As soon as students learn a few sound-symbol correspondences, it’s important that they begin putting those letters/sounds together to form words. Nearly all reading programs begin phonics instruction by introducing a few common consonants with a vowel so that students can quickly begin reading and writing simple words (e.g. m, a, s, d, t…). How exciting is that for our young readers! By learning only a few letters and sounds, they can actually read! For example, just by learning the sounds of m, a, s, d and t, students can read and write words such as: mad, mat, Sam, and dad. Word building activities with known letters and sounds is a crucial component of our phonics instruction. During a word building activity, the teacher provides the students with selected letters. The lesson begins by having the student(s) build the base word (e.g. pet). The teacher then has the student(s) remove and place a different letter in a position to create a new word. So, for example, if the base word is “pet”, the teacher may say “change /p/ to /v/- what’s the new word? (vet), now change the /v/ to /w/ what’s the new word? (wet)”. The lesson continues and all letters in initial, medial, and final positions are changed to create new words. Word building activities are typically embedded within the lessons for the sounds already introduced.
During word building activities, it’s very important for students to have their own set of letters to manipulate. You can purchase letter tiles and word building mats commercially and I’ll leave a link below if that’s what you’d choose to do. Of course, purchasing a classroom set can be pretty expensive, so why now just make your own. Making the word building mat is very simple. I had some Washi tape left over from a previous project so I thought I’d put a border around the word building board, but that doing so is certainly optional. If you are pretty artsy like to “cutesie” your materials, just a word of caution for this activity. You want to keep it relatively simple as you want the focus to be on the letters and not on a distracting background. That’s why I kept the background for this mat a plain white.
Here are the directions for creating your own word building mats:
Step 1: Cut a 5 x 9″ section from poster board.
Step 2: Measure 1″ from the bottom of the 9″ side and make a mark on each side.
Step 3: Optional: Create a border using the Washi tape. I place half of the tape along the side and folded the other half behind the board.
Step 4: Fold the bottom of the board up from the measured 1″ side and staple the ends
Step 5: Place another strip of Washi tape across the opening of the pocket. Since there was a little white space left on the bottom, I added another strip of tape below.
Step 6: Print the letter cards on cardstock and cut each letter. Click the following link to download this free pdf file Word Building Letters
If you are not using an updated reading series and need lists for word building activities, Isabel and Mark Beck’s book Making Sense of Phonics has numerous lists that you can use. Not only do they have lists for building CVC words, their lists expand to include more advance concepts such as digraphs, r-controlled vowels and vowel teams.
Not sure you want to make your own? Here’s a link to the Making Words Mat Pocket Chart. The neat thing with this pocket chart is that it rolls up which makes it easy to store.