When you think about five-year-olds, your mind likely conjures up an image of a magical little creature who loves legos, playgrounds, Spiderman, Elsa – and FUN. You probably didn't think of five-year-olds laughing and dancing and begging to do some phonics in kindergarten, right? Well…I'm here to tell you that phonics is fun.
Wait – let me rephrase that. Phonics in kindergarten CAN and SHOULD be fun. And when it is – they WILL beg for it. Trust me.
phonics in kindergarten
I've taught kindergarten for 10 years. Curriculums have come and gone and will continue to do so. Do you know what has stayed the same? Having fun in kindergarten with my magical five-year-olds while teaching kindergarten phonics. It's a mindset and a decision each day, and sometimes you have to get a little creative to keep them on their toes and interested. I want to share a few things that I have found that not only WORK – but will complement any curriculum you are required to use. But first…
What is phonics?
“Phonics is the process of teaching children to correlate an individual sound with its corresponding letter or letter group. The more easily they can hear, identify, and manipulate sounds, the easier it will be for them to decode new words when they are ready to read.” Scholastic, “Teaching Phonics Can Be Tricky: Here Are Some Pointers”
The above quote is from a good article that dives a bit further into why phonics is important and what phonics for kindergarteners looks like. So if you are interested in more of the ‘what is phonics' question, it's an informative and easy read – and I think helpful for parents. If you are less interested in the ‘what‘ and more interested in the ‘how‘ – read on!
Phonics is a non-negotiable in kindergarten. But to be honest, I'm not sure if my five-year-olds even know that they are doing “phonics” – they just think they are doing fun kindergarten activities and learning to read! I try to mix it up and keep them on their toes. Besides the required curriculum, I will sprinkle in the extra fun stuff, and they LOVE it.
CVC SHORT VOWEL GAMES
I made a reel on Instagram highlighting this awesome creation by The Simple Sweetness. This is what I said in the post:
✨👏🏻My kids are OBSESSED with this new way to work some FUN into our daily CVC work! This new short vowels movement bundle by @the_simplesweetness is nothing short of ✨BRILLIANT!✨Just LISTEN to their excitement! ALL levels love it—and it’s EXTRA helpful on rainy days and in my “over-crowded due to covid” classroom for a little burst of extra energy. I added the extra “mind-trick” word ✨CELEBRATE!✨ before each movement slide and it upped their enthusiasm even more!
I took some screenshots of the reel – so please forgive the blurry pics! (If you want to check it out on IG, I'm @kacibollskids – let's connect!) Message me if you can't locate the reel, and I'll send it to you so you can feel the pacing.
Here is a sampling from the slides and the directions – by The Simple Sweetness on Teachers Pay Teacher. Show your class the slide. Your students will: Write their answers on paper, whiteboards, etc. – Check their answer on the next slide – and then get a quick movement break!
We use the dry-erase sleeves that you'll see below. I have them say the picture, sound it out, tap it out, write it – and then I say “Chin it to Win it!” That way, I can see everyone's writing. While they are completing it, I will say things like, “Check out your b,” prompting them to correct reversals, etc. It's very fast-paced and a great way to practice phonics in kindergarten!
The Secret Stories – The most fun in kindergarten!
✨Yalllll….we headed into spring break today ALLL excited about @thesecretstories!!
1. I am Super serious about hooking these kids— thus my extremely intense “shhhh!” face
2. I have never had a pinky promise with 24 freshly hand sanitized pinkies
3. I have never had a secret code phrase like “macaroni doodle all the day”
4. I have never had 14 girls and 10 boys and let me just say drama reigns supreme in this classroom 😉
5. I have never been more “teacher tired” in my liiiiife
I have a LOT to say about The Secret Stories. A LOT. In fact, you should definitely read this post dedicated to this game-changing gift that made its way into my classroom. And hear me now: It DOES NOT take away your required curriculum IT ENHANCES IT. If you want to have fun in kindergarten, you simply must take a look at this. I'm MORE than happy to answer any questions you have – because trust me! I'm SURE I had them too before I gave it a go!
Five-Year-Olds Love The Secrets – It Makes Phonics FUN!
