Phonics Kit

The Phonics Toolkit is now available at Teachers Pay Teachers. Transform students into super readers with memorable introductions to patterns with fun rhymes, 16 games,  24 worksheets, 11 word sorts and more. Learn more about the Phonics Toolkit and get your copy today! Designed to be portable, inexpensive to create, and easy to use, it provides many resources for learning phonics skills.

Once your kit is set up, add some of the resources from others that are compiled here. Many of these are provided free for personal or classroom use by the websites in the links. A magnet board and magnetic letters are a great addition for practicing words.

You may also want to check out 10 Steps to Reading, which includes links to my favorite free online resources for learning phonics. There is a downloadable pdf version.

Each post below includes videos, printable games, and online games to learn the concept as well. Many online games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. It can be helpful to download the Puffin browser. They are collected in one place here at Symbaloo.



Option 1: Use a binder notebook with dividers, zip-lock bags for the sorts, and a separate binder for the games. Keep it all in a tote bag.

Option 2: Use a separate plastic pronged folder with pockets for each concept or pattern. Keep the folders in a plastic Sterlite file bin.

For the word sorts:

  • Card stock for printing some of the activities.
  • Plastic zip-lock bags from the hobby area, the 2″x 3″ size is great for holding the sort cards. They can be kept in larger zip-lock bags, or punched with a hole punch and added onto the prongs of the folders.
  • You can use containers like Athenos feta cheese and add frog eyes from tes. Name tag holders can work as pockets to change the pattern for each sort.

For the kit:

  • Binders -OR-
  • Plastic pronged folders with pockets. These are about anywhere for around .50 each.
  • Sterlite plastic file bin & hanging folders
  • Transparent plastic bingo chips in assorted colors are great as markers for games and other uses. They can be found at Oriental Trading Company, or I found mine at Mardel.

The materials in the kit and compiled here are designed to practice spotting different patterns. There are lots of sorts to do, games to play, and things to read. Create a section or folder for each of the topics below.


26 letters amaze and astound! They make 44 sounds when they move around! Here are some helpful charts to keep in front of your kit:

  1. Phonics Basics
  2. Short Vowels
  3. Silent e
  4. Bossy R
  5. Digraphs
  6. Diphthongs – Vowel Teams with (mostly) new sounds
  7. Vowel Teams – More Ways That Vowels Can Be Long
  8. Letters With More Than One Sound
    • Consonants that vary: Hard & Soft C & G, C & K
    • Vowels that vary: Tricky Y
  9. English is Weird: Schwa & Sight Words
  10. Syllables : Open & Closed | Consonant -le



  • Bookmark Set Freebie – These bookmarks include Write the Pattern activities for many Phonics Patterns.
  • Pattern Chart Set Freebie – These can be used as sort mats, posters, or printed on business cards for other sorts. Credits: Some artwork copyrighted by Mark A Hicks, illustrator, Used with permission. Sources for other graphics at Pinterest.


The Super Tutor Tools Store at Teachers Pay Teachers has many resources I’ve created for tutoring reading. Most have a small charge, but there are freebies there too.

For even more resources, check out:

Glossary of Literacy Terms

  • Digraph-a pair of letters representing a single speech sound (consonant digraphs, and vowel digraphs or vowel teams)
  • diphthong-two vowels combine to make one sound with mouth positions that change.
  • grapheme–the written representation of a phoneme
  • phoneme-the individual sounds that make up a word
  • phonics–the relationship between letters and sounds
  • schwa–a lightly pronounced “uh” vowel sound that can be represented by any vowel
  • syllable–a unit of speech generally containing only one vowel sound

There are more definitions of Literacy Terms at and

A Phonics Kit provides tools for learning reading skills.

