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Engaging (and Easy to Prep) Phonics Center Activities

Blog Posts, ELA, Phonics

What’s an engaging and effective way to ensure your students are practicing their phonics skills every day in class? Including a phonics center in your regular literacy center rotations!

Phonics centers are an awesome way to get kids practicing phonics concepts independently, and it’s so easy to develop centers that are highly engaging. 

Read on if you’d love some recommendations that will spice up your phonics centers. Bonus for you = this post includes TONS of ideas that will cut down on the time it takes you to prepare your centers!

1. Phonics Mats

Have you ever used learning mats with your students? If not, phonics mats are a great place to start! Basically, learning mats are one-pagers jam-packed with various prompts/ways for your students to practice a newly learned skill. This approach is so effective because when kids repeatedly apply a new skill in different ways, they are more likely to commit that new skill to long-term memory!

Here’s a look at a Lucky Little Learners phonics mat for the /bl/ blend: 

You can see that on just one mat, there are five tasks included to reinforce the concept: 

1- Highlight all the /bl/ words in the reading passage

2- Reread the passage three times

3- List the /bl/ words from the passage in alphabetical order 

4- Color pictures that feature the /bl/ sound

5- Draw an illustration to match the reading passage on the back of the mat

Some teachers print individual sheets for kids to complete (like in the picture above); others prefer to laminate the mats for repeated use. Also, many teachers assign the mats as google slides.

Click on one of the images below to learn more about the Lucky Little Learners 1st or 2nd-grade phonics mats:

1st Grade Phonics Mats (Printable and digital included!)

2nd Grade Phonics Mats(Printable and digital included!)

 2. Hands-On Phonics Games

Hands-on games and manipulatives are always a big hit at the phonics center! Here are some sure-to-please ideas: 

  • Puzzles

Provide puzzle pieces with a mix of images and words. Ask your students to complete puzzles by matching the images and words that have the same phonics pattern.

  • Spin and Sort Cards

Spread phonics image cards out in front of the group facing up. Using card stock, a brad, and a paper clip, create a spinner with 3-4 known phonics skills that match the image cards. (i.e. you could create four sections on the spinner such as:  “bl”, “cl”, “fl” & “lose a turn”) On their turn, students spin and try to find cards with the matching phonics pattern. Finally, students write the word from the image card on a recording sheet. The student with the most words at the end of the game is the “winner”. 

  • Word Generation Challenge

Create spinners using the directions above. Provide a recording sheet and challenge your students to come up with as many real words as they can based on the phonics pattern they land on when it’s their turn. 

  • Word Match & Build

You can get super creative with this game! Create outlines of an object you’re studying on a poster or large sheet of paper. Label the outlines with the phonics pattern you want your students to practice. Create phonics word and image cards that match (and some that don’t match) the pattern in the shape of things that go with the object. (i.e. object = snowman/ card shapes = parts of a snowman). The object of the game is to build the object with the correctly matching phonics cards. 

  • Sentence Search and Find

Gather or print detailed images and glue them to index cards. Ask students to search for all the words hidden in the images on the cards. Arrange the words to make a sentence and write on a piece of paper.

If you know your students would LOVE these phonics center ideas, but you don’t want to spend your whole weekend creating all the pieces and parts, check out the Lucky Little Learners Ready to Go Phonics Centers Bundle!

All the games mentioned above (and dozens more) are included in the bundle – ready for you to print or present digitally right away! 

Ready-to-Go Phonics Centers (for 2nd-grade phonics standards)

What’s included in the Phonics Center Bundle:
– 40+ Common Core-aligned, ready-to-go phonics centers
– Printable (color or black and white) AND digital formats included
– Direction signs for each center
– Recording sheet and answer keys for each center
  • Phonics Toothy 

If we’re talking about high engagement, hands-on games – we can’t leave out one of our most popular products – Phonics Toothy! 

How the Phonics Toothy game works: 

(Printable) Each partner gets a Toothy mat and dry erase marker. Students take turns choosing a card, and each student will solve the problem on their Toothy mat or dry erase board. When each student has answered the question, they compare their answers and then turn the card over to check to see if their answer is correct. Those who have a correct answer get to draw a tooth in Toothy’s mouth on their mat. If the student’s answer is incorrect, they do not draw a tooth and those who got the answer correct must explain how they got to the correct answer. Then the next student draws the next card and the process is repeated. The game is over once all the cards have been answered. The student with the most teeth in Toothy’s mouth is the winner of the game.

(Digital) For each phonics concept, your student will be asked a different question in google slides. When the correct answer is selected, the student gets to add a tooth to the character’s mouth.

Check out the Phonics Toothy products in our shop:

3. Phonics Center Resources

Don’t forget to stock your phonics center with student-friendly phonics resources! Your students will be more successful when they have the reference tools they need at their fingertips.

Here are some phonics center resources to have on hand:

  • Phonics Spinners
  • Letter Formation Guides
  • Magnetic Letter Tiles
  • Phonics Sound Charts
  • Six Syllable Types Anchor Chart
  • Sound Boxes

You can find all of handy phonics resources mentioned above (and lots more!) inside the Lucky Little Toolkit

Click on the image below to check out the toolkit:

What’s an engaging and effective way to ensure your students are practicing their phonics skills every day in class? Including a phonics center in your regular literacy center rotations!


  1. Natalie Effenberg

    Good afternoon

    I am interested in purchasing the Lucky Little Toolkit | Classroom or Distance Learning Binder resource, but was just wondering if there is a version with Australian coins?

    Thank you

    • Bailey Jordan

      Hi Natalie!
      Thanks so much for reaching out. At this time the Lucky little Toolkit only has American and Canadian coins, however we will add Australian coins to our list of potential updates for the future. Thank you so much for the great suggestion!

      Bailey J.
      Lucky Little Learners


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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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