5 Minute Phonics: Activity 4

Short & sweet activities and mini-lessons for beginning readers—designed by teachers, for learning at home.

What You’ll Need
: Grab a pencil and view the free template.

Why We Love It: The activity is fun, fast, and will help you determine the decodable texts your child needs!

Note: This activity can help you determine the decodable texts early readers should be reading. Pay very close attention throughout the activity to the sounds that take longer for them to retrieve—these are the letter sounds they should be practicing in their decodable readers!


Step 1: Show your beginning reader the template below. Note that there are some real words, and some “nonsense” words—these nonsense words help us to separate memory from actual decoding.

Step 2: Ask your child to slowly point to and sound out the words out loud, going in order of each column (each column deals with one specific vowel sound). This is where your listening skills come in—take notes as your beginning reader speaks:

Make a list of all mistakes involving vowel sounds when reading the decodable CVC words and nonsense words. Analyze patterns of errors regarding the vowels.

  • Is the vowel sound completely unknown?
  • Does the child need time for retrieval of the sound?
  • Does the child utilize a cue for retrieval, such as use of a multisensory technique?
  • Does the child confuse two vowel sounds, such as the i and e sounds?

Bonus: After you’ve finished listening and taking notes on the questions above, for fun, ask your beginning reader to identify the “nonsense” words.

After the Activity

The sequence of vowel instruction in the Whole Phonics™ curriculum is as follows: Unit 1, ă; Unit 2, ĭ; Unit 3, ŏ; Unit 4, ŭ; Unit 5, ĕ. Choose a starting point based on your error analysis. If a child knows the short ă and short ŭ sound, for example, then begin at Unit 2 in order to teach the short ĭ and short ŏ sounds. Keep the short ŭ sound in a sound deck for daily review of what is already known. Begin teaching based on the child’s errors in relation to the sequence above. Remember that the goal is rapid application of vowel knowledge when sounding out, so constant review of any learned vowel sounds is critical.

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