First Phonics Lesson

This game gets them to associate letters with word sounds by having students generate English words in various categories that start with specific letters.

Archived from Englipedia.
Originally submitted by Ryan Urie on Jun 20, 2011.

Detailed Explanation:

  • Start by having the students form into teams (I usually just use lunch groups). While they are moving desks, write your vocabulary categories across the top of the chalkboard. I use "Colors, Food, Animals and Sports" since this seems to be where their vocabularies are strongest. Then choose four or five letters and write them down the left side of the board, forming a grid (no need to actually draw in the grid lines though). Save some space on the right side of the board for score keeping.
  • At the start I take a moment to explain that, unlike hiragana or katakana, in English the name of a letter and its sound are different. I show them the letter "A," then provide the words "ace," "apple," and "America" as a demonstration. Then I take a moment to teach what sound each of the letters I've written on the board generally makes (I start with hard consonants and short vowels, but warn them that many letters also make other sounds).
  • Have one student from each team janken to determine which team will go first. Each team will then, in turn, try to think up a word that fits one of the provided category-letter combinations, which I then write in that grid space. For example, if you have the letter "B" provided, they can say "Blue" for the Color category, or "Banana" for the Food category, and so on. Multiple words in the same grid square are fine: blue, black brown, etc. If they get a word, they get one point (keep track however you like - I tend to let the homeroom teacher handle this). Only give them about ten seconds to come up with a word.
  • I go around the teams until they start running low on ideas (about three rounds with eight teams) and then switch the letters they can use. After another explanation of the sounds these new letters make, we continue as before. I can usually get in about three sets of letters in a 45-minute class period, so in two classes I manage to cover the whole alphabet.
  • I've tried a lot of different games involving matching vocabulary words to different alphabet letters, and this one seems to work the best as it's fast-paced, the phonics explanations are short, everyone can participate, and students can be constantly active, planning ahead during other team's turns. It also helps prevent that one kid who has lived abroad from dominating the game.


  • Instead of having each team provide one word at a time, you might also try having each team provide as many words as they can in 30 seconds or a minute, though this can create a burden for the team that goes last.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Since most of my sixth graders already knew their alphabet before the first lesson, rather than waste time rehashing it I wanted to take the next step and start teaching them alphabet sounds and basic phonics. It not only gets them started on phonics (and eventually reading) but is also a good confidence builder as they realize how many English words they already know!
  • My students are generally pretty interested in this activity. They may not be crazy-genki like with a more physical game, but they don't seem bored either. I keep score with tick marks for the sake of time, but if you want to liven things up, using something more interesting should do the trick (for example, I have hexagon-shaped cards with magnets and various scores on one side that I form into a honeycomb on the board; for a right answer students get however many points are on the hidden side of the hexagon they choose).
  • The Ministry of Education discourages teaching reading skills to sixth graders; however, as long as it doesn't detract from oral communication I don't see the problem. It's a skill they'll need soon enough in junior high. Any thoughts on this?

Total 1

Estimated time: 30 min

Submitted by: Englipedia Archive

December 04, 2019


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