Four Types of Phonics Practice Every Student Needs

In this post, I’m sharing four types of phonics practice kindergarten, first and second-grade students need for mastery of the phonics skills we teach. Make sure to download the free phonics practice activities in the post!

We know phonics instruction is an integral part of literacy instruction, but it can be overwhelming to know where to start and how to adequately cover it all.  In my last blog post, I talked about how important it is that phonics instruction be systematic and explicit and shared a scope and sequence to help guide you.  

But simply exposing students to a phonics lesson one week and then moving onto the next the following week is not enough.  Mastery of phonics requires students to have plenty of opportunities for review and repetition. All too often we underestimate the amount of time it takes for our students to master phonics skills.  

how to teach phonics

In his book, A Fresh Look at Phonics, Wiley Blevins states that a new skill should be systematically and purposefully reviewed for four to six weeks after being introduced for the first time and reminds us that once you introduce a new phonics skill you are “in it for the long haul”.  

Most curriculums move pretty quickly! You really need to be purposeful about how and where you will fit phonics review into your day.   Today I’m eager to discuss what Blevins recommends to ensure your students are getting the review and repetition they need for mastery.

Ways to Build in Systematic Phonics Review and Repetition 

In his book, Blevins suggests weaving these 4 types of practice into your day:

1. Blending Work

When giving your students blending work list words with the new target phonics skill as well as words with skills taught in the prior four to six weeks. 

We do this during whole group instruction as a warm-up and during small guided reading groups. Blending work provides students with guided practice in reading these words for many weeks after the initial introduction. 

2. Word Awareness Activities (Word building and Word Sorts)

In word building, students use a limited number of letter cards to build a series of words that vary by one or two letters.  For example, words would be built in this sequence: up, cup, cut, but, bug and rug. 

You can build in review by modifying the sequence to include a few previously taught skills. Add the short vowels a and i and the sequence becomes: up, cup, cap, cat, cut, but, bat, bug, big, rig, rag, and rug! 

In this time of distance learning and the possibility that when we return to the classrooms students won’t be able to share center materials, I’ve created a full year of word building activities with AUDIO!!

Now students will continue to develop word awareness and vocabulary skills while using this interactive and consistent word building resource!

Would you like to try these Free Word Building Phonics Activities? I’d love to teach your class, click below to download!

For Word Sorts students have word cards that they must sort by related sounds or spellings. 

To build in the review and repetition, you can include words with patterns you have previously taught.  This can require students to fully analyze and carefully distinguish spelling patterns that are very similar to each other.   

If you have fairly strong word building and word sorts routines in place, an engaging exercise to continue the development of word awareness are Word Ladders.

This activity is perfect to add to independent learning centers once students have had multiple exposures to the word patterns.

3. Dictation

Research shows that students learn letter-sound relationships and spelling as they write.  Dictation practice offers students an engaging way to accelerate their writing and spelling skills, with your guidance and corrective feedback to support them. 

First model how you transfer the phonics skills you’ve explicitly taught to spelling. Then allow students to apply and try it out. Focus on the phonics pattern of the week but also include a few words with patterns you have previously taught.

Dictation is a form of guided practice, not a formal assessment tool. The more opportunities students have to try out writing their new skills, the better!  Ideally, dictation practice takes place twice a week and begins as early as kindergarten. 

Take a look at this blog post for details about a dictation routine, as well as more tips and information about the importance of dictation practice. You can download a FREE dictation worksheet perfect for your kindergarten, first, and second-grade classroom.

4. Read Decodable Stories  

A decodable text is a text you use in beginning reading instruction.  It is a story that is controlled based on the phonics skills you have taught your students up to that point in your scope and sequence.  There is often a heavy focus on the target phonics skills for a specific week of instruction.  For example, if you are teaching short i, your students might read a passage called Tim Picks.

We know that students progress in phonics at a much faster rate when the majority of their instructional time is spent applying the skills to authentic reading and writing experiences.  According to Wiley Blevins, at least half of a phonics lesson should be devoted to application.  Application is how the skills stick. This is where you use decodable texts.

Decodable texts give students practice applying the skills that you have taught to real reading experiences. This connection is essential for building a faster foundation in early reading.  Rereading stories is a wonderful way to build fluency, but it is also a great way to extend the practice of skills over time.

If choosing and using high quality decodables are new for you, a closer look at this blog post: How to Use Decodable Text for beginning readers!

I hope the information and resources I’ve shared today motivate you to give your students the phonics review and repetition we know they need for mastery! Be on the lookout for my next post, where I suggest specific phonics activities that give your students the practice they need without making more work for you!


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