Phonics Kit

This is a kit for tutoring reading with some great resources for learning phonics skills. Many of these are provided free for personal or classroom use by the websites in the links. Everything you need to make your own kit with lots of hands-on activities is here. When I haven’t been able to find a resource online, in some cases I have created my own. Links for these are found at the end of this post. This Phonics Kit is designed to be as portable and as inexpensive to create as possible. 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, 2″x 3″ are 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.

For the kit:

  • Binders -OR-
  • Plastic pronged folders with pockets. These are about anywhere for around .50 each.
  • Sterlite plastic file bin & hanging folders

The materials are designed to practice spotting different patterns. There are lots of sorts to do, games to play, and things to read. For the sorts, you can use containers like Athenos feta cheese or these hardware containers. Add frog eyes from tes, and use name tag holders as pockets to change the pattern for the sort you are working on.

ScrewContainer1 screwcontainer2

For a portable kit, pockets can be made from 10.5 oz candy packages, which fold flat for transporting, but stand up for sorts. I taped a file cabinet graphic on the front of mine and attached name tag holders. It was such a sacrifice to eat all that candy, but anything for the cause of literacy!

Follow the Sequence for teaching reading from First Grade Garden

Create a section or folder for each of the topics below:

Phonics Basics (Find the resources for this below. They can go into a student folder as well as in front of the binder or file box)

  1. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
  2. Alphabet
  3. Short Vowels
  4. Word Families
  5. Long Vowels – Silent e
  6. Vowel Teams
  7. Vowel Teams with (mostly) new sounds – Diphthongs
  8. Bossy R
  9. H Brothers – Digraphs
  10. Syllables : Open & Closed | Consonant -le
  11. English is Weird: Schwa & Sight Words
  12. Letters With More Than One Sound – Consonants, Tricky Y, and Vowels


26 letters amaze and astound! They make 44 sounds when they move around!




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 a few freebies there too.

For even more resources, check out:

This Phonics Kit will provide tools for learning reading skills.


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7 Work Smarter Principles

Great At Work: How Top Performers Work Less and Achieve More, Morten Hansen

I recently finished “Great at Work” by Morten T Hansen, who illustrates with examples and research 7 principles for working smarter. I was most interested in the first part of the book, which covers mastering your own work. The second part involves working with others, and a final part is about work/life balance. Here are my notes on the book.

  1. Do less, then obsess. Identify high value priorities and focus on those. Occam’s Razor: seek the simplest solution-as few as you can, as many as you must. *This principle is important for work/life balance.
  2. Redesign work. Add activities that create value, stop or reject those that don’t. Pursue value instead of goals: there’s a great table with examples of how value creation differs from goals. Redesign for value: Value =benefits to others x quality x efficiency. Quality=accurate, reliable, novel. Efficiency=doing things right. (see this Peter Drucker quote)
  3. Don’t just learn, loop. Try experiments, measure the outcome, get feedback, modify based on the results.
  4. P-Squared-tap into passion and purpose. Match excitement and enthusiasm with contribution to society. Both are needed for high performance. *This principle is important for job satisfaction.
  5. Forceful champions-advocate by evoking emotions with stories of impact. Use smart grit to gain insight into the concerns of opposition, design strategies to overcome the concerns, then persevere in the face of difficulty.
  6. Fight & Unite-Have effective meetings, commit to decisions.
  7. Two sins of collaboration: failing to, and over-collaboration. To be disciplined: know when to and why, What’s the Benefit? Know the common goal, reward results, not activities. Trust boosters: verify, start small, clarify & educate, bond w/team exercises.

Further Reading:

Posted in Books, goals, productivity

Annual Review Toolkit


The Annual Review Toolkit contains 27 printable tools in a 30 page pdf to create a binder with everything you need to stay on top of regular reviews and on target with goals that align with your values. It includes Productivity Tools for a System & Routine, Goal Tools for Review, Brand & Purpose Tools for Focus. It gathers many of my best resources in one place together with the steps for an annual review.

An Annual Review Binder includes:

See the full contents of what is included. Available free for a limited time, grab yours now before this offer goes away!

