Better than Flashcards

This is a collection of fun activities that allow you to insert whatever content your child is learning (due to the miracle of dry erase markers).

Two tips before we get started…

  1. Expo markers. Just spend the extra dollar.
  2. Use a DRY Magic Eraser if any of your dry erase stuff doesn’t erase. You really don’t even have to get the magic eraser wet for it to work- just give it a little scrub. (side note- magic erasers are made of something called “Melamine” you can get 100 melamine sponges for a few dollars on Amazon. You’re welcome.)

OK enough rambling, here are the activities.

Twister Reading: Grab your Twister mat and your favorite dry erase marker. Write whatever your child is learning on each dot. I have used this to practice phonograms by themselves ( in isolation) or in words. You can also do word families in each color for your younger friends who are trying to figure out blending. We don’t actually play twister- the kids just think it’s fun to jump across the dots as they read each word. I like to put the reminder card in front of the row to help the kids focus on that sound, but you don’t really need to do that. 

Feed The Shark: Make a cardboard shark! This one took me about 10 minutes and 50 cents. It does not look perfect, but it does the trick. Cut out some fish (I used these ones, but you can definitely make your own or find a free printable!). Laminate them!! This game works great for kids that are working at various levels. I usually make all the red fish single letters, the orange fish CVCs, the blue fish digraphs etc… Just whatever your kids are working on. Then I give the kids that are working on phonograms the stack of fish that have their words on them and the other kids the letter ones. They take turns feeding the shark. I don’t know why this is so fun for them, but they literally ask me to play every. single. day.

Pass the Pup (or whatever you have): Lay out the phonogram reminder cards. (Whatever ones your kids are working on.) Have the kids gently toss something (anything, really). Whatever phonogram the pup lands on, they say the sound then turn the card over to the picture side to see if they were right. If they were wrong it stays letter side up. If they got it correct I flip it to the picture side. Their goal is to get all the cards flipped over as a team.

E-RACE Cars: Get these. Write whatever your students are learning on a dry erase board. You say something like, “erase everything that says “eeeeee” (long E sound). Then they race their cars around to erase the right sounds. In this picture, I have this set up to play with two kids- they each have to stay on their side of the “road” (dotted line down the middle). I often play this with just one student and will have a variety of phonograms all over. I just keep saying different sounds and they erase the letter that matches. For a fine motor variant- ditch the car erasers and give your students Q-tips. Make sure they hold the Q-tip like they would a pencil. Erase the sounds by tracing over the letters.

Roll the Dice: Get these. I’ve also heard rumors that they have dry erase dice at the DOLLAR STORE. So keep an eye out, folks. Make two dice with consonants or digraphs. Make one dice with vowels. This is great to teach the CVC pattern for early blenders. If you are working with more advanced students, substitute the vowel dice for a vowel team dice. Obviously, you are going to get a lot of nonsense words when playing this game. This is actually great because the kids have to decode the word as is- no recalling words they have actually memorized. They hear the word and get to decide if it is “real” or “fake.” Sometimes I give out pretend points if they got a real word, but you don’t have to do that 😉

PomPom Cups: All you need for this game is some mini (or normal sized would work fine too) plastic cups and some pompoms. I got these cute red cups at walmart for about $2. Use a permanent marker to write the letters and phonograms. I like to do capital letters on one side and lower case letters on the other side so the kids can practice both. Line the cups up in a straight line down the table. Have the kids sit in front of them. Have the kids close their eyes. Hide some pompoms under several cups (I usually put pompoms under about 75% of the cups so the kids get lots of “wins”). They pick a cup by saying the SOUND that the letter makes. Then they can pick up the cup and see if they “won” (I don’t let them keep the pompoms). If you are playing this with kids that are working on various levels, Have them sit on opposite sides of the table. Face the more difficult cups (digraphs, vowel teams etc) towards the kids that are learning those and the simpler cups (consonants and short vowels) towards the kids that are working on those.

A quick extension of the cup game is to demonstrate word families or vowel changes. This is an important cognitive step in a young readers development because it brings the reader to an awareness that each letter/sound in a word is important and can change the meaning of the word drastically.


Bean Jar Match: Print out this bean jar and write whatever phonograms your kids are working on in each bean. Get some lima beans (the big white ones). Use a permanent marker to write the phonograms on the beans. This is just a simple matching activity. The kids have to “fill the bean jar” with their beans. I like to sit near by and ask them what sounds they are matching. This is another great game that can be easily scaled to different levels with kids in the same group.

