Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Word Games and Activities

For my last post of 2015, I'm offering a couple of printable board games with a Christmas theme, for children to play and practice Sight Words - they can be used with any words that need to be practised or revised over the holidays.

The first is a black-and-white version of "Santa Words", which can be cheaply printed/photocopied onto thick paper for children to take home over the holidays and colour in.

Santa Words B&W printable game

"Santa's Helpers" is another fun game for Sight Words practice:

Santa's Helpers col. Printable Reading Game 

These games are best printed onto A4 size light card; they can be laminated before use. 
They will also need "Sight Words' cards (these can be words written on small pieces of card) a die/dice or spinner, and small tokens or 'movers' (buttons, small pieces of coloured card etc). 
The games will be available for free download (for educational, non-commercial use) during the rest of December and the beginning of January.

As it's getting near the end of December, I thought I should also add links to some of my free Christmas activities on my other websites…

Christmas computer Jigsaws, clipart - http://www.epuzzled.net/holidayfun.htm

Christmas songs (also links to clipart, eCards) - http://www.cathyschords.com/christmassongs.htm
                            These song sheets have lyrics and chords for guitar; 
                            there are also some song sheets on the site for ukulele and banjo.

Christmas games –  Santa Snatch, Santa Swap http://www.free-fun-n-games.com/funstuff.htm
                               These games are lots of fun for a Christmas gathering – they don’t need expensive gifts, and are suitable for all age groups. 

I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season... I will be back next year with more ideas and resources for teaching reading.

Sight Words practice- "Christmas Movers" for board games

Oops... I thought I had scheduled this post for the beginning of December, when I went away for a few days, but I just realised it hadn't been published... so I'll post it now along with this week's post!

Board games are a great way to get children to practise their Sight Words- whether you use flash cards or just cut up pieces of light card or thick paper and write on the words your child needs to practise.

You can use almost any board game, if you make a rule that when a player has a turn, he has to read a word card correctly before he rolls the dice!

Last week I posted a Christmas-themed board game for use with sight words cards, and this week I'm posting some 'movers' to use with the game (or with any other board games to give them a Christmas theme).

You just need to print them onto light card, then cut out and glue them (assembly instructions are included). Your child may also like to copy the design to make their own movers with small stickers or their own drawings.

This sheet of Christmas Games Movers will be available for free download in December (for educational, non-commercial use).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Sight Word game

Here is a printable board game with a Christmas theme that you can use to help children practise their Sight Words; just use any words they need to practise, written onto small cards.
You will also need some 'Movers' or tokens and a die or spinner.

                                                   Santa Words printable board game

For best results, print the game board onto light card, and laminate before use.
This game will be available for free download (for educational, non-commercial use) until Christmas.

Next week, I'll post some "movers" to print, assemble and use with the game - and later in the month, I'll post a 'colour-in' version that you can print or copy to send home with your students to encourage them to keep practising their sight words over the holidays.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sight Words Practice - Motorbike Race board game

Appealing to the boys...

I developed this simple board game a couple of years ago to appeal to several of my boys who would much rather be out riding their dirt bikes than practising their reading skills!

The game can be used with any sight vocab cards; I laminated a coloured-in copy on card for use at school with small groups, and gave the children their own paper copy to colour in and keep for use at home.


Motorbike Race -printable game board

It just needs some word cards, some kind of tokens (‘movers’) and a die or spinner to go with the game board. It's a very simple game to play, with lots of picture spaces on the board to give the players more chances to read word cards.
You can download this game for free during November (for private/educational use). Click on the picture or caption for the PDF file.

Friday, October 23, 2015

"Long E" - ea

/ea/ is a common way of writing the 'long e' sound, and it's in many simple words, so it's fun for children to explore.

I've made a couple of worksheets for this letter pattern: one is a poem with spaces to fill in, and the other has room for children to make their own poem using -eat words.

You can download and print off the sheets by clicking on the links below:

 My Flea Fear _ea worksheet

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Long E" - ee

The 'long e' sound spelled /ee/ is very common in many basic vocab words, so it's a good one to introduce early.