DOWNLOAD The Annual Review Toolkit pdf

Posted in goals, productivity

Review of Books Read in 2017


I recently read “Mind Hacking” by Sir John Hargrave. I enjoyed this look at changing the mind from the viewpoint of a computer programmer with proven “geek” cred. Throughout the book there are mind experiments that virtually gamify mental change. In the spirit of open source and collaboration, the author provides the book free online as well as for purchase. There are links to both at, plus a free app.

The hacking process includes:

Analyzing – We can change our mental loops. This section of the book is about becoming more aware of where the attention is, eliminating distractions, and retraining attention with meditation.

Imagining – This section talks about thought experiments and exploring the mind to expand what is possible. “Imagination is hard mental work” but everything that is created is imagined first.

Reprogramming – The author talks about the power of writing things down (“Until it’s on paper, it’s vapor”), and how mental simulations (aka vizualizations) can help athletes improve performance. He describes agile development, where a minimum viable product is released and then improved upon. He suggests using LASER subgoals that are: Limited, Achievable, Specific, Evaluated, and Repeatable for improved focus.

Many of the books that I read in the past year were Screen & Page Reads. I wrote one post referring to “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind,” by Vishen Lakhiani: End Goals Lead to a Meaningful Journey.

My favorite fiction book this year was by far “Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore. Set in the days of the discovery of electricity, and based on fact, this is the story of the competition between Westinghouse and Edison to be the dominant force. I found it fascinating!


Posted in Books

Letters With More Than One Sound

When the same letters make more than one sound, you really know that English is Weird.


The letters C and G can make hard or soft sounds.

C is hard before A, O & U. With the others, a soft C will do.


G is often hard before A, O & U. With the others, a soft G will often do.


(But this is not always true, which you know if you get a gift given to you!)

When the K sound is heard at the beginning of a word:

K takes i & e, C takes the other three.


When the K sound is heard at the end of a word:

A CK is often needed after a vowel that is short. The K needs help to make it work.


With a consonant between it is a new task, it takes just a k so remember to ask. Drink milk, dunk a basket, or honk at an elk: the consonant means there is only a k.

Don’t panic, but there’s one more thing to see. Some two syllable words with a short I only need c. (like a picnic in the attic, it’s a little like magic.)

The rest of the time, a k is just fine. For words with bossy r, and vowel teams that are long or diphthongs, a k on it’s own will park. (The beak of a hawk, a look at a book, a weak croak from a throat, a stork with a fork, a dog that will bark.)

A set of anchor charts, and worksheets and word sorts for the /k/ sound at the beginning and end of words is available at TeachersPayTeachers. Learn more about spelling the K sound from thisreadingmama, and WATCH ck at Kids vs Phonics.

Note that many online games require flash and may not work well on mobile devices. Downloading the Puffin browser can be helpful.

PLAY ONLINE Picture Palace from literactive.

The letter S can also make more than one sound. S can say snake, probably everyone knows. It can also say /z/ when a nose smells a rose.


We have met OO/OO, one of the diphthongs. Which might be short, or could be long. More vowels that can vary are OW, EA, IE. The letter Y can be Tricky indeed with the sounds it can make, up to three.


Y at the end of a one syllable word, often says a long “I” as in fly.


R controlled vowels may be trickiest of all…but I forgot to mention that A can say short O like in watch or in ball. The Sounds of A Worksheet/Word Sort is available at TeachersPayTeachers.


AR can sound like ER, as in pillar or dollar. So can OR, when you start your motor. When there is an E before AR all bets are off. It might be ER when you learn, or maybe a long e that you hear. It can even be a polar bear on a chair.

Last, but not least of all, is the amazing schwa. Any vowel can make this lazy “uh” sound, so watch out for schwas all around!


These guidelines may help you to figure out the many sounds you will discover all about.


Posted in phonics

10 Steps to Reading

Explore 10 ways you can develop reading skills. Download the 10 Steps to Reading printable pdf with these tips which include my favorite free online resources.Reading101

10 Steps to Reading

1. Learn letters & sounds, and practice hearing and manipulating sounds – Phonemic awareness

2. Create a phonics kitBegin with short vowels and CVC words (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant), continue with consonant blends

3. Learn phonics patterns in sequence as the student is ready. The sequence in different programs can vary, but generally: Silent e, Bossy r, Vowel Teams, Diphthongs, and Digraphs.

