This hands-on phonics activity for beginning readers promotes understanding of many different phonics elements, including sound-symbol correspondences and spelling patterns. Sorting words according to shared characteristics requires students to think about the different elements of a word and analyze how these elements are combined, reinforcing their knowledge of spelling and word structure.
Some word characteristics that can be used in phonics sorting activities include:
* Beginning consonants
* Ending consonants
* Consonant blends or clusters
* Consonant digraphs- digraphs consist of combinations of two letters that form one sound that is different from the sounds of the individual letters; common digraphs are ch, th, ph, and sh.
* Rhyming words
* Similar vowel sounds, such as short or long vowels
* Number of syllables
* Silent letters
How to Set Up a Phonics Lesson Sorting Activity
Sorting can be done with either words or pictures. For early readers, use simple drawings or pictures of objects that students will easily recognize. For a picture sort on beginning consonant sounds, follow these steps:
1. Make sets of cards with drawings that represent words with different beginning consonants, such as sock, sun, star, ball, basket, and bear.
2. Place one card with each of two different beginning consonant sounds on the desk or table in front of each student. Ask students what sounds they hear when they say these two words. For example, if the pictures are sun and ball, emphasize the beginning sounds, /s/ and /b/.
3. Give each student a set of several cards with pictures representing the sounds /s/ and /b/.
4. Tell students they will be looking for words with the same beginning sound as these two. For each card, they should say the word that names the picture and listen carefully for the sound at the beginning.
5. Once they have decided which of the two sounds the card represents, they will place cards with the /s/ sound in a column below the picture of the sun, and cards with the /b/ sound below the picture of the ball.
6. Circulate and check for accuracy. If students have placed a card in the wrong column, ask them to say the words on the target card and the incorrectly placed card aloud, and to listen again for the beginning sounds.
For sorting cards with words instead of pictures, a similar procedure is followed. Choose a component such as beginning consonants, short or long vowels, number of syllables, ending rimes, etc., and make sets of cards.
Give students a sheet of paper with two columns. At the top of each column is an example of a word with the elements to be sorted. Explain what elements they will be looking for, such as short or long vowel sounds, rhyming words, etc. Tell students to identify these elements in the words on the cards, and then place each card in the correct column.
There are two types of sorts: open and closed. In a closed sort, the students are given instructions on what to look for as they sort, as in the examples above. In an open sort, students must decide for themselves how to sort the cards by examining the words and figuring out what elements they have in common. This requires a deeper understanding of phonics and more advanced reading skills, and would be more appropriate for older students.
Gunning, Thomas. Creating Literacy Instruction for All Children, 4th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2003.