Children can have lots of fun making up poems with -ee words: see, bee, tree, three, free, knee, agree etc. (the, be, me, he, we and she are also useful words to use).

This week, I'm posting a game with /ee/ words. I've done this one as a 'colour-in' game that children can colour and play (cheap to print and copy, too). You are welcome to use this game for educational, non-commercial use. It will be available for free download for a week.

Click on the links to open the PDF document to print. For best result, print on light card before colouring.  Colour the bee 'mover' tokens different colours, and glue onto small squares or circles of thicker card (or just glue on small pieces of different coloured thick card or counters).

You will also need a die(dice) to play this game.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Long I sound -y

This week's post is about words using y with a 'long I' sound. I've made a short poem using these words. You can print it for children to highlight or circle the 'long I' sounds.

Click on the link below to open the .PDF to print. This worksheet will be available for free download this month, for educational, non-commercial use.

Children may be able to think of other _y words (e.g. by, fry, sty, sly); they could write a list of these words then make up and illustrate their own sentences or poems.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sight Words Practice ( -igh words or general use) - Free printable Halloween Game for October

My students have always loved using a board game with Sight Words cards, and Fright Night is an old favourite. You can cut up some small pieces of card and write out the words you want them to practice, or use the Sight Word cards you're currently working on. The game is especially suitable for -igh words.

This game is suitable for Halloween, but it's fun at any time. You can print it onto light card and laminate for group use, or you can copy it off in black-and-white onto paper and give each student their own copy to keep and re-use. Players will also need dice and small tokens/movers.

Fright Night

This board game will be available for free download (for personal/educational, strictly non-commercial use) during October.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Long I" sound

The most common ways of writing the "long I" sound are i_e and igh, so I've made a fun worksheet that you can print for reading practice highlighting these letter patterns.

This sheet will be available for free download for the next 2 weeks.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Long A" sounds word matching

There are lots of words using a 'long A' sound; the most common ways of spelling this sound are ay, ai and a_e.

I have made a set of cards that may be used for matching or as a challenging memory game (3 cards need to be matched to get a set, not just 2).

You can download this free printable set of cards until the end of this month - or you can make your own sets. Your students could help you think of words to use.

 Memory/Matching Cards: Long A

To print the cards, click on the link above to open the .PDF file, and print on light card. I have made the font grey rather than black so the words don't show through the cards easily, but I have also made a grey 'backing' that you can print on the back (see below). You may prefer to use coloured card.

For best results, laminate before cutting up the cards, and keep the cards in a zip-lock bag for future use.

 Backing for Cards_Diagonal Weave_Grey

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Vowel blends: oi/oy revision

This week I'm posting a Bingo game with -oi-/-oy words to help children learn or revise these vowel patterns.

The game will be available for free download for a week; click on links below to open .PDF sheets to download/print onto light card (laminate before cutting out for best results).

You will also need small counters or pieces of card for players to use to mark or cover the words as they are called out (10 for each player).

Here are the links for the .PDF sheets:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

/ai/ digraph revision - free printable board game for September

This month, I've made a new printable board game using commonly words with the /ai/ digraph. It can be printed onto light card and laminated for best results. You will also need dice and movers/tokens to play the game.

The game will be available for free download during September from my Free-Fun-n-Games site: free-fun-n-games.com/readinggamestoprint 

The site has more free printable reading games and fun resources/information, as well as some useful teaching resources that are currently available for a small donation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

oi,oy diphthong, digraph

The oi/oy letter pattern is another digraph ( sound symbol made of 2 letters) which is also a diphthong (a vowel sound which changes as you say it "oi-ee").

It's a good one to teach straight after the ai/ay pattern as, although it's not as commonly used, it follows a similar pattern.

The "key" words I find useful for learning this letter pattern are boy and toy for /oy/ and boil or join for /oi/.