4. Practice patterns with picture and word sorts

5. Play games that encourage literacy. Hands on games include traditional games like Boggle and Bananagrams, as well as many free printable games that can be found through the phonics kit post. There are also many free online games at SymbalooUse the Puffin browser for Flash games on mobile devices.

6. Read books to practice the patterns. The books from Progressive Phonics are free, fun, and practice the phonics patterns. They can be printed or read online. 

7. Learn sight wordsThese high frequency words often are not decodable with phonics guidelines.

8. Encourage reading 20 minutes a day. Children who do this from Kindergarten through 6th grade score 90% better than their peers on tests. Check out more Benefits of reading.

9. Use your library. Attend storytimes, participate in summer reading programs, check out books & online resources. Choose fun books at the right level.

10. Read “Phonics from A to Z” by Wiley Blevins (online at issuu)

Learn more at Reading Basics from They have a Get Ready to Read screening tool too.

Posted in phonics

Learning the Alphabet

This is one section of a Phonics Kit that you can create. See the full post for more resources! The main focus of this section is on the consonants.

One page Alphabet to color from

Letters to Color including pictures that start with the letter from sheknows

WATCH Vowels & Consonants from Nessy (1:33), What do the letters say? (3:34), All letters from LogicofEnglish (1:42), Alphabet from Kids vs Phonics (29:02)

Alphabet chart from alphabetimals

Animal alphabet on one page and flashcards (7 pages, 4/page) from kindergartenmom (the flashcards can also be used for a syllable sort)

Alphabet Worksheet letter tracing

B & D reversals from, practice with Online Fishing Bowl Game from literactive

Chart of voiced or unvoiced letter sounds from Handy Handouts

PLAY Printables: Alphabet Chutes and Ladders: lowercase & uppercase from Super Simple, Animal Alphabet from, Mailbox ABC from Totschooling (6 pages, color), Fishing for Letters from Kindergarten Crayons (7 pages, color), Sammy the Starfish from Fuelthebrain.

Please note that Flash may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. It can be helpful to download the Puffin browser.

PRACTICE with Online Flash Alphabet from earlylearningactivities.

PLAY Online Games: Alphabet Games at, Fisher-Price Alphabet Zoo,  Alphabet antics at learnenglishkids, Alphabet games at LearningGamesForKids, ABC Match at Readwritethink. Free on pc: Alphabet games at Turtle Diary & at abcya.

For even more resources, check out my reading Pinterest board.

Posted in phonics

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Hearing and manipulating the sounds in language are important skills for learning to read. Phonemic awareness and letter knowledge have been identified in several research studies as the two key indicators of how well children will master beginning reading skills during the first two years in school. (The Threads of Reading by Karen Tankersly at

Understanding Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Both are about the ability to hear & manipulate the sounds in language…

  • Phonological Awareness – in words & syllables
  • Phonemic Awareness – at the phoneme (individual sounds within words) level

A helpful explanation of Phonological Awareness is at Dyslexia Help.

Phonological Interventions for Struggling Readers from Learning at the Primary Pond has this illustration of the progression of skills, and lots of ideas for activities for developing them.

Phonological Awareness at LearningCommotion has more ideas and a helpful graphic.

Printable Charts:

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Skills from Clever Classroom

Developmental Sequence from Make, Take, Teach



Phonological and Phonemic Awareness from The DailyPlanit at the Teachers Pay Teachers Super Tutor store (free)


The following activities are great resources to add to a Phonics Kit.


Syllable Counting: clap or tap, or feel your mouth drop.

Identify initial sounds

Phoneme blending

  • Word Slider Cards from deceptivelyeducational. (put these in an envelope w/end cut off or a pencil box & slide out one sound at a time)

Phoneme segmenting

PLAY Online games: at Readingresource.netWords that Rhyme at Roy the Zebra, Rhyming and initial sounds at literactive,  initial sounds at funfonix (click on Game, then Collect the Stars). Beginning sounds, Nine Squares,  middle soundsfinal sounds and garden leaves at literactive.

Note that many online games require Flash and may not work well on some tablets and smartphones. It can be helpful to download the Puffin browser.

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