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More Ways That Vowels Can Be Long

Vowels can be long with the Silent e pattern, Vowel Teams, Open Syllables, and Tricky Y. Two more important long vowel patterns to learn are: i and o can be long when followed by two consonants, and open syllables in two syllable words with one middle consonant. These can be challenging, because in both cases, words may have either the long or short sound.

i and o can be long when followed by two consonants

If you have lŏst a gĭft you know that this is not always so. A strategy for reading is to try it with a long vowel sound to see if it is a recognizable word. If it is not, try it with the short vowel sound.

Strategy: To fīnd lŏng, pĭck bōth

These words can be practiced with a Long or Short i or o Soccer Game. Teams are chosen for either the long vowel sound or the short vowel sound and take turns drawing words to match the pattern.

The words can be printed on “soccer balls” and cut out with a 1 inch circle punch to add to the fun.

The Long or Short i or o Soccer Game is available at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Open and Closed Syllables in Two Syllable Words with one middle consonant


The first syllable in two syllable words with one middle consonant can be either long or short, so it is important to understand and practice these words too. Since more are long (60%) than short (40%), try the long vowel sound first to see if it is a recognizable word. If it is not, try it with the short vowel sound.

Strategy: Bē/gin with long, vĭ/sit short

The Tiger & Camel Words Soccer Game is available at Teachers Pay Teachers.


Posted in phonics

Blends and Blending

Two (or more) consonants may blend together with each sound heard in the blend.

Blends are often introduced after learning about short vowels, so it’s a good idea to begin practicing with blends that have short vowels. Blends with other vowel patterns can be included after they have been learned. Blending the sounds of letters from left to right is an important skill for beginning readers. As other vowel patterns are introduced, scan for phonics patterns in words to decode them.

WATCH Blends (3:20) 2 Letters that work together from Jack Hartmann (3:32) Kids vs Phonics Blends (6:17)

Blends picture sorts from (More Blends picture sorts from fairypoppins for and color picture cards from testyyettrying)

Sort onto a B&W blends chart from thisreadingmama (or color blends chart from maketaketeach), S blends ice cream activity at

Blends flip books with pictures and words from

READ Blend sentences at

PLAY Printable Letter Blends puzzle from Learning 4 Kids (11 pages, some color), Go Fish blends game from Adrian Bruce

Great Green Grapes Blend Board Game at TeachersPayTeachers

PLAY Online games: Fuzz Bugs Farm from abcya (pc only), blending bearending blends from kizphonics. Warehouse gameBowling gameSorting Office, and Final Blends Honey Maze from literactive. L Blends & s Blends at yourchildlearns. Blends at galacticphonics, Blends at Blends at with sign-in, Consonant Blends at SadlierConnect (pc only). Advanced Blends: Rocketship Reader at

More Resources at the Blends and Blending board at Pinterest.

Posted in phonics

The 44 Sounds of English

One of the reasons that English is challenging to learn to read is that 26 letters make 44 sounds! This means that sometimes letters combine to make sounds (watch the video 72 Phonograms, and get printable flashcards at In addition to that, there can be lots of exceptions, so the “rules” are more like guidelines. With a few exceptions, the 21 consonants make one sound, so an alphabet chart represents a lot of them. Things begin to get interesting with the vowels, which can be short, or long, or make new sounds.

The first focus in learning to read is on the short vowels. Long vowels say the letter name, while short vowels say the sound. Short vowels are found in words with closed syllables, like those formed by a consonant-vowel-consonant known as CVC words (as in cat and dog).

Next, learn about silent e; an e at the end of a word (except two e’s are like twins that often like to stick together) changes the vowel to the long sound.

Continue with Bossy R: an r after each vowel changes the sound it makes.

Two letters can work together. Sometimes they make new sounds, like the consonant digraphs CH, SH, TH, WH & NG. (PH can make the /f/ sound)

Vowels can also work together; some can make new sounds, and some (often) make a long vowel sound. Diphthongs are (mostly) vowels that work together to make (mostly) new sounds.

One sound can be represented in different ways. Many of the diphthongs are like this: OU & OW make the same sound (although OW can also make a long O sound), as do OI & OY. AU & AW make the same sound as a short O.

