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Using Phonics Ladders in the Classroom

Literacy, Phonics

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

Looking for a new way to introduce or reinforce phonics skills in the classroom? Look no further than our Phonics Ladders. This activity will have students climbing their way to phonics success!

What are Phonics Ladders?

Also known as word chains or word ladders, they are a great resource for kindergarten, first, and second grade students to practice different phonological skills. Phonics ladders engage students by having them think critically about spelling and phonics patterns. They are an excellent tool for connecting phonemic awareness and phonics skills.

Students manipulate the phonemes in words by using oral clues and picture clues. Click on the links below to download printable phonics ladders for specific phonics patterns:

Phonics Ladders Features

I’m sure you’ve seen phonics ladders before – they are an amazingly effective tool to practice and reinforce phonological skills. So what makes our Lucky Little Learners Phonics Ladders so special? Here are just a few awesome details that set our phonics ladders high above the rest:

Teacher Direction Page

Word Building is a crucial part of explicit phonics lessons. Our Word Ladders feature a scripted teacher direction page, that takes the difficulty out of lesson planning. Everything you and your students need for that phonics skill is listed for you. Just read, write, and go! This works well for whole class and small group activities, as well as one-on-one intervention. Word Ladders are also a great activity to share with a substitute teacher or classroom volunteer. No planning is necessary!

Space Saving Design

Save that precious paper and toner, and print a double sheet. Simply cut down the middle, and you are ready to go! Or, print, laminate, or place in a file pocket with dry-erase markers to use again and again!

Pictures for Visual Learners

Each word ladder features a picture to match each word. Visual learners will be able to make connections with the image and the word, and it also allows students of all levels to be successful when using this activity as a center or as independent work.

Up or Down?

Unlike some word ladders, ours can be started at the top or bottom of the page. Either way is correct!

There are so many skills incorporated into one activity: students are listening to words, manipulating sounds and letters, practicing their handwriting, making prior connections, following directions, and so much more!

Phonics Ladder Routine for 2nd grade

Ready to use phonics ladders in your classroom? Click the button in the box below to browse our phonics ladders, download the one you want to try, then follow this easy-to-use routine as a simple word work for your small groups:

  1. Choose a phonics ladder
  2. Get the matching teacher prompt
  3. Use magnet letters or tiles to scaffold – students can spell the word with the letter tile, then copy it on to their ladder page.
  4. Students write each word after you read the prompt
  5. Have students check their ladders with each other
  6. Repeat again with another ladder prompt!

When to Use Phonics Ladders

Phonics ladders are a versatile classroom tool. Teachers can use these ladders during:

  • whole group activity
  • small group activity
  • independent practice
  • center station
  • morning work
  • partner work

Want to switch it up and get moving outside? Or maybe you have a student that would benefit from some large-range motion? Check out this fun variation on using phonics ladders on the playground! Students will jump with joy for this change in routine!

How do you plan to use phonics ladders in the classroom? Tell us in the comments below!


If you’re looking for more information about phonics instruction in the elementary classroom, check out these helpful blog posts:




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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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