I am convinced more and more of the magic this makes for five-year-olds as they learn to read. A text from a parent showed up this past weekend. It said,
A Y at the beginning says its name, and the y at the end puts on the e or i cape. He's sneaky y.
WH is like Mr. Schumacher (our PE teacher) because they run around and do exercises the whole day
Oy and oi love to bounce….oy oy oy (like boing)
I'm getting these rapid fire while he's getting ready for bed. He just explained (and showed me) how rude TH is! HA!
Kids remember these stories because the letters act like they do. It's teaching behaviors they already know vs. teaching skills only. The Secret Stories act like a strong current in your classroom. Whether your kids are barely dog-paddling or already good swimmers – they are all helped along by the current.
This past week I got to see Katie Garner, the creator and brilliant mind behind The Secret Stories, speak at an event for Save The Children. She said so many things that summed up what I've experienced in my classroom, but this one stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing: “Sharing The Secret Stories is like handing out a fast pass at Disney for the rides. I mean, you can definitely stand in the long lines and take your time to get there – but wouldn't you want to save that time to ride MORE rides? Fast-tracking allows them more time – more access to knowledge.”
TO SUMMARIZE. THE SECRET STORIES:
- Mind Blowing.
- Back door to the brain
- Your kids drive the train
- Teaching will never be the same
Did I mention that blog post you should read? Here it is again. 😉
Games to Play In Kindergarten
These are SO easy to make. I use them in my class, but if you are teaching online – they work great too. This is taken from an IG post. It was in the virtual madness timeframe – but I think it sums up how I use the cards nicely!
✨”Virtually” approved? YES!
As we were assembling yet another packet for pick up for our kindergarten virtual learning, I wanted a quick and easy fun phonics drill to add to the new year. I have a class set of these EASY to-make vowel cards, we have always done in person. This will be a great way for them to listen for that middle vowel sound without having to unmute and mute! 🙌🏻😆
I will say a word, and they will listen for the vowel sound. If I say, “lot”, students will move their clothes pin to the short O sound and hold up, example pictured.
TA-DAH! 👏🏻 Hands-on easy peasy! (When things really get spicy I will mix it up with long and short sounds. I will post a short video this week on what that looks like! It’s pretty hilarious! 😆)
They love it!
Phonics in Kindergarten – Fun Activities
⭐️ One of my favorite ways to get in a little bit of daily practice for foundational skills—with a SIMPLE setup! (Yes, please!) You need:
– Dry-erase sleeve
– Dry-erase marker
– Basic templates for CVC words and word families
I switch out the seasonal templates (I'm happy to email you a set if you want! Just let me know in the comments or send me a message!) If you scroll back up and see the short vowel CVC practice with movement by The Simple Sweetness – this is the template we use! I find the boxes really help them out too. They are also free to come up with their own words if they are fast finishers.
On the flip side of the dry-erase sleeve, I keep a word family template. They love working on these! They pick a word family and come up with all of the family members they can. Then they use those words to write a silly sentence. They really come up with some doozies too! I love it because it works for all levels – and they also love to pair up and work together.
Five-Year-Olds are the best. Just Have Fun in Kindergarten!
So, let's draw this thing to a close for now. Hopefully, I've convinced you (if you needed convincing) that phonics for kindergartners CAN BE FUN. It SHOULD BE FUN. And if you still don't believe me, then quite possibly you need to look at this collection of pictures. These are nothing special. They are snapshots I grabbed off of my Instagram – and they could be from any day at any given hour in kindergarten.
If you think phonics is just not fun – then put on a headband and some crazy glasses. Turn yourself into a superhero. Wear finger socks from a Mini-Twister game and do some warm-ups before writing with some weights that used to be a Christmas ornament. (Don't ask. Too random to even believe.) Throw a Smartie Party. Do what you must to keep the attention of those five-year-olds. Because kindergarten SHOULD BE a magical place they remember.
Phonics workbooks alone are just not gonna cut it. 😉
If you have a soon-to-be kindergartener or know someone who does – be sure to download my free pdf that will give you a behind-the-scenes peek into our world! Trust me – if you read this BEFORE KINDERGARTEN – your teacher will LOVE YOU!!