It's also fun for children to say "Oi!" You can easily make up an "Oi!" game: make some word cards with "Oi!", boy, toy, Roy, Troy, Joy, annoy.... Children can take turns to make up an "Oi!" sentence, e.g. "Oi! Roy! Don't break my toy!" - they need to hold up each card as they say the word. If you like, they can write down their "Oi!" sentence or story.

You can download the "Oi!" game instructions here:

Here is a worksheet that you can download for children to use to list oi/oy words:

 oi/oy worksheet

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ai/ay Bingo game

Continuing the /ay/ sound theme, this week I'm posting a Bingo game with ay/ai words. The game is suitable for use with a small group of 3-5 children (one can be the Caller).

Children always seem to enjoy Bingo (Lotto) games and they are an easy way to encourage children to practise sight vocab, word families etc.

This game will be available for free download this week:

For best results, print onto light card and laminate before cutting out. You will also need some small pieces of card or counters for the players to use for covering the words on their card.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"ay" sound practice

This week, I've written a worksheet to practise /ay/, /ai/ (and also /ey/ as in they). It's in the form of a story: "Sailing Day"; it's a simple story so it also gives early readers practice in reading text.

You can print this story for children to circle or highlight all the 'ay' sounds. It will be available for download until the end of the month.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Letter blend/digraph /ay/

Following on from last week's post about diphthongs, digraphs, letter blends etc., this week I'm posting a game available for download this month.

Whether you call it a diphthong, digraph or letter blend, the /ay/ letter pattern is a very useful one which children will encounter fairly early in their reading and spelling (play, day, Monday, etc.), so I made up a simple board game to highlight this letter pattern.

The printable board game can be downloaded until the end of the month.
There are also printable instructions and word cards to download:

Have a look at my Free-Fun-n-Games site: free-fun-n-games.com/readinggamestoprint for more free printable reading games and fun resources/information, as well as some useful teaching resources that are still available for a donation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Letter Blends, digraphs, trigraphs, diphthongs…

Once children have mastered most of the common sounds we use for single letters, and can blend them together to make words or ‘chunks’, we need to introduce sounds made by more complex letter patterns.

Some sounds are written with 2 letters (digraphs), e.g. consonant sounds th, sh, ch, ph, ck, ng, and vowel sounds:  ee, oo, ay, ar etc. Some will use 3 letters (trigraphs) or more, e.g. igh, ore, tch, thr; also ough as in bough or brought.  As the original meaning of graph was written (and di was two, tri was three), it’s easy to work out what the words digraph and trigraph represent.

The word diphthong refers to a vowel sound (phthong) where two sounds are blended together. It’s easy to think of ‘ay’, ‘ow’ or even ‘or’ as only one sound, but if you think carefully as you say them (even put your fingers next to your mouth), you will realise that your mouth is actually making one sound then 'gliding' to another sound. 

Children enjoy exaggerating the diphthongs so they can hear the two sounds – and it can even help them to spell some, such as ‘ay’ and ‘ow’, when they can hear the /y/ or /w/ sound at the end. 

Here is a worksheet to use with children learning ay/ai:

I don’t worry about using the terminology of digraph, trigraph, diphthong etc. with my intervention children and their parents who have enough to cope with, so I just use the loose terms ‘vowel blends’, ‘letter blends’, ‘letter patterns’ etc.

Note - Letter ‘blends’ is also the term commonly used for consonant blends such as bl, cr, st, nt.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Whether you are teaching one child to read or working with a whole class of students, it's handy to have a checklist to assess the skills they have mastered and what they have yet to work on.

Reading is a very complex skill, involving not just the recognition of symbols (letters), but the range of sounds and combinations of the letters, the arrangement of the letters into syllables and meaningful words, the formation of phrases and sentences, the recognition and use of punctuation, and the ability to read with understanding of the context and meaning.

Here is a checklist you can download to use for assessing pre-reading and early reading skills:

                                                        "Early Reading Skills" Checklist

There are some blank lines for you to add any extra aspects that you wish to assess.

