Word Work Activities That Improve Reading Skills
Word work activities are definitely my favorite part of the day. It is a critical part of our learning, and it truly lends to my student’s ability to grow as readers and writers. Let’s take a look at the importance of word work activities and ways to help our kindergarteners practice and develop phonemic awareness.
What is Word Work?
Word work activities can look different in different classrooms, but the concept remains the same. It is when we give students the ability to do hands-on work with different phonics skills. Word work can be an activity on beginning sounds, long and short vowels, cvc words, digraphs, word families, rhyming, and more. All of these things work together to help improve phonemic awareness. These skills are a necessity when it comes to reading and fluency.
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Even if you don’t know what phonemic awareness is, you are most likely helping your students with this skill on a daily basis. This is when a child can hear and manipulate sounds. When a child knows their letter sounds, and they are able to segment and blend a word together, they are demonstrating phonemic awareness. This is the beginning stages of reading. Once a child can recognize that each letter has its own sound and they can blend sounds together, or take them apart, they can begin decoding.
Kindergarten Word Work & Phonics Activities
There are so many different ways to practice phonics through word work. By using hands on activities you can increase engagement and help students retain the information and skills quicker. Let’s take a look at some ways you can begin to implement amazing word work activities to help your kindergartners master key phonics skills.
Word Work Activities for Letter Sounds
Using pictures is an excellent way to practice letter sounds. Word work activities that involve finding pictures with the same beginning sound are a great way to make sure students can hear each individual sound. One of my favorite word work activities for this is called Build That House.
With this game, students pick a house that has the uppercase and lowercase letters on it. Then they find the roof and door with pictures that have the correct beginning sound. This is a great hands-on word work activity to help students practice hearing and identifying letter sounds.
Word Work Activities for Beginning Sounds
The next step in building readers is to help them with beginning sounds. This is very similar to practicing letter sounds, but you can add additional challenges by having students also form the letters. I love to use Dry Erase Boards because it is not only engaging, but it also allows me to easily monitor student progress.
These are great because it encourages children to find the correct sound on the board and circle it, and create the letter with another manipulative. You can use playdough to practice letter formation or even letter magnets. I laminate these boards and have them use dry erase markers, which means we can use them over and over again!
Word Work Activities for Long and Short Vowels
Once my students have mastered consonant sounds, we move onto vowels. These are trickier to hear and pronounce. By incorporating hands-on vowel work, students can build fluency with long and short vowels.
We love the word work activity Vowel Caterpillars. With this phonics activity, children have to build the body of the caterpillar by finding the pictures with the matching short vowel sounds. It is a fun twist on a traditional picture sort.
It is also a great idea to use picture sorts for long vowel practice. Helping students recognize the difference between long vowel sounds is important to their reading ability. When it comes to long vowel centers, we love the phonics game Build a Sandwich. This game is perfect for any word work center or dramatic play area. Students must make a sandwich that consists of bread, tomato, meat, and cheese. Each of these items has a picture on them with a long vowel sound either in the beginning or in the middle of the word. Children can use the provided menu to help them, or do it all on their own. This is always a class favorite!
Word Work Activities for CVC Words
CVC words are our most practiced phonics skill. The reason for this is, if children can successfully blend sounds to read a CVC word, then they can begin to apply this skill to multisyllabic words. I invest a lot of time into building fluency with CVC words and it shows when we are doing guided reading! Some easy to implement, yet very meaningful word work activities include CVC Puzzles and CVC Word Building. These phonics games help students read and “write” cvc words.
Word Work Activities for Rhyming
When I progress monitor my students, I always find that many of them struggle with rhyming words. Being able to recognize and produce rhyming words is a key phonological awareness skill. Which is why it is so important to find engaging hands-on centers to help them practice this skill. Matching pictures that rhyme is awesome practice. This ensures that even non-readers can participate. It’s also great for children to practice hearing the rhymes as they say the names of the pictures out loud. Peanut Butter Jelly Rhyme Time is definitely a fan favorite! Students make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by finding the picture on the jelly side that matches the picture on the peanut butter side.
Word Work Activities for Consonant Blends
Consonant blends are easy to teach if you have spent a sufficient amount of time on letter-sound knowledge and cvc words. A consonant blend is two consonants together, that each makes their own sound. By helping students build fluency with common consonant blends, we are helping them build fluency with reading. This will make decoding longer words easier for them. Popsicle Puzzles are a fun phonics activity that allows children to find the correct beginning blend to each word. Picture clues help the students if they are struggling. I like to put the last half of the word in a pocket chart and the students will find the correct blend and add it to the beginning of the card.
Word Work Activities for Digraphs
Similar to consonant blends, digraphs consist of two consonants together. However, with digraphs, these two letters only make one sound. It is really important for children to know the difference because if they are trying to make each sound in a digraph, they will not be able to blend the sounds to make a word. Other than CVC words, digraphs probably are the second most practiced phonics skill in my room. I have noticed tremendous growth in decoding when students have memorized and built fluency with digraphs. We have a wide variety of digraph word work activities, but one I’d like to share with you is Dinosaur Digraphs.
In Dinosaur Digraphs, children take turns picking a dinosaur egg. Each dinosaur egg has a picture with a digraph either at the beginning or end of the word. They must place each egg under the correct digraph tree.
Teaching Phonics Activities
Teaching phonics to kindergarteners is absolutely key in their reading and writing success. Make sure to carve out time each day to teach and review phonics skills. Incorporate word work activities as much as possible. Hands on learning is extremely beneficial for the retention of information. You can read more about that here. If you want to integrate word work activities into your classroom but don’t know where to start, check out my full year of hands on phonics activities. This download consists of 35 weeks of phonics word work. The pacing guide lays everything out for you, so all you have to do is prep the materials and watch your students learn. As you work your way through each week, you will see your students reading and writing abilities develop and grow.