If we want kids to read and spell fluently, then we need to give our K-2 students adequate time for word building during phonics instruction. The large body of research for the Science of Reading tells us that kids need repetition with word building for a focus sound so that they can map the spelling and sounds in their brain.
One of my favorite first grade phonics activities to do is making words. (And it is a must-do activity for kindergarten and second grade too!)
Making words is a word chaining activity which targets a specific phonics skill or sound. During a making words lesson, kids are building and manipulating words by changing one sound at a time. For CVC words, they might start by spelling bat and then change one sound to make the word sat.
This makes word building accessible to all learners because you are just changing one sound at time. It's less overwhelming and it allows us to really focus in on that target sound or sounds.
I LOVE using making words in my classroom. The routines stay the same and the sounds change to make the activity feel like more of a game. Let's chat about 3 low prep ways to implement making words in your kindergarten, first grade, or second grade classroom.
Print Mats & Magnetic Letters
My first year teaching was in 2006, which doesn't seem like long ago at all, but it does when I remember that an overhead projector was the highest form of technology in my classroom. :)
Anyone besides me remember these pretty things???
"It's a beaut, Clark!" :)
Anyways... when I first started teaching, we used magnetic letters or letter cards for word building.
The downside to letter cards or magnetic letters is time! I ended up doing word building like this in small groups only because the time it took to pass out letters was about as long as the lesson itself!
In small groups, I had baggies with the correct letter cards for each lesson with the coordinating mat and that definitely minimized the passout time, but it also took up some extra space!
Print Mats & Dry Erase Markers
The second way I've done making words is with dry erase markers. This was the main way I did making words when I first started teaching because it took very little pass out time. There are no letters to pass out. Kids just have to grab their dry erase markers and a mat and they were good to go!
These printable mats already have the corresponding letters for the lesson on them with the correct number of Elknonin sound boxes so it's ready to go.
But while these printable making words mats are nice and cute, they aren't necessary! I've used dry erase boards only in a pinch and had kids make lines for the number of sounds in each word!
Digital Mats & Google Classroom
Eventually, the overhead projectors went into the storage closets and the Smartboards were installed. And then came Google Classroom.
And suddenly, making words was an EASY way to do word work with absolutely zero prep!
Now, kids can open the digital making words mat that corresponds with our lesson and focus sound on an iPad or on a laptop in Google Classroom and they can immediately build words.
Or, we can pull up the digital making words mat on our smart board and do the word building lesson together as a whole group by clicking and dragging letters into the Elknonin sound boxes.
I LOVE this way because it takes so little prep and cleanup time!
Whether you want to save prep and cleanup time and go digital with making words, or you want to pull out the tactile magnetic letters and go old school, word building is a must-do in your primary classroom to help kids map words permanently in their brains!
Find both digital and printable making words maps here!