Most of the terminology should be self-explanatory, but here is an explanation of some of the terms used in the list:

'Voiced' letters use the voice box: e.g. b, d, g, v, z;
'non-voiced' letters don't use the voice box: e.g. p, t, k, f, s

Directional confusion - e.g. reading from left to right, missing parts of text

Digraphs -  2 letters forming one sound – they can be consonants or vowels; e.g. vowel digraphs ay, ai, ee, ea; consonant digraphs sh, th, ch, ck, ng

"1st, medial, last sound in cvc word": a 'cvc' word is one formed from a consonant, a vowel and a consonant, e.g. c-a-t, d-o-g. Children need to be able to identify the sounds they hear in the word - the 1st sound, medial (middle) sound and last sound.

'short vowels' are: a as in at, e as in egg, i as in it, o as in off, u as in up

"talking" segments in text refers to speech segments, usually indicated by quotation or "talking" marks

Alliterating is forming phrases or sentences where most or all of the words begin with the same sound, e.g. "four fun frogs", messy Millie", "six silly snails sailed on six slippery sausages"

"Hearing incorrect/odd structure in sentence"- children need to be able to hear if they have made a mistake resulting in an incorrect sentence, e.g. if they read "the cat sat in mat", they should realise it's incorrect and go back to re-read the sentence

Varying volume and pitch - refers to using expression when talking and reading aloud, making the voice softer or louder, making it go up and down rather than just a monotone.

Non-word - refers to a 'word' that is not an actual real word, e.g. 'nonsense' words like fip, rog, lin, semp; these can be very useful (and fun) in helping children to decode words.

"own vocab" refers to a basic collection of words that  child can read, and will vary with each child: usually the child's name, possibly other family names, plus simple, familiar words such as zoo, cat, a, the, I, Mum, Dad...

"weird words" refers to words that don't follow normal spelling rules or patterns; children need to be able to remember these by sight. Examples are: the, they, you, come, some, one, two

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Learning letters and words: "Smack" game

"SMACK!" is a fun game for children of any age, but it's especially useful for Grade 1-2 children as it practises spelling short words and also letter formation.

Each player needs pencil and paper, and you also need a blackboard or whiteboard.

The game needs at least 3 players. One player is the "Letter Writer"; the others write a 5-letter word (or a 4-letter word if the players are younger) on their paper.

The Letter Writer begins writing letters of the alphabet on the board. The others cross off any letter that appears in their word.

When a player has crossed off all his letters, he hits the table and calls out "Smack!" This player now has a turn to be the Letter Writer.

Note- if a player's word has a repeated letter, he can only cross off one at a time... so he may need to wait quite a while before the Letter Writer repeats that letter!

You can vary the number of letters in the words for each round if you like - especially for older players. You could also let each child in turn be the Letter Writer if you prefer.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Learning Letter Patterns: /oo/ as in foot, fool

This is a game I made a few years ago to help my Reading Intervention students.

The /oo/ pattern in words can be confusing for beginner readers.

The long oo sound as in boot is learnt relatively easily, as zoo and too are words that children learn early on.

Then they come across words such as look and good or pool and tool, in which /oo/ can have different sounds.

The pronunciation can depend on your accent, of course, e.g. 'look' or 'good' with a Scottish accent can have a long oo sound (- it can be fun and quite enlightening to play around with different accents when teaching children to read!)

You can download the game board and word cards to print onto light card, then laminate for best results before cutting out the cards. You will also need a die (dice) and some tokens or 'movers' (e.g. counters, buttons).

Look Look game board

Look Look game - word cards

This game will be available for free download during July 2015; you are welcome to use it for personal, non-commercial educational purposes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Encouraging Struggling Learners

Because learning to read is seen as such a fundamental and vital skill, children who don't manage it easily can become very discouraged and can lose faith in themselves.

No matter how we try to discourage comparison and competition, children who are falling behind with reading are usually very aware of their 'failing'.

