What are Phonics Boxes & Why You Need Them


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Do you teach phonics in your classroom? Are you looking for an innovative way to help your students practice their phonics skills? It’s often said that when schools (and teachers) leave phonics out, most students struggle to read. While some teachers choose to focus on the meaning of words, there are some of us who place a greater emphasis on phonics. Looking at the evidence… children who receive systematic phonics instructions tend to read better and quicker than students who don’t. This is one of the main reasons why I love using phonics boxes in my classroom.

What are phonics boxes?

Simply put, phonics boxes are little plastic boxes that store different phonics activities. I personally like to use Iris Photo Boxes and use task cards to create games, but you can choose any kind you want. If you plan to add a variety of activities, consider using a color code system for easy clean up, organization, and storage.

These activity boxes are the perfect way to help build phonological awareness by segmenting words into individual sounds (or phonemes). Although they can be used in drill or review form, I use the game approach in my classroom. Students can play three different games: concentration, memory match, and/or Go Fish. They are also perfect for individual practice in a literacy center or time-fillers for early finishers.

Why Your Classroom Should Have Phonics Boxes

Beyond helping teach phonological awareness, phonics boxes help students:

  • Exercise their brains.
  • Develop reading fluency.
  • Enhance sound to symbol recognition.
  • Promote patience and concentration.
  • Improve vocabulary.

Since the focus for most kindergartners and first graders is placed on letter sounds, adding phonics boxes in your ELA or phonics center would be a perfect addition. As you set up your center be sure to give your students a mix of activities. Provide them with opportunities to read, write, and have fun with hands-on activities (cue in the phonics box games). My students love the phonics boxes and the fact they can play several different games with the same box.

Box Ideas for Your Classroom

Below are several phonics boxes I have created for my classroom. Printing them on colored paper allows me to save ink and make the games super cute.

picture of phonics boxes, beginning sounds, A-M

Beginning Sounds (A-M)

Each task card has a picture to help with sounding out the letter.

picture of phonics boxes, beginning sounds, N-Z

Beginning Sounds (N-Z)

Focusing on just a few letters at a time keep students from feeling overwhelmed.

picture of phonics boxes, medial sounds

Medial Sounds

These sounds are often the toughest for students to learn. This phonics box will help them nail middle sounds in no time!

Other sets I have created are:

Not only will phonics boxes be a game changer for your literacy center, but your students will enjoy practicing their phonics skills in a fun way. Once your students begin using them, you’ll quickly see what a powerful teaching tool they are.

I’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you teach phonics in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below!

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