Phonics for 1st Grade

What is Phonics?

Child writing.

Phonics refers to the ability to learn the individual sounds in spoken language and map those sounds to specific written letters in the English language. Students who have strong phonics skills are able to connect individual sounds with letters and use those sounds to read words. (Definition from University of Oregon)

In 1st grade, readers recognize and read words with ch, th, sh, and ph, read regularly spelled one-syllable words, know long vowel sound/spellings, read two-syllable words that follow basic patterns, and recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

What Does it Look Like?

What is phonics and why is it important?

Practice Activities

Mail Letter Names and Sounds: Circle, underline, or point to letters the child needs to practice more. Then, ask the child to name the letter and say the sound. Use printed materials such as newspapers, magazines, or junk mail.  Watch Mail Letter Names and Sounds.

Change a Letter, Change a Word:  Start with a three letter word. Have the child say the word and spell the word. Next, ask what letter would need to be changed to make a new word (e.g., What letter would you change when turning the word 'cat' into 'hat'?).  Watch Change a Letter, Change a WordSkill Sheet (optional)

Letter Bag:  Write individual letters or letter patterns (e.g., th, ch, sh, wh, ph) on paper. Cut or tear the individual letters or letter patterns apart and place in a bag. Have the child pull one piece of paper out of the bag and say the sound. Play together by taking turns pulling a piece of paper and saying the sound represented by the letters.

Rainbow Word:  Write a word for the child. Have the child write the same word using different colored utensils (e.g., marker, colored pencil, crayon) and using the key below to mark spelling patterns. Rainbow Words example:

  • Red- Consonant
  • Blue- Vowel
  • Orange- Digraph: two letters that make one sound (e.g., sh, ch, th, wh, ph, ck, ng)
  • Green- Bossy or Silent e: an e at the end of a word that is silent and makes the vowel say its name (e.g., kite, cake, broke)
  • Purple- Vowel Teams (e.g., ee, ei, ie, ea, ie, ou, oi, oy, ai, ay, oa, ow, ue)
  • Brown- R Controlled Vowels (e.g., ir, ur, er, or, ar)

Practice Activities (with Printables)

If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.

Word Puzzles:  Scramble letter cards and give the child a word to spell. As the child pulls each letter, have them say the letter sound.  Word Puzzles: Level 1 Word Puzzles: Level 2 Word Puzzles: Level 3

Sound Spelling Word Sort:  Review spelling patterns (e.g., sh, th, ch). Give the child one word card at a time to sort according to the spelling pattern. Watch Sound Spelling Word Sort. Digraphs, R Controlled Vowels

Online Activities

Word Force:  This interactive game engages children with fun, multi-level literacy development activities.

Letter Tile Phonics Practice phonics by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board. Access optional lists of words organized by the number of phonemes (or sounds) or by word families.

Sound-Spelling Patterns Practice the child's spelling words by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board.

Learn to Read:  This resource provides games, books, and skill practice.

Letter Sounds Make Words:  This Classroom Connection lesson focuses on identifying the sounds letters make in words, blending words together, and breaking sounds in words apart. Access an extension activity here.

Reading and Identifying Long or Short Vowel Words: This game has children read words and identify whether words have a long or short vowel sound.

Long Vowel Whack-A-Mole: This game allows children to determine if a word has a long or short vowel sound.

Whack-A-Mole with o-e: This game allows children to determine whether or not a word has a long o, spelled o-e as in hole.

Long e Spelling Sort: This activity includes sorting words according to spelling patterns.

Reading Buddies PBS TV Series

PBS Reading Buddies

The Reading League’s Reading Buddies is an engaging foundational reading television series that cleverly teaches underlying components of skillful word reading such as phonological awareness, letter names/sounds, and blending sounds to decode words.