It's really important to highlight the other areas in which they are strong. Whether they have skills at sports, in art or music, in construction and invention, have wide general knowledge, or are 'just' caring and kind people, we should be encouraging their self-esteem by focusing on these positive attributes rather than just the areas in which they struggle.

It's also important for children to see that other people are not perfect, that others have areas in which success is more difficult, and that it's normal. It's very easy for a child whose school work is blighted by reading difficulty to feel that they are 'dumb' and that everyone else is OK.

Adults can help by focusing on and encouraging the effort that everyone makes in whatever area is a challenge, rather than just on achievements. They can also show that adults are not perfect and that they are always learning and making mistakes - and that it's OK. Teachers, parents and other 'mentors' can have a very positive effect by showing that they are relaxed about making mistakes (and even letting children correct them)!

You are welcome to print off the posters here to encourage your learners; there are 'colour-in' versions below if you have children who like colouring. Click on the poster to open the .PDF to print.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Silly Sentences - l and l words

Not surprisingly, many children get confused with capital i and lower-case l (in many fonts they are identical, and beginner readers are not always able to use the context to identify the letters - some will even read "I" in the middle of a word instead of l).

I created some words using I, i and l to help children practise these letters, and they had lots of fun making "silly sentences" with the words.

You can download the sheet of words, print onto light card and laminate before cutting up for best results, or you can just write these or similar words onto pieces of card.

Add extra words if you like, but remember to allow for correct punctuation - words with capital letter for the start of the sentence and full stop/exclamation mark etc. for the end of the sentence.

Here is the i/l Silly Sentence sheet:

You are welcome to download this sheet and use it for educational, non-commercial purposes, or to link to this page, but not to share the file itself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Silly Sentences - for sight words practice, grammar and sentence structure

"Silly Sentences" are lots of fun for children who are beginning to read words. You can make your own word cards from cut up cereal boxes etc. and include words that your child can read easily, including family names, with a few extra words to help make a sentence.

Your child can help to decide which words are needed to make a short sentence. Don't forget a card with a full stop (or exclamation mark, or, if necessary, a question mark) to put at the end. You can also discuss the need for a capital letter at the start of the sentence. This is an excellent way to introduce your child to basic essential punctuation, and a fun way to practice grammar and sight vocabulary.

Encourage your child to swap the word cards around to make different sentences, and to check if they 'sound right' (encouraging awareness of sentence structure) and if they make sense. Add in extra cards as needed and put in some 'silly' words to make it more fun.

This game can be played over and over, adding in more cards as you like, and extending your child's sight vocabulary as you go!

You can keep the cards in a little zip-lock bag, and you can write the words in different colours if you wish. You may want to write verbs and adjectives in a different colour, to help your child to develop awareness of the function of different kinds of words.

Here is a sheet of words you can print off onto light card to start off with:

Click on the picture to open a .pdf document which you can print. This printable is free for educational/private use. You are welcome to pin this but not to distribute the file directly ;)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Word Wizard Challenge sight word game

This is the printable reading game for this month - it's a scan of a board game I made a few years ago.

I originally drew it it black, printed it on coloured card, then decorated with glitter pen, glitter and stars before laminating; simple but it's been very well-used and it's been helpful to get children to practise common sight words.

I added in several words (e.g. Mum, Dad, cat, zoo) which are not on many Sight Words list, but give beginner readers confidence as they often seem to pick them up easily.

It's fun and rewarding to make your own board games to help your children learn, and children often have their own ideas to contribute, too!

Here is the Word Wizard Challenge game:

Word Wizard Challenge game
Word Wizard Challenge instructions.

Click on the links above to open a .pdf file to print (the instructions are on a separate page - you can print them on the back of the game if you like). You are welcome to download and print this game for your personal, educational use. It will be available through June.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Repairing Pre-loved books

Whether you get books for your children from second-hand shops, op shops/thrift shops, yard sales/garage sales or as hand-me-downs, it’s worth repairing them to make reading them as pleasant as possible.

This not only encourages your child to read and enjoy the books, but also indirectly teaches him that books have value (…and also makes them last longer).
If you have old valuable collectable books, it’s better to leave repairs to the experts, but the average well-read children’s book can benefit from a bit of TLC.