One letter or set of letters can make more than one sound. OO & OO is just one example!

Once the diphthong patterns are learned, many of the remaining vowel teams are often (but not always) long.

2 letters that work together, some vowels work as a team. 2 letters can work together, and the first one likes to speak. They might be long (except the diphthongs!), here are some you may have seen.

This part of the chart includes Final Y, which can sometimes be a vowel that makes the long I sound, and sometimes the long E sound. Once again, one sound can be represented in different ways.

When all of these phonics patterns are put together, the result is a one page vowel chart that represents many of the vowel sounds.

Download the Grocery Store Chart for free at the Super Tutor Tools store at Teachers Pay Teachers. It is part of a Phonics Toolkit you might like too! You can also find free printable bookmarks and phonics pattern charts at this post about a Phonics Kit. Credits: Some artwork copyrighted by Mark A Hicks, illustrator, Used with permission. Another resource with the 44 sounds ( pdf) is available at

Grocery Store Vowel Chart

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Cleaning Checklist

Staying on top of cleaning chores can be quite a challenge. Finally I have a cleaning checklist that works for me. Inspired by this one from clean mama, this very simple routine (just the way I like it!) is customized the way that I wanted. Without further ado, here it is.

This image shows an example of how it works. Every day there are daily tasks, plus one weekly task to do. In the example, the first two weeks of the month of January have been completed, with daily tasks checked off. The first week the office was cleaned, and the second week, the guest room was cleaned. By writing the letter for the weekly task completed in the appropriate column, it is easy to see at a glance what was done when, and what will be next. For the other rooms Tuesday through Friday, ideally all of the tasks are completed, but the letters also work well with the monthly tasks.Print the cleaning checklist (pdf) each month and you are ready to roll. I put mine in a Scotch display pocket and hung it with a magnetic clip on the refrigerator. Progress can be tracked with a dry erase marker. I love the way that tasks are spread out…not so overwhelming!

If you like this, you might like to check out resources at the Home Helper Toolkit and my Household Binder Notebook board at Pinterest.

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Development Plans Are Not Just for Work


While Performance Plans for work may be called a Personal Development Plan, work is only one small part of personal development. To make a plan for Personal Development, consider many life areas that can be improved.

While going through some files, I found some forms from the Human Resources at the University of New Mexico. At this URL: there is a link to a 3 page fillable document called a Performance Evaluation and Planning (PEP) Form that includes goals. Another fillable document at this website is great for goal setting. While unable to find a link to it, the form can be found by Googling “Chart 1 developing SMART goals and duties.”

Here’s the link to it:  Developing SMART Goals and Duties – UNM HR and here is what it looks like.


I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit, and made two versions. The first one is for setting Work Goals


The other version is for Personal goals.


1. Review the value statement of what you do and why.

2. Do a SWOT analysis and fill out a Goal Shift Chart to identify focus areas. The Energy Level Gauge is a more detailed method.

3. Choose goals that will add the most value. Identify the sweet spot.

4. Decide how to develop in the focus area. There are lots of ideas for goals at the Year of Personal Development challenge and at Goal Plans.

5. Make the goal SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based.

6. For each goal, fill in: Resources needed. What will be done. How it will be done. Why it is important. When it will be done.

7. Write action steps and schedule them.

See also Set Work Goals and Development Plan.

Posted in goals, personal development, work skills

The ABCs of Games For Reading

The ABCs of Games for Reading


Active, Board, & Card Games

When it comes to hands-on games to practice reading skills, a good mix includes Active Games, Board Games, and Card Games. (For free online games for phonics, check out this Symbaloo.) This post contains ideas for each kind of hands-on game. For more ideas, check out the Phonics Kit post.


