Category Archives: Fun

Printable wordbuilding card games

Please note that as of July 2019, the games in this post have been superseded by the ones you can find in this blog post.

It’s been pouring for most of today here in Melbourne, so I’ve been feeling sorry for everyone stuck indoors during the summer holidays. On the plus side, this has motivated me to finally stop obsessively polishing my four new word-building card games, and make them available here.

These games are designed to help learners practice their blending and phoneme manipulation skills, and to learn how to use and combine a variety of graphemes (spelling patterns) representing individual phonemes (speech sounds) in English.

You can find fairly detailed descriptions of each game in each one’s entry in my website shop, so I’ll just put little videos about each one plus a summary in this blog post.

“Short” vowel wordbuilding game

Here learners build words using single-letter vowel spellings, and consonant spellings including “ck”, “ng”, “ff”, “ll”, “ss”, “zz”, “x”, “tch” and “dge”, “sh”, “ch” and “th”. This game also provides lots of opportunities to learn which consonant combinations (blends) are typical of English, such as “fl” and “str” but not “vm” at word beginnings, and “nch” and “mp” but not “jn” at word endings. Continue reading

Make them laugh and let them win

Parents often report difficulty getting their children to work on their reading and spelling at home. Sometimes it’s hard even to get them to play games.

Children with reading and spelling difficulties tend to associate these activities with failure and unhappiness, so of course at first they aren’t too keen on them.

We need them to associate reading and spelling with success and happiness, so they’ll work willingly and get through the amount of work they need to do to catch up. It’s vital to choose work that’s at the right level and give them lots of strong and specific praise.

Games are a great opportunity to really heap on the success and happiness. Here’s a short video of me teaching the great little boy who appeared in my last two videos how to pay memory, using cards from the Get Reading Right Picture This card game.

He didn’t read a lot of words during this game, but he had a great time, and learnt how to play the game. The next steps would be to speed up the game and add more cards so he is reading more, and then introduce different cards with additional sounds and letters, and/or longer words. There are six decks of cards in this card game, so it gives lots of opportunities for controlled reading practice.

As always, thanks so much to the boy in the video and his parents for letting me make and share this video.

Books need to make sense

After yesterday posting a video of myself assisting a beginner to read a simple decodable book, I went looking for similar videos by others. Surely there must be lots of good ones out there on the amazing internets, right?

Well, it was slim pickings, and much of what I found was rather cringeworthy. People showing off their overachieving preschoolers, people teaching in a dull, didactic way and children memorising and reciting books or looking at pictures, first letters and guessing. Perhaps I am not searching correctly, please someone tell me if I'm not.

I found one interesting, 2010 homemade video of a great little kid called Kaylee reading a couple of decodable books to an adult, presumably her mother. They clearly had a nice relationship, and were on the right track from a decoding point of view.

Here's the video, I hope you will just watch Kaylee reading the first book (the first two-and-a-half minutes) and then read on.

Continue reading

Teaching beginning spelling

There’s lots written about how to help a child learn to read and write, and lots of people talking about how to do it on video.

However, there seem to be very few useful video demonstrations, apart from a few classroom-based Direct Instruction ones, like this one.

Parents of struggling readers/spellers are mostly working one-to-one with their child, not in classrooms. So I’ve decided to make some short video demonstrations of activities parents and others can do with beginners at home to build reading and spelling skills. Seeing is believing, and all that.

Here’s the first cab off the rank, a demonstration of how I use my downloadable, printable Workbook 1 with beginning writers/spellers. I’ve highlighted useful teaching tactics with onscreen text.

Thanks so much to the wonderful and hilarious little boy in this video, and his parents, for allowing me to make and share it. Continue reading

Phonics crosswords

I have a student working on vowel spellings who’s keen to do crosswords, so I went looking for ones with words organised by spelling pattern.

I found lots of crosswords in the book “Activities for Successful Spelling – the essential guide” by Philomena Ott.

I’ve had this book for a long time, but I found incorrect information in the introduction e.g. it says “oo” as in “cook” and “oo” as in “pool” are diphthongs, and that some people are auditory learners, others kinaesthetic learners etc, so I was put off, and after having spent a lot of money on this book, haven’t really used it.

Here’s a crossword from this book:

Crossword that doesn't crossThis crossword provides practice with “ay” as in “bray, betray, jay, hay” etc. So it ticks my “does this activity make a point about spelling?” box. Continue reading

Top early literacy apps 2014

I’ve spent far too much of the last couple of long weekends searching for, and trying out, new iPad apps for teaching early reading and spelling.

Every time I do this, I feel very sorry for parents doing the same thing.

There were 1729 search results on the word “phonics”, 7,960 on “reading” and 2634 results on “spelling”. Where to start?! Even an opinionated person who knows what she’s looking for gets a bit overwhelmed.

There are few really good early literacy apps

Most early literacy apps are frankly dross, IMHO. I wouldn’t want any kids I know to use them.

A lot of expert reviewers also seem to recommend apps that make me scratch my head, and wonder whether they really work with reading/spelling beginners, or understand our spelling system.

I ended up deleting most of what I downloaded, because most of them looked better in the store than they were when I tried them, and some looked downright confusing and possibly harmful to children’s learning.

However, there were quite a few nice ones I hadn’t seen before. Some of them are fairly teddy-bearish and really only suitable for ages 4-7, but lots of them can also be used with older, low-progress learners too.

Continue reading


My new favourite things are Trugs.

No, not traditional Sussex woven baskets. Teaching Reading Using Games.

Trugs are card games designed to motivate learners to practice reading words.

Organised along Synthetic Phonics lines, Trugs start with short, simple words like “dug” and “mat”, then systematically add more sounds and spellings, and work all the way up to long, difficult words like “infectious” and “substitution”.

I went mad ape bonkers at the end of last year and bought Trugs At Home Boxes 1, 2 and 3 as a silly season present for myself.

Continue reading

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