit the table each time they say a word.

  • This process is to ensure students know the sentence they are going to write but tapping on the desk gives the number of words they are writing.

  • For additional support, you can have students then take their expo marker and draw a line for each word in the sentence as they say the word aloud.

  • When finished, students will write the words using proper letter formation, spacing and punctuation.

  • Have students identify the pattern, and any words that need to be segmented into syllables.

  • I like to use sentences from the passage we have read together to make this more authentic. Plus, it cuts down on my having to preplan the sentences in advance.

If you’d like to watch me explain these activities and more, check out this YouTube video that breaks it all down!

  • If you're interested in topics such as these, I invite you to check out the Bridging Literacy community. This is a group of teachers who are supporting one another using authentic and rigorous resources but also helping to create more stability in support of finding a better balance between work and home.

  • You can check out to get on the wait list!

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