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Game-Changing Word Building Activities for Kids

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 4 min read

Word building activities help form the foundation of a child’s reading journey. These activities allow a child to actively participate in blending and segmenting graphemes to create words. As word building activities rely on constant repetition – coming up with fun ways to engage young minds can be tricky, check out some of these great ways to incorporate word building activities into your classroom.


What are Word Building Activities?

Put simply, word building activities are where students are provided with a variety of graphemes, usually on ‘moveable’ items such as paper, magnets, blocks etc, that they can manipulate to create words. Word building helps students to:

  • understand how letter symbols relate to letter sounds
  • segment a word into it’s graphemes
  • blend graphemes to create the spoken word
  • isolate sounds in words
  • identify spelling patterns.

To help with the above skills, there are a variety of word building activities that you can do with your students. I would introduce these activities together as a whole class to explicitly show the different word building activities they will complete.

  1. Isolate sounds – students need to identify the first, middle and end sound in a word that you have created on the board using magnetic letters.
  2. Build the word – say a word, but mix the letters up on the board. Tell the students we’re going to build the word together and work out the beginning sound and the corresponding letter, then the middle, then the end.
  3. Substitute sounds – create words by changing one sound in the word. For example, changing the /s/ in sat to an /m/.
  4. Delete sounds – if i start with the word sat and I take away the ‘s’ what do i have now?
  5. Add sounds – the reverse of delete, if we add an ‘s’ to the start of the word ‘at’ what word do we have now?
  6. Identify patterns – through a list of words – identify ‘patterns’ in the spelling of the words. For example, in watch, wash, wand – the ‘a’ in these words makes the /o/ sound.

Word Building Resources

How to Make Magnetic Letter Tiles for the Classroom

This is a game changer when it comes to having the tools and resources ready to go in the classroom –  you can actually purchase magnetic paper! This is perfect for both whole class instruction as well as independent word building activities.

  1. Purchase a pack of magnetic sheets, we found these at Office Works.
  2. Download the My Word Builder Folder.
  3. Print the letter tiles using the magnetic paper.
  4. Cut the tiles out.
  5. Store a set in one container – you may like to use multiple containers to keep sets together.

DIY letter tiles for the classroom

How to Make a Word Building Chatterbox

Once a those little hands in your classroom learn how to create a chatterbox.. you’ll have a chatterbox thrown in your face at every spare moment in the day! They love to master the folding and coming up with things to put in their chatterbox. Why not jump on this obsession and create a word building chatterbox for the classroom.

Word building chatterbox activity

Obviously you’ll need to think of the letters that would be written – there are usually three levels so this is perfect to practice CVC word building.

Word building chatterbox activity

Word Building Printable Activities for the Classroom

Along with some of these great hands-on word building activities, there are some great printable word building activities that you can print and have use time and time again.

Train Carriage Word Building Mat

This concept is cute for little learners. Each of the train carriages holds one phoneme. But, once the carriages are full the train moves along and you can blend those graphemes to create a word!

Word building train mat

These printable Segmenting and Blending Mats are very similar to the above activity, and while they are initially created for blending and segmenting specific words – you could easily cut up the graphemes so that students are building the words themselves.

Segmenting and blending activity

Word Building Activities for All Ages

The above activities may be a little bit babyish for the students in your class, this doesn’t mean that word building stops after students have grasped simple CVC words. In fact, continuing to use word building activities throughout primary school is hugely beneficial. Here are some great word building activities that work for for all ages:

  1. Play Wordle for Kids.
  2. Use the magnetic tiles but just build harder words!
  3. Pick a focus phoneme and have students create as many words as they can with a variety of graphemes.
  4. Students become graphemes – this is a fun activity where a number of students wear large grapheme tiles on their shirts, but they can’t talk! Their classmates need to put them in order to create as many words as they can in a certain time frame.
  5. Play word ladder. This is where students are provided with a word such as ‘blank’ then they are given a clue and need to change one letter to create another word. For example change ‘blank’ into the word that means – eyelid closes and opens.

Check out our range of Printable Phonics Resources.

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