Book repair kit-

My essentials to keep on hand for book repairs are:
  • a clean, good-quality eraser for pencil marks (and maybe an ink eraser for biro marks)

  • invisible tape for repairing tears in pages, bad creases and loose pages,
  • clear contact plastic/ adhesive book covering plastic for repairing covers (or for covering special books)

  • clear craft glue (the kind that comes with a nozzle and dries fast), for repairing spines or worn/separating cover corners, and toothpicks for applying (you could use white PVA glue, but it dries very slowly and is inclined to run, so is much harder to use for page repairs; it’s really only OK for repairing covers).

  • bleach solution (about 1:1 bleach/water), Q-tips/cotton buds & paper towel or tissues for light marks and water-based pen

  • correction fluid or tape (‘White-Out’) for covering indelible marker or biro that won’t rub out

  • eucalyptus oil for cleaning sticky marks (e.g. from price stickers, sticky fingers) off book covers and generally brightening up the cover (if you can’t get eucalyptus oil, you can try lighter fluid or spray cleaner but apply carefully on a cloth or paper towel and be very careful that you don’t rub off the printing or colour on the cover. If you like, you can buff up the cleaned cover with spray furniture polish for a nice-to-handle finish.

You’ll also need sharp scissors for cutting tape/contact plastic neatly, and if the spine is beyond repair you may need duct tape as a last resort – repair first as much as you can with the craft glue, then put duct tape over the spine; you can re-write the book title on with a Sharpie marker).


I don’t recommend using normal shiny sticky tape, as it perishes and yellows after a few years; I’ve found that the more opaque ‘invisible’ tape blends in better to the pages and lasts much better. For repairing shiny covers, you can cut clear contact plastic/ adhesive book covering plastic into strips if the invisible tape is too matte. I always keep off-cuts when covering books, to use for repairs when needed.

I put my bleach solution into an old eye-dropper bottle – very clearly labelled – but you can mix up a little in a throw-away bottle top and use a Q-tip/cotton bud to apply. Apply carefully to marks so that you don’t wet the page too much, and blot off quickly.

Caution: Make sure you keep your repair kit in a safe place, well out of reach of children, as the craft glue, bleach and eucalyptus oil/lighter fluid are all toxic (not to mention not wanting to get sharp scissors or liquid paper into little hands…)!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reading Stories to Children

I have never met a child who doesn't love having stories read to them - even older children who are independent readers will enjoy being read to.

You can so easily find wonderful books at your local library, or your child may be able to borrow them from school or pre-school.

To build up a collection of favourites and your own home library, visit charity shops, car boot sales or yard sales to pick up good pre-loved books cheaply. Libraries may also sell off books (often high-quality hard-cover picture books) that are well-used and just need some TLC and repair with invisible tape and/or craft glue.

Old but still good....

Free 'online' books are readily available for you to read to or with your child. There are links to sites with picture books or story books for children on my ePuzzlEd website (ePuzzlEd  Stories for Children), and in my Pinterest board:

You don't even need to have a book; re-telling old favourites can be wonderful fun, with exaggerated expression and even some actions! You can make up your own stories or tell stories about your childhood. Start simple, ham it up and have fun - you will find you'll get better with practice and your child will tell you if you get anything wrong! If you like, you can use some props (hats, glasses etc., puppets, feltboard) to help tell the story. This Pinterest board may give you some ideas:

 Puppets and People - Pinterest board

The very best way to listen to a story is to have someone read or tell it personally, but you can also find audio books online that your child can listen to when you are busy, on long car trips etc. (see ePuzzlEd  Stories for Children page as above for some links to free audio books and stories to download).

Remember that stories are  not just a fun activity for children; they are a wonderful way to develop a child's sense of our language- the rhythms, speed and pitch variations, articulation, grammatical structure etc. that are all essential for developing good reading skills - so dig out those stories, get reading with your child and have fun!