Spelling and Phonics – Step by Step

Here’s what works for us!

First up on Friday afternoon I stock this 5 drawer unit with the activities for the following week. This is a picture from last year.  This year, the unit is black with the days of the week going down the drawers.  Honestly, it didn’t make a difference! The students know to work down the drawers-one per day.

Now I’ll break down each drawer and what they do!

On Monday, students practice the new pattern of the week.  For the first half of the year this is a read and match activity.  Students read and words and match a picture to the words.  This is the most effective way to be sure they are actually decoding the words rather than just sorting by a pattern without reading the actual word.  Also, this has become a mini-vocabulary time too because many times there are unfamiliar words in each pattern.

During the second half of the year students become so great at this that I change it up and have them sort and record the words.  They like to draw a little visual of each picture because they are so used to that format by this time!

On Tuesday, students will build, color, and write their words.  This helps the kinesthetic learners as well as the visual learners to see the pattern.  Students must color to match the letters.  This helps them distinguish vowels from consonants.

On Wednesday, students are ready to trace write and match their words.  This is a big favorite because I keep skinny markers in this drawer and students are allowed to do the tracing part with marker.  #joy   Later in the year, this turns into build and write which is a bit more difficult but very effective!

Next up, dabber books!  Students look at a picture and choose the correct spelling out of three spellings.  They write it and then dab it.  These are big favorites because of the fun factor.  I like them because they have to read all three words to know which is the correct spelling.  I am strict on the handwriting so it’s good practice for them!

Friday, students take a picture and write a sentence using the spelling word depicted in the picture.   This is a perfect culmination of our week! If you need grades, this is a great one.

Here’s an example of our short i week.

Here’s a snippet from our very beginning week of short a.  Because we do the same type of activities each week, students are independent. The first week I sat with them and we decoded and matched together.  Now they do not want my help at all! 🙂  #success

All of the drawer activities for the year can be found in one bundled packet.  It has 25 weeks worth of phonics and it is still growing!  It is almost half the price of buying each individual packet.  I recently added the last of the blends as well as double final consonants.



Some questions I have received….

What do you do with the students that finish quickly!?!  

My students get their sight word/word wall practice in when they finish the drawer activities.
We use these packets.



What about students that can’t keep up with the weekly pacing and begin to be overwhelmed by each new pattern and each new week? 

This was a big concern of mine for so many years.  Development is not one size fits all!  Some students need countless repetitions and exposure to internalize these sound spelling patterns.  Because of this, I created flipping for phonics flip books!


Students beg to keep them in their book boxes.


Every product in this post is on sale as a thank you for all the positive feedback and interactions!  It sure makes my day!  Have a great week!

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  1. Help please!
    During monday and tuesday drawer activities how do you keep all students engaged without noise? I have a couple groups of 5-6. I try to have them stay and work with a partner during the center but when sorting the picture and words on Monday everyone has to be at the pocket chart. Or everyone has to use the magnetic letters on Tuesday. Also if they finish any of the drawer activities early they do one of the sight word stick cans correct?

    1. I have two pocket charts so they are no bigger than groups of 2 and 3. I also have two trays of letters so they are not in a group bigger than 2 or 3. I had a LARGE class last year so I had to get duplicates. It was worth my sanity to me.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing ideas!! I am a 3rd year teacher who is teaching 2nd grade with centers for the first time!! It can be overwhelming and your ideas have helped me soooo much!! We use LOTS of your stuff 🙂 I love the idea of using the sight word sticks as a fast finisher center!! definitely going to change how I use that now 🙂
    [email protected]

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. I teach first grade, and I have 3 word study groups (one is working on digraphs, one is on short/long vowels, and one on beginning blends). Have you ever used a 5 drawer word work organized when the entire class is not dong the same feature? or something similar?
    Thanks, Lena

  4. This is great! I am wondering if you have used this system with ESL students (specifically newcomers) and how it worked for them. Did it require a lot of modifying, if so? I would think with all of the picture support, it would be beneficial. Thanks!

  5. Hi, I bought your phonics bundle. It is great for the majority of my students. However, about a third of my class needs something more challenging. Some of them are reading books such as The Magic Tree House series and others are on about a level 18 in reading. What would you suggest for these students? Thanks!

    I purchased your phonics bundle and I have been using it all year! My students love their phonics drawers and it is so organized and helpful. However we are starting the u_e next week and looking through it to print and laminate I can't figure out the read and match activity for this one. You gave us a picture of a cube and a tube and then all the u_e words. but there are no more pictures to match to the words. What am I missing! I have been starring at it for hours now…I know it has to be something going right over my head… PLEASE HELP!
    Thank you so much!!

    1. Meghan! On some of the patterns, the words did not have clipart that I could find and purchase. So on these ones, I have students sort the words by spelling pattern and place them under the two anchor words on the pocket chart. Then I give them a half sheet of blank paper and they write out the sort as a recording sheet. They can also write them in a journal etc. Whatever works for you!

  7. Hi Reagan,
    I purchased your Big Phonics Bundle. I was sooo impressed by all your pictures and how smoothly this program flowed in your classroom. I too, as Meghan posted above am ready for the u_e set. Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy in this section. I have also found that you do not have the Word Work Friday Pick Glue and Write sheet either. Do you use the Spell Glue and Write interchangeably? What I think would be most helpful is for you to put your directions/descriptions that you have on this website right in your product so that we don't have to keep referring to your blog as we are learning to use this in our classrooms. Just a friendly suggestion. For now, I will refer to your blog and bookmark it. I am excited to try this in my classroom after Christmas Break. Thank you also for including your additions for everyone who purchased the bundle.

  8. Word work is one of the areas that I actually love to have an arsenal of different things to do. I love how you have simplified that into repeating the activities each week with the new pattern or spelling rule. I will be borrowing some of these ideas to incorporate into my own centers! Thank you so much for the great ideas. I adore your blog 🙂

  9. Thanks I love your methods of teaching.but I will need more help from you to make my children read fast.how do I get the cards or charts ?