Here’s a phonics activity that is both easy and fun! Use paper cups to create word family spinners. Kids can turn the bottom cup to change the beginning sound and then read the words.

I don’t know about your kids, but my beginning readers have never been able to sit still. I don’t know if it’s all the concentration that learning to read requires or what, but they become super wiggly while reading. A good hands-on activity can be very helpful!

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In our homeschooling, I use the Explode the Code phonics series. Jonathan has completed the Get Ready for the Code books (which teach the consonant sounds) and is now in Explode the Code book 1.

While English has many exceptions to the phonics rules, a good place to start with reading instruction is with CVC words (sat, man, pet, etc.) that follow the rules. When we read, however, we don’t continue to sound out every letter. Experienced readers recognize familiar groups of letters that make a certain sound. This is where word families come in handy! Help kids read more quickly and fluently by teaching them to recognize the chunks.

Jonathan is pretty good at the short a word families, like -an, -at, and -ad. He doesn’t always remember that -ck together makes one sound, so I choose to make the -ick and -ack word families. Then I also chose -ell and -et.

How to Make Word Family Cups

I found these plain white paper cups at our local Winco. Most grocery stores just have printed ones, so you might want to try a party supply store if you can’t find them at the grocery store. Hobby Lobby also has plain solid colors.

Cut a window in one cup with an X-Acto knife (adult job).

Then decide on your word family.

Suggestions: -at, -an, -ack, -ill, -et, -all, -ed, -it

Another good one is -ight since it can’t be sounded out. Light, fight, night, bright

Then start writing the beginning sounds. I wrote the letters while the cups were stacked to make sure they lined up correctly. Don’t just write random letters – you might end up creating words you don’t want! Ha.

I chose to include a few blends in the beginning sounds, such as tr- and sn-.

Show your child how to turn the bottom cup to change the beginning sound. Lots of fun!

Need more ideas for beginning readers?

Printable Beginning Readers – Two books to read and color!

10+ Activities for Beginning Readers Who Can’t Sit Still


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  1. Amy Apr 27, 2018

    i am just enjoying all your ideas! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jenna May 5, 2018

    What a great idea, Sarah! I had been looking at wooden word blocks on rollers, but this will work just as well if not better and sooooo much cheaper! I'm thinking I'll try using colored permanent markers so we can do blue vowels and red consonants, Montessori style.

  3. Grace May 11, 2020

    It's very good for kindergarten class

  4. Pooja Sep 13, 2020

    Loved this idea


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