5 Fun Collaborative Phonics and Sight Word Activities for the ESL Classroom

Hello, fellow educators!

Aren’t we all excited that it is almost the Fall season?  Temperatures have dropped to the 50s and 60s in the early morning, and in the afternoon, it is no longer as hot, which for me is just perfect.  I know that we teachers have so many other things to be excited about.   By now, we know all the names of our kids, we see them getting more and more familiar with the everyday routine, and we’re seeing all these interesting personalities come out.  Most importantly, we now know what activities seem to keep them engaged and on task.

These past few weeks, I did a lot of phonics and sight word activities with my 1st grade ESOL kids.  My goal was for them to become familiar with the short vowel sounds plus the sight words that are included in our district-mandated curriculum framework.  Since I have a number of beginning ELLs, I have to make sure they do these tasks either with a partner or in a group.  I am excited to share with you these collaborative phonics and sight word activities that we have been doing so far:

1.  “Pick a stick and read it.”  I used multi-colored popsicle sticks with the sight words and short vowel sounds labeled on the edges and placed them in tiny buckets.  Each student picks a stick and reads the word that’s written on it.  Then he shows the word to his classmates and everybody reads the word.  If   he/she is unable to read it, the student chooses a classmate to help him or her read the word.  This seems like a very simple activity  which we usually do on the carpet, but it is fun for them.  I have seen many variations of collaborative activities made by teachers using popsicle sticks.  Just search Pinterest!

Popsicle sticks with sight words in a tiny bucket

Popsicle sticks with sight words in a tiny bucket

2.  “Teacher of the Day.”  I usually assign a student-teacher to lead the class in reading our set of words for the week.  Everybody is just excited for their turn to be the teacher of the day.  They love to use my pink pointer!

1st Grade ESOL kids with the "teacher of the day."

1st Grade ESOL kids with the “teacher of the day.”

3.  Phonics and sight word game cards.  I have a few that I created myself and some that are available as free downloads on my favorite site:  www.havefunteaching.com.  This is always a fun collaborative activity for them.  Just make sure you are assigning a leader who can facilitate the game and check their answers.  Click on the following links to download these freebies:

CVC Girls Word Cards

CVC Girls Word Card set

CVC Girls Word Card set

Vowel Activities

Short vowel activity courtesy of www.havefunteaching.com

Short vowel activity courtesy of www.havefunteaching.com

My 1st Grade ESOL kids during a phonics game

My 1st Grade ESOL kids during a phonics game

4.  Sight Word Bingo Cards.  The internet abounds with free bingo card generators where you can create and print bingo cards for use in your classroom.  Not only it is fun for the students, but allows consistent exposure to the sight words.  Here are a few of them that you can use:




1st Grade Sight Words Bingo Cards

1st Grade Sight Words Bingo Cards

5.  Phonics and Vocabulary Center for Writing Practice.  Of course, a center in your classroom where students can use the words to complete a writing task will enable you to informally assess how much of the words they have learned thus far.

1st Grade ESOL kids at the Vocabulary and Phonics Center

1st Grade ESOL kids at the Vocabulary and Phonics Center

Please feel free to share what phonics and sight word activities work best for your own class.  Happy fall!

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The Best Day Ever: Activities and Centers that Support Independent Writing

This week my kids learned about autobiography.  You bet it’s a big word to learn especially that most of them are English language learners with beginning reading level.  The first thing I had to do then, was to get them acquainted with the term.  I devised a game, which I dubbed as “Say it Right, Do it right.” The game requires them to say “auto” and “biography” alternately, each with different gesture, and whoever does not say it right with the right gesture during the game gets eliminated and goes back to his/her seat.  I did this, pointing to each kid alternately until everyone else, except one, is back on their seats.

Let me tell you this.  At the end of the game, the word just got stuck in their minds, a few of them were still saying the six-syllable word happily while lining up for dismissal.

My agenda for the day went like this:

Whole Group Activities/discussion

  • Say it Right, Do it Right game
  • Introduction to Autobiography (using an Anchor Chart with definition and short example with focus on use of pronouns I, Me, My)
  • Review of Phonics lesson: short /o/ (which I had to include as part of the summer reading program)


I created three learning stations for my 12 kids with four members in each group:

  • Writing Center – (It is necessary to place the strongest group of kids in this center during the first rotation; they are the ones who need less teacher support.)
  • Phonics/Vocabulary Center
  • Reading Center –  (This is where I am stationed so that I can guide them into reading and comprehending the text that is appropriate for their reading level.  This is also the time I provide more details about an autobiographical text).

To apply their learning, they wrote about their best day ever, just simply titled “The Best Day.”  In the Writing Station, I wrote the instructions and provided the template with an example.  I also have a word bank for them.  The center has markers, crayons, and papers – all they needed to complete the task.

The Best Day writing assignment

The Best Day writing assignment-2

     So far, I am quite satisfied with what they have done.

My kids at the phinis:vocabulary center

My kids at the Phonics/Vocabulary Center

Me at the Reading Station

Me with my kids at The Reading Station

This is Summer school and I just make the most out of the very few resources that are provided to me.  The classroom is bare of any decorations, and it is okay.  It is, after all, Summer.

Happy Summer!

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