Phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds. Phonics should help readers to decode unfamiliar words quickly.

Without phonics training, most readers, especially non-native English learners, will be at a standstill when they come to a new word in text. Use these activities to help your learners stay in the books.

Activity One: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Materials: Mirrors, Polaroid or another instant camera, pictured word cards or a picture book, recording device.

Step 1: As the instructor, be sure you know the right mouth shapes to produce the phonemes for each grapheme. Geology can often play a role in how we say a word, but it is important for learners to know the standard pronunciation when it come to connecting sounds to spelling. Watch this video for help!

Step 2: Watch the above video with students. Have them practice each letter. Make it fun by adding some music so the rest of their bodies can dance with their mouths.

Step 3: Read some words together. The instructor will show and say a word (for ELL students be sure to have a visual that matches the word). The participants will repeat the word. Then the instructor will break the word down by graphemes, and point to their mouth while slowly saying each phoneme to match the grapheme.

For example:
Instructor: CAT
Participants: CAT
Instructor (pointing to mouth and showing each letter while saying the sound): C   /c/
Participants: /c/
Instructor: A /a/
Participants: /a/
Instructor: T /t/
Participants: /t/

Step 4: Participants and Instructor with repeat the word. This time the participants will repeat the word and each sound while looking in the mirror at their mouths. They should strive to make the same shape as the instructor.

Here is a video to help:

Step 5: The participants will now practice making the mouth (and tongue) movements/shapes without releasing any sound. They should use their mirror to ensure they are making the right shape.

Step 6: Divide the participants into pairs. Each pair will be assigned two simple words  (with accompanying images to help remind them of the word) to mouth. They will use their mirror to practice making the mouth shapes for each letter sound.

Step 7: Have each pair take a picture of their mouth for each letter sound on the word. Print the pictures and paste them under the letters for the word. You can also record them saying the words.

Step 8: Set up a visual sound museum. Post the videos, pictures, words and mirrors around the room and let your participants explore the sounds and mouth shapes in the space.

Activity Two: Word-Ending Slap

photo 1

You have probably hear the giggles and startling smacks of adults and children play Sight Word Slap. Well, what about for readers who want to learn common word ending sounds so they can decode? Afterall, every word they learn will not be a sight word.

Materials: two fly swatters, or really any rubber or soft shape at the end of a stick. Cards with word endings and a list of words that contain those word endings.

Step 1: Practice saying the common word endings. Make sure the participants repeat each word ending sound while looking at the letter that make that word ending. Then offer a word that contains that word ending sound.

For Example:
Instructor holds up “ap” and says: /ap/
Participants: /ap/
Instructor: /ap/ like in /slap/, /sl/ + /ap/
Participants: /ap/, /sl/ /ap/, /slap/

Step 2: After practicing the word endings that will be used in the game, lay the word ending out on a table, or tape them to a wall or board. Point to each one and say the sound(s) of the word ending.

Step 3: Select two participants for battle. Give them each a swatter. Say a word. The first participant to slap the right word ending wins the point.


Both activities work on revisiting the phonemes and using them to build language. This is especially important for non-native Standard English speaking populations. Accents and non-standard English norms that become present based on environment, culture, or speech impediments can make it difficult to connect letters to sounds. If your parents never say the Ts at the ends of their words, then Tt is a useless letter when spelling. We must teach students the relationship between letters and sounds. These two activities get mouths moving and ears listening.


Unfortunately, these activities work best for learners without hearing or visual disabilities.

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