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8 tips for teaching phonics in the classroom

Are you new to teaching phonics, or are you a seasoned campaigner just looking for fresh ideas and new ways to engage pupils in your class?

Either way, you’ve come to the right place. In this piece, we’ll give you a collection of the best ways to teach phonics no matter their level of proficiency, including a few games you could try in your next lesson.


1. Express it with actions

Mix up the way you instruct new sounds by involving actions. Whenever a pupil uses a sound in a new word, ask them to perform a corresponding action.

This can apply right through the phases of learning phonics, including vowel and consonant digraphs. Take /sh/ for example, which can easily translate into a shushing action when using words like “shout”.

For a vowel example try /oo/, which extended out for a few seconds sounds a lot like a ghost!


2. Make a rhyme

Take a sound and challenge pupils to create a rhyme using it. Start by thinking of similar words that use the same sound ( chair, fair and hair) and then see if your class can extend it out into full sentences (I found a chair. It was covered in cat hair.).

This is a good way to see how sounds apply to words that don’t look the same. Take something like chew and moo – can your class identify these trickier rhymes?


3. Build it into a story

Your class are much more likely to have a fun, engaging time with a new batch of sounds if you can tie them together into a story or a song. Make sure your stories use the chosen batch of sounds plenty of times throughout, increasing the level of exposure they have.

To help that along, you could introduce characters that have alliteration in their name. Try basing your story around Charlotte the Chef or Jack the Journalist.


4. Introduce a puppet

Puppets always go down an absolute treat. Investing in an animal or other fun character can help bring another dimension to your lesson.

Act as if they are another member of the class, learning new sounds just like your pupils are. Intentionally make mistakes and encourage the class to step in and correct the puppet.


5. Tie it all together

Experiment tying together the four pointers we’ve had so far. Use your puppet to help build a story or song and encourage the class to make certain actions when they hear the sounds of the day.

It’s just another way to mix up your instruction that might engage and excite your class. These methods are perfect for the opening stages of a phonics lesson. Some initial fun breaks your class into the lesson, before moving onto worksheets and other activities to put into practice what they’ve learned.


6. Invest in the right educational aids

There is no shortage of aids or resources you can invest in if you want to take your phonics classes to the next level. If you’re missing any of the following in your classroom, it could be a great addition to your next class:

Versatile and comprehensive, Multiphonics Cubes are perfect for any phonics lesson, helping pupils develop a large number of common words.

Adding a visual element for picture-to-word matching games, Phonics Beanbags are just one example of how you can introduce tactile learning into a phonics class.

Tailored for the level of proficiency in your class, flash cards are a great tool for use in phonics-based games. Use in a game of countdown, challenging pupils to read as many as they can against the clock.

  • Outdoor aids

Heading outside? There are plenty of resources you can invest in to make phonics fun and engaging outdoor. Play a game of hopscotch using Phonics spots, where pupils have to leap from one sound to the next as you call them out. Another example is Literacy cones, marked with a different letter. Group them into sounds and play a phonics game with an active twist.

Innovative tools like Electronic Phonics are perfect for phonics learning at all levels. Gamifying learning and useful either individually or in small groups, Electronic Phonics is perfect for a new spin on phonics learning and intervention.


7. Go little, but often

Just as a general pointer when teaching phonics, it’s better to do less more often. Phonics is a game of practice and regular exposure. But like anything else, you can only take in so much before it starts to have less and less impact.

Keep phonics lessons short and impactful but remember that their knowledge of new sounds and words is developing all the time through their reading and writing.

8. Create a fun, engaging game

We’ve already given you a few game ideas throughout this post, but if you’re still short of ideas here are a few more.


  • I-spy

It’s an absolute car journey classic, but I-spy can easily to adapted to the classroom for some phonics fun. Rather than asking the class for something beginning with a certain letter, shout out a relevant sound and wait for the class to spot something that uses it.

  • Twister

Similar to the hopscotch idea earlier, why not use your phonics pads to create a game of twister. Instead of putting limbs down on colours, read out a word and ask them to move towards a sound used in that word.

  • Bingo

Take the popular numbers game Bingo and adapt it to fit your phonics class. Instead of a sheet of numbers, hand each pupil a grid filled with words. Work your way through a list of sounds, asking the class to mark off any words in their grid that uses that sound. First to cross off every word shouts -BINGO!

  • Sorting hats

Sorting sounds and words is a popular way of reinforcing phonics, and with sorting hats, you can add a Harry Potter style twist.

Grab a few different hats and place them a couple of metres ahead of the class, labelled with a particular sound. Place a collection of bean bags at the feet of the class, with each labelled with a word. Challenge the class to toss the bean bags into the correct hat, matching the word with the sound.

<a href="" target="_self">William Hinch</a>

William Hinch

Hope Education writer

Will has been writing for Hope Education since July 2020, helping provide teachers with tips, advice and insight that helps them educate the next generation. Away from his educational writing, Will is a typical Yorkshireman; a lover of ale, cricket and tea!

23 October 2020

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