Popsicle Stick Pick: This is also sometimes called “Bang” I think? Write whatever your students are learning on the end of some jumbo craft sticks (you can use normal Popsicle sticks too, I just think the big ones are a little more fun and easier to read for the littles).  You need a “bad guy” in this game- I usually use the vowels, but you can just draw a black dot or something. The kids get to draw sticks (and say the sounds of the letters) until they draw a bad guy. When they draw a bad guy, they count their sticks and remember their number- then they put all their sticks back. Game play continues until you get sick of playing! Add more difficulty by adding in more advanced phonograms on the sticks).

The Letter Box: Next time you run into a very large box, hold onto it! Hop inside and write whatever phonograms your students are working on. You can level this activity by writing more difficult phonograms on one side of the box, and easier ones on the other sides. Get some golf tees. Get a plastic hammer. Put a kid in the box. You say a sound. The kid hammers through the corresponding letter or team. Hours of fun!

Cotton Ball Hockey: Print out these phonogram cards (or use post it notes 😉 Make several “goals” out of blue painters tape on your table. Place whatever phonograms your students are working on next to the goals. Give them a cotton ball and a straw. Say a sound (or a word that contains the sound if you are trying to be tricky). The student blows the cotton ball into the corresponding goal. (Make sure you have a different straw for each kid so you don’t share germs.)

Flashlight Letter Hunt: Print out these phonogram cards (probably the smaller sized ones). Tape them up around a room. You can hide them harder than I did in this picture if your students are a little more mature. Turn the lights off and give each student a little flash light (dollar flashlights from Walmart work great). Let them hunt around and find the cards. You can even give them a bucket or basket to collect them in if you have some handy. After the cards are found they present what they found to the group by saying the letter name and sound of each card.

Letter Dig: Get a medium sized plastic storage container (I use a 14 Liter one). Fill it about half or 3/4th way with any combination of small food stuffs (I use a combination of brown rice, lentils and split peas in this picture). In my dreams the whole thing would be full of lentils (an amazing sensory experience for some reason) but you can pick and choose what you like from the dried food aisle.  Add any kind of letters you might have to the bin (the black letters are from a movable montessori alphabet, the yellow letter squares are from a scrabble game we had in our game closet, you can also use refrigerator magnets, Bananagrams letters, wooden scrabble letters or printed letter cards-anything you can find or make, really). Hide them in the beans and let the kids put their hands in and dig. When they find one, they pull it out and say the sound. You can also put in random little toys and objects that you find around your house. When they pull the object out, they have to identify the first sound and say what letter makes that sound. 

Phonogram Fish: Use the same fish that you did in the Feed the Shark game above. Same story. Just alter the content on the back of the laminated fish to meet the needs of your students. I use this fishing pole from Melissa and Doug (because we happened to get this game for Christmas last year) but you can just use a stick and a string and a magnet. Put paper clips on the tails of the fish so the magnet has something to stick to. I got this little blue mat at the dollar store- it makes a cute “pond” but you don’t really need one. Again, you can put more difficult material on certain colors and tell the kids what color they have to catch.

 Swat the Phonogrm: This one is pretty self explanatory. Use your phnogram reminder cards. You say the sound or a word that contains the phonogram. The child swats the right one. You could cute this up if you wanted to print out little flies and write the phonograms in dry erase (kind of like the fish). Hmmmm….that’s not a bad idea…


Cookie Sheet Car Ramp: For this activity you will need a big dry erase board and a cookie sheet. Write whatever content you are practicing on the white board. Line the cookie sheet up with the side of the board and prop it up on something so it slopes down. Let the child race a car down the slope and see where it lands on the whiteboard. The child then reads whatever phonogram or word their car lands on. If your kids are working on different phonograms, you can write them in different colors. 

picture coming soon!


At the Car Wash: This one requires a little bit of artistry on  your part! Use an 11×17 inch poster board and draw something that looks like this… Laminate it and get your dry erase marker ready. Write in whatever phonograms your child is learning and give the child a car. Let them drive through the mud, then through the car wash and pick a parking spot. Before they get to park, they read the word you have written in the parking spot. After they park they can drive through the mud and and car wash again. This is a great game if you have kids learning at different levels. This picture shows one side with CVC words and the other side  is  for kids learning digraphs! You could also write the words in different colors to denote their level of difficulty. Tell the younger children they are on the blue team, the older kids on the green team and you can only park on the color that matches your team. Lots of options!

If you choose to use digital media for educational purposes, I recommend the following tools:

(*denote my favorite ones!)

*Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD (2003)

Montessorium Intro to Letters App

Montessorium Intro to Words App

Reading Magic 1, 2, and 3 Bob Book Apps

*Teach Your Monster to Read App

This Reading Mama Literacy Apps

*Elkonin Boxes App