5 Fun Phonics Activities for ELLs

5 Fun Phonics Activities for ELLs

Phonics is an important component of teaching students how to read. For ELLs it is important to include pictures when possible to help with vocabulary development. Stay away from nonsense words. Here are some phonics activities to use with your English Language Learners and emergent readers.

Build the word

For these phonics activities use magnetic letters, letter tiles, or simply pieces of paper with letters written on them. Have students practice building words that have the phonics pattern that they are practicing.

cvc word worksheets

Another activity is to have students use the manipulatives to build words and then change one or two letters to create new words. Start with a base word such as “hat”. Have students add the letter t to make “that”. Change the t, to n to make “than”. continue having students build words. Read the word and then add, subtract, or change letters to create new words. I have created phonics word lists with and without pictures.

Read then find

For this phonics activity, have students read a word or simple sentence with words that have the phonics pattern they are learning. Students then find the picture that matches the picture. This strategy has students focus on decoding first and then think about meaning. The pictures also help ELLs with vocabulary.

cvc words


Practicing phonics through decoding a meaningful text is one of the best ways for students to practice. Controlled texts allow students to practice a new phonics skill without getting frustrated with many words that are not decodable at the student’s current level. I have put together some recommendations for decodable texts on my Amazon storefront. For a limited time the ebooks from Fly Leaf Publishing are FREE. They also have print book sets for sale.

decodable books

Word Sorts

Word sorts help students focus on a small number of phonics skills at a time. Sorts are even more powerful for ELLs when they include pictures to build a student’s vocabulary. Pictures are also helpful to set up sound sorts. This helps build phonemic awareness skills.

beginning sound sort beginning sound sorting cards


Phonics puzzles are a fun way for students to practice reading and spelling words. For ELLs, it is helpful when the puzzle includes a picture.

cvc digital puzzle


In my Amazon storefront, I have suggestions for professional development and resources on word study. I also have a number of word sorting activities that I have created that have both words and pictures included in both print and digital versions.

short vowel digital sort


Read additional information about teaching phonics to ELLs here.

phonics activities

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