Using Word Sorts for Phonics Instruction

Word sorts are an engaging phonics activity for K-2 students who are learning how words work while developing word awareness skills. Make sure to download a FREE sample of these differentiated word sorts in this post.

When we first introduce a new phonics skill it is best to keep the instruction explicit, clear, and to the point.  But as I discussed in my last blog post, in order for students to truly master the phonics skills we teach we must provide them with lots of opportunities for review and repetition!   

Even when we know we need to provide this extra practice, it can be a real challenge to keep coming up with activities that are engaging and effective. In his book Phonics from A to Z, Wiley Blevins encourages us to have our students explore and play with letter sounds and suggests word sorts are a great way to do so!  

What are Word Sorts? 

Word sorts require students to think about how words work by drawing their attention to common spelling patterns.  Students are given a set of words that all have something in common and asked to sort them by the common feature.  

There are many types of word sorts but the three most common are: 

Open sorts:  In an open sort, students are not told how to sort the words.  They can sort them anyway they want.  It is smart to start with an open sort because it gives you insight into students’ thinking and what they notice about words.  

Closed sorts:  In a closed sort, students are told how to sort words.  Students visually scan the words for the pattern that you specified.  The most valuable part of a closed sort is the conversation you have after the sort is complete.  Blevins suggests questions like, What do you notice about these words?  What do you notice about these spellings for long-o?  Do you know other words with these spellings?  

Timed sorts:  In a timed sort, students are told how to sort a set of words but given a set amount of time to do so.  A timed sort is a great thing to do with a set of words that students have been working with for a while.  Students love the timed aspect which makes it feel like a game, but it also helps to train their eyes to quickly see larger word chunks which will help them when they encounter new and unfamiliar words. 

Word Sort Routines

The routine for word sorts is simple!  First, introduce the task by naming it and explaining the purpose. 

Next, have students sort the words.  If you’re doing a closed sort you’ll want to model one or two of the words. As students work, you can observe and ask students why they are putting specific words into each category. 

Finally, (and this is the most important one!) you’ll want to check and discuss the sort.  Ask students what they learned about the words from doing the sort and guide them to the aspect that will help them in their future reading and writing!  

Differentiated Word Sorts

Today I’m thrilled to share with you my very own Phonics Word Sort resource! These DIFFERENTIATED activities are both printable and digital so you can use them in the classroom or for distance learning with Google Classroom & Seesaw! 

These word sorts are an engaging phonics activity to compliment your word study routines. There are two levels of word sorts: whole words and words with the missing target spelling pattern to assign to your students. Students will look for common spelling patterns, sort, then communicate what they notice and have learned about the words they’ve sorted.

The resource includes the following Phonics Patterns:

  • CVC Words
  • Digraphs
  • Blends
  • Long Vowels
  • Diphthongs
  • R-Controlled Vowels
  • Complex Vowels

All activities in the resource are all based on Wiley Blevins’ recommended scope and sequence for K-2 students.  You can be confident that they are developmentally appropriate and provide the scaffolding students need for mastery.  

Easy to Prep and Manage!

One of the major pitfalls with some word sorts is that they often require a lot of small pieces of paper, letter cuts, or word cards.  They can take a long time to prep, distribute, and collect! 

But NOT these activities! The printable pieces require very few cuts for students. There will be NO TIME wasted dealing with materials!

The digital version has been PRELOADED for you.  With 1 click you add them to your Seesaw library or Google Drive and then you can assign them to your students for remote learning or individual centers!

Another BONUS is that the structure of each word sort in the resource remains the same. This saves you from having to explain and model everytime you assign one!  Once your students have successfully completed one sort, you can be sure they’ll be able to independently work through the rest at whatever pace you assign them! And with 38 different word sorts you’ll have enough to last you the ENTIRE YEAR!  

Download FREE word sorts here: 

I hope the information and the word sorts I’ve shared today will make it easy for you to provide your students with meaningful practice that will allow them to develop their word awareness and master their phonics skills!  

Be on the lookout for my next blog post where I’ll be sharing all about another great activity to help develop word awareness- Word Building Activities!



Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping