Thursday, October 7, 2010

Free Literacy Games and Manipulatives

I wanted to share another free resource that you may find helpful for teaching low-level literacy students. On the Reading Horizons website, you will find some free resources for practicing the alphabet sounds, blends, and sight words (called "Most Common Words" in the Reading Horizons program). These resources include manipulatives that can be used to teach literacy skills. I thought I would share this link, along with a few games that could be used with these materials. If this post proves helpful, I will post additional games and activities on a page link on the right. So let me know what you think!

The manipulatives used in the following games can be found here.

Alphabet Concentration

Object: Match uppercase and lowercase letters.

Materials: Uppercase and lowercase letters from the Alphabet Cards. (Find the masters for this literacy game.)

To play: Choose six pairs at a time. Make sure they are uppercase and lowercase matches. Arrange the letters face-down in an array of three across and two down. Each player may turn over two letters. If the cards match, they are placed on the table in front of the player, but the player must be able to say the letter name and sound in order to keep the match. If the cards do not match, they are again turned face-down on the table, and the next player takes his turn. The player with the most matches at the end of the game wins.


Object: To place letters/words in alphabetical order

Materials: 42 Sounds Cards in a bag or box. (Find the masters for this literacy game.)

To play: Students play as partners. Each student draws five (5) of the 42 Sounds Cards from a bag or box and individually puts the cards in alphabetical order on his desk. When the partners finish, they check each other’s work. Then partners combine their letters and put all ten (10) letters into proper alphabetical order. (If students are using their own sets of 42 Sounds Cards, make sure the cards are identified before they are mixed with a partner’s cards.)

Variation: Use the MCW Cards, and put them in alphabetical order. Assign each student a partner. Again, be sure students have marked their cards before mixing them with others’ cards.


Object: To discover and identify words written on the opponent’s grid

Materials: Use the Blast grid provided online. (Find the master for this literacy game.) Make two copies for each player. Use the smaller Blast grid for three-letter words and the larger Blaster grid for Blend words, Five Phonetic Skills words, etc. Words can be written on the grid horizontally, vertically, or diagonally (see examples).

Preparation: Copy and laminate two game grids for each student (this allows for multiple uses). Use dry-erase markers to play. On one grid, the students will write their chosen words. On the other grid, they will keep track of their guesses and “hits” on their opponent.

To play: Each player writes three words in various strategic places on his Blast grid. The student keeps this sheet hidden from his opponent. The opponent guesses where he thinks the letters might be, such as B-3 or S-5, and records his guesses on his second grid. If he happens to make a hit on his opponent, the opponent must tell him what the letter is that was hit. Taking turns, play continues until one student has had enough hits to tell what the other student’s three words are. That student is the winner.

Variation: Use the Blaster grid, found online. Write four- or five-letter words on the grid. Play as explained for Blast. See the example grid for ideas.

Blends Game

Object: To memorize Blends

Materials: Blends Cards. (Find the masters for this literacy game.)
Preparation: Copy all of the l-Blends on one color, all of the r-Blends on a different color, and all of the s-Blends on a third color of cardstock, then laminate the cards. Cut the individual Blends from the cardstock. You will need 15 sets of each Blend to accommodate 30 students because the game is played with partners. Each pair of students will need a pencil and paper.

To play: The l-Blend cards are put face-down between the two players (the x side of the card facing up). Player 1 picks the cards up and fans them out so he can see the Blends, but his partner can’t. Player 2 then picks four or five cards from player 1’s hand and puts them on the desk, in alphabetical order. Player 2 then tells player 1 which Blends are missing. (The player may want to write them down.) Player 1 gives player 2 the cards for the missing Blends as they are named, and player 2 adds them to the cards on the table in their proper order. If player 2 doesn’t know the Blends, player 1 shows the Blends he is holding. The stack of cards is shuffled, the paper turned over, and the game begins again.

As the r- and s-Blends are learned, the additional stacks are added to the game. The teacher indicates the color to be used and the number of cards to draw.

This game is fun and rewarding. The player holding the cards has the answers and can give immediate reinforcement to the player memorizing the Blends. Playing this game two or three times each week while learning the Blends reinforces the sounds, the number, and the order of the l-, r-, and s-Blends.

Variation: This game can be adapted to include Digraphs and Murmur Diphthongs.

Build a Word

Object: To build a word, give a definition of that word, and use it in a sentence

Materials: 42 Sounds Cards (Find the masters for this literacy game.); two containers

NOTE: This game can be played as a class, in small groups, or in pairs.

To play: Have students sort the 42 Sounds Cards into vowels and consonants. Put all of the vowels in one container and all of the consonants in another. To build a word, students draw one letter from the consonant container and lay it on the table then draw a vowel from the vowel bag and lay it to the right of the first consonant. A second consonant is then drawn and placed to the right of the vowel. Students then read the word. Some words will be nonsense words, and others will be real words. Have students decide if the word is a real or a nonsense word. Have them give a definition of any real word and use it in a sentence.

Variation: When teaching Blends, have students put the consonants they draw with an l, r, or s. See if it makes a real Blend. If not, have them continue to draw until they find a Blend letter to begin a word. Add the vowel and ending sound, as explained previously.


Object: To promote rapid identification of slides, letters, Blends, words, etc.

Materials: One flyswatter for each team.

Preparation: Write five or six sight words on the board.

To play: Divide the class into teams. Call one player from each team to come to the board, and give him a
flyswatter. Call out one of the slides written on the board, and the first player to swat that slide with his
flyswatter wins the game.

Play using individual letters (uppercase and lowercase); Blends; double s, f, and z; Special Vowel Combinations; Murmur Diphthongs; Digraphs; Special Vowel Sounds (pigpens); and Most Common Words (sight words).


  1. I learned Slap as matamoscas and have always just called it flyswatter but because of the sound it makes on the board I totally get why you would call it slap! You are right it is a GREAT game! Tons of focus from the students and practically no preperation from the teacher.

    Plus, it is SUPER adaptable:

  2. Agreed! Thanks for your comment, Carissa. And good luck with your teaching! :)