Kindergarten Phonics 101

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Phonics can be an overwhelming area of instruction for teachers – just one more thing to fit in during the busy day. But I have found ways to easily and successfully embed phonics into your every day whole group and small group activities.

Explicit Phonics Instruction:

When I think about phonics instruction, I think of explicitly teaching just one phonics rule/topic a week (Click here to download the scope and sequence freebie!). Then I do a 10-15-minute mini-lesson going over the topic. Then the children have an activity (game or sort) that they can do to practice the lesson. Sometimes I also do a whole group powerpoint activity where students have to shout out the answers. They are always very engaged for this and it is a great informal assessment!

Embedded Phonics All Day:

However, I think that the most effective way to teach phonics is to embed it in everything you do. For example, when we do a shared reading or a read aloud, I point out our phonics topic. When they are writing I might have them look for it in their writing to make sure they are using that skill (for example, adding ending sounds). 

Phonics during Morning Meeting:

Phonics is very easily embedded into Morning Meeting (Responsive Classroom has a TON of resources for this). I don’t know about you, but I always ask my students a question on our morning message. This is the perfect place to include a phonics question: I might ask students to draw something that starts with the letter _ or maybe I will have some pictures up on the board and ask students to write words that rhyme with those pictures. I might ask them to write a blend. There are so many possibilities! This is also a great way to assess who has a strong understanding of the skill and who needs more support.

Besides just the morning message, the greeting during morning meeting can be a great place for embedding phonics. One greeting that I do is give students picture cards and have them find their partners. Once they find their partner, they share a greeting and then sit down. These cards can be any kind of content, social studies, math, science, or…. Phonics! I have cards to match for syllables, upper case to lowercase, letter to sound, blends, etc. The kids love to find their partner and don’t even realize that they are practicing this phonics skill!

Brain Breaks and Morning Meeting Phonics Activities:

Brain breaks and morning meeting activities (I often use the same activities for both kinds of routines) are other great ways to embed phonics skills without the students really even noticing!

I use songs and movements whenever possible for break brains and morning meeting activities. There are so many wonderful songs on youtube that are perfect for phonics – Jack Hartmann and Harry Kindergarten are my favorite channels but there are many other ones too. Just search for whatever skill you’re looking for!  

Another great activity is playing “I Spy” around the room. I call out what it is I want them to find. It could be something that rhymes with bug (rug) or something that starts with R, or something that starts with the sound /r/ or something that has 1 syllable or something that starts with a digraph. See it can be used for almost anything! It gets the kids up and moving but also keeping the phonics skills fresh in their brain. 

Small Group Phonics Work:

In addition to the whole class, I also incorporate phonics into my small group reading and writing instruction and my intervention groups. Here are some of my favorite and most simple activities to do with a small group of children.

That wonderful game of “I Spy” comes up again! This time with the alphabet chart. I call out a letter and then the children have to find it and cover it up. You can also play “I Hear” and say a sound and have the children cover up the letter that makes this sound.

Another great and easy game that the kids will ask for again and again is “Kaboom” (there are other names for it, but that’s what we call it). To play, you just write letters or sight words (or other phonics focuses) on popsicle sticks. The children pick one stick out at a time and have to read the word or identify the letter or say the letter sound. If they say it correctly, they get to keep the stick. Then you keep taking turns pulling sticks and reading them until someone picks a kaboom stick. Everyone then has to put all their sticks back and say “Kaboom!”

Conclusion:

Children need explicit instruction of phonics skills, but then they need lots of time to practice these skills throughout the day. These activities can be used for studying high-frequency words too, but stay tuned for a blog post next week specifically on high frequency word instruction!

Have any questions on any of the specific phonics skills? Comment below!

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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