50 Fun Phonics Activities

Free Resource for K-2 Classrooms


Fun phonics activities for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade

Teaching phonics is one of the most effective ways to help children learn how to read. A key component of the Science of Reading, phonics instruction teaches children how to correlate sounds with letters or groups of letters, empowering them to decode and encode words. Phonics instruction is essential to helping students learn how to read and write; without this foundational reading skill, students will struggle to read with fluency and comprehension.

Unfortunately, phonics instruction also has a reputation for being boring, repetitive, and dull.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! There are a wide variety of activities that can make phonics practice fun and engaging for all learners. We’ve collected 50 of our favorite phonics activities for you to try in your classroom.

Whether you need phonics activities for kindergarteners that build letter recognition, phonics activities for first graders that teach decoding and encoding vowels and consonants, or phonics activities for second graders that focus on syllable and spelling patterns, you’re sure to find a fun activity to integrate into your lesson planning.

Complete the short form on this page to access your free copy of 50 Fun Phonics Activities for the full list, or keep reading to see 15 sample activities from the guide.

1. Letter Labels

Post images of different animals, foods, and other objects around the room. Give students sticky notes with letters on them. Have students attach the letter sticky notes to the images whose names start with that letter (so the sticky note with the letter C would be attached to the image of a carrot).

Tip: Repeat this activity, but using final sounds (now the sticky note with the letter T is attached to the image of the carrot).

Illustration of a carrot for use in phonics instruction

2. Go Fish!

Create a set of flash cards with the uppercase and lowercase for 8 letters (16 cards total per set). Separate students into groups of two or three, with each child receiving three cards, with the remaining cards going into the pile. Have children play Go Fish. Each child should ask another member of their group for a letter to try to make a match. If there is no match, they draw a new card from the pile to add to their hand.

3. Letter Says 

Try this phonics-friendly version of Simon Says: Give each child a card with an uppercase or lowercase letter (limit to no more than 6 total, such as C, c, S, s, O, o). Give instructions based on letters: “Simon Says, if you’re holding an uppercase C, touch your nose!”

Tip: For an easier version, use only uppercase (or only lowercase) letters.

Banner for downloading letter cards for phonics practice

4. Letter Swap

Write a word on your board, such as POT. One by one, let kids erase one of the existing letters and replace it with a new letter to form a new word. For example, POT could become COT, PIT, or POD. COT could become CAT, PIT could become SIT, or POD could become NOD. Continue until kids are unable to form new words.

Tip: Add complexity by allowing students to add or delete letters (POT could become SPOT or POST).

5. Letter Line Up

Many letters are formed with straight lines, such as A, M, and T. Create a set of uppercase letters, and challenge students to sort them according to how they’re formed: only straight lines (like X and W), only curvy lines (like S and C), and a mix of straight and curvy (like B and P).

Tip: Repeat this activity with lowercase letter cards. Have kids discuss which letters only use straight lines in uppercase, but use curvy lines (or a mix of straight and curvy) in lowercase (like A / a and E / e).

Example letter formation diagrams for classroom phonics activities

6. Spelling Challenge

Get a little friendly competition going on in the classroom! Put students in small groups. Give each group the same set of letter cards (for example, a, d, g, h, i, l, r, u). Set a timer and have each group come up with as many words as they can with the provided letters. At the end, have each group read and spell their words aloud. The group with the largest number of correctly spelled words wins!

7. Vowels Up, Thumbs Up!

To help children differentiate between vowels, pick a vowel and then instruct children to put their thumbs up when they hear the vowel. For example, for short vowel o /o/, use words like pat, pot, pod, pad, sad, sod, tap, top, lot, lit. After the game, have students help you write the words on the board to reinforce spelling.

Elementary-age student gives thumbs up gesture as part of a phonics game.

8. Silent Simon

This is a version of Simon Says that’s completely silent! Create large cards with decodable action words (such as stand, sit, wave, spin) and body parts (such as hand, face, nose, chest, leg). One by one, silently display the cards. If it’s an action word, students should perform the action. If it’s a body part, students should point to the corresponding body part.

9. Eyes on OO!

The vowel digraph oo can be challenging for some children. Slowly read aloud a list of words, and have children form the two o’s with their hands and hold them up to their eyes like binoculars when they hear the sound. For example, your list may contain ruff, roof, room, rope, hop, hoop, bat, and boot. Go through the list a second time, asking children to help you spell each word.

Illustration of a child forming binoculars with their hands.

10. Reading Hopscotch

Use masking tape to create squares on the floor. Next to each square, place a card with a decodable word. Have children line up and play hopscotch one by one, jumping forward one square for each word they read correctly.

Tip: This is a helpful activity to strengthen students’ proficiency with tricky spelling patterns, such as -le (as seen in candle, sample, table, tickle, etc.).

11. Human Syllable Bee

Have a small group of students come up to the front, and give each one a letter card. First challenge the group to spell a word with their letters. Then have one more student come to the front and give them a card with a slash on it. Have the remaining children determine where the syllable break is and direct the “slash” to stand in that position. Swap out the letter cards and repeat with a new word. 

Every few words, have children change positions (between holding cards and sitting at their desks).

Illustration of phonics letter-cards forming the word napkin, with a slash mark designating the two syllables.

12. Syllable Boxes

To help students strengthen their understanding of closed syllables, give them a worksheet with a list of words with a closed syllable, such as lemon, visit, model, and topic. Have students draw a box around the closed syllable.

Tip: Include words that do not have closed syllables, such as hero and baby. Have students try pronouncing these words with closed syllables (such as her/o and bab/y) to see how silly they sound!

13. Word Bingo

Create a 4 x 4 grid. Have students write high-frequency words (such as he, be, we, go, so, no, me) in the spaces; encourage students to put the words in a random order. Then read the words aloud one by one, having students marking off a word when they hear it. When a student has a straight line marked, they have BINGO!

Bingo card with high-frequency words for a fun phonics game.

14. Flash Card Race

Write or print high-frequency words on a set of flash cards. Distribute one set to each student. Say a high-frequency word and challenge children to hold up the corresponding flash card as fast as they can.

15. Mystery Sentences

At the beginning of the week, display a “Mystery Sentence” in your classroom. This should be a sentence that is missing the phonics components that you will be teaching that week. For example, for the week that you are teaching diphthong ou and the vowel sound that appears in ball (spellings: aw, au, al, ough), the Mystery Sentence could be: “I s__ a sm___ m__se, and it made no s__nd. It might h__l away my lunch or put its p___s on my desk. What ___t I do?”

As the week goes on and skills are learned, fill in the missing blanks. For example, this sentence would be revealed: “I saw a small mouse, and it made no sound. It might haul away my lunch or put its paws on my desk. What ought I do?”

Ready for more phonics activities, games, and fun?

Be sure to complete the form at the top of this page to get your free copy of 50 Fun Phonics Activities!

You can find even more activities—plus interactive digital practice, educational games, articulation videos, and so much more—in Savvas Essentials™: Foundational Reading, the new supplemental K-2 curriculum. Take a quick interactive tour today to see all that Foundational Reading offers!

Banner to sign take an interactive tour of Savvas Essentials: Foundational Reading.

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