Phonemic Awareness

Short Vowels (CVC words)

Word Families


  • A. Blend target shoot. Write two different blends with dry erase marker on Solo plastic plates. Mix pictures for the two blends (from flyingintolearning below) to draw and throw a suction cup ball to hit the correct target. 
  • B. Picture blend (flyingintolearning) match onto chart (thisreadingmama)
  • C. Initial Blends go fish (Adrian Bruce)

Silent e

Bossy R

Digraphs -H bros

Diphthongs (vowel teams that make new sounds)

Vowel Teams that are often long

  • A. Pick & Toss – Cut 3 equal size holes in a large box or trifold presentation board. Label the holes AI, EA, & OA. Print Marshmallow Match from thebubblegumtree & cut out the word cards. Take turns drawing a card & tossing a ball or beanbag through the correct hole. 1st one to match & toss all three targets wins.
  • B. Make the Cake or Nice Dice Vowel Teams
  • C. Vowel Pattern Yahtzee

Sight Words


After learning about Silent e and Bossy R, click on the wheel below to practice the patterns! Make three columns on the top of a page, with the headings: SHORT, LONG, or BOSSY R. Take turns spinning the wheel to choose a column, then roll dice to choose a word. See who can make the longest list of words in 5 minutes.



You can also download a worksheet. It can be printed on cardstock and the words cut apart for a word sort.

Get many of the board games from the Daily PlanIt in one bargain kit, plus 24 worksheets, 11 word sorts, and more. Learn more about the Phonics Toolkit and get your copy today!


Posted in phonics

Incentives for Reading

The statistics below paint a graphic picture of the importance of literacy.

Two thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of 4th grade end up in jail or on welfare…and 37% of fourth graders cannot read at the basic level.

Statistics from: Begin to Read Literacy Statistics & Pennsylvania Department of Education. Read more on this Pivot Point at the Huffington Post.

Why reading 20 minutes a day is important

Students who read 20 minutes a day from Kindergarten through 6th grade score in the 90th percentile on tests, as the graphic below from edudemic illustrates.

Basically, reading makes you a Smartie!

There are many more benefits of reading too: It’s good for your brain, reduces stress, income is higher, and you even live longer. “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry Truman. “5 ways reading makes you a better leader” at

The value of incentives and rewards for reading (or anything) can be debated. However, providing feedback on progress and explaining why reading is important can be beneficial. Here are some ideas for a simple incentive program to encourage reading and playing phonics games to increase literacy skills.

DOWNLOAD Bookmarks

READ bookmarks: each day that you read 20 minutes, color or punch a star on the READ bookmark. 5 stars = 1 gold (chocolate or token) coin. 1 full bookmark (4 gold coins – 20 days of 20 minutes of reading) = 1 book buck.

PLAY bookmarks to earn Extra Credit: Each day that you play a phonics game, color or punch a star on the PLAY bookmark. 1 full bookmark (20 stars/20 days) = 1 gold (chocolate or token) coin.

Please note that many online phonics games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. It can be helpful to download the Puffin browser. Free online phonics games are collected in one place here at Symbaloo.

Bookbucks from

A bulletin board like this one with student names and how many bookbucks have been earned might encourage more reading too. Another option is a thermometer chart to track class progress posting the total number of minutes read within a time period. Set a goal and have a class party when it is reached.

How about modifying this idea from Crayons & Cuties in Kindergarten to celebrate learning 100 sight words?

Candy Rewards that Teach!


Post a list of prizes and how many Book Bucks they cost. Here are some ideas for prizes:

  • Non-candy: READ Pencils, READ bracelets, Notepads, Magnetic bookmarks, Alphabetimals coloring book, Target bargains like these Dr. Seuss bags, Library card socks…more ideas are at my Library & Books Pinterest Board.
  • Super Reader – anything with a Superman theme: can coosies, socks, etc.
  • Books: Feed Me Words, books by Brian P Cleary, or any you choose.
  • Literacy Games for about $15: Boggle Jr, Word Spin, Bananagrams

The statistics show that improved literacy skills lead to a better life. Learn more about how to create a phonics kit for teaching reading.


Posted in phonics

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