Tag Archives: phonics

Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!


  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!


Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

Cookin’ Up Some Word Muffins! (creative guided reading & center ideas)


by Rachel Stepp

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If you are running out of creative ideas for working with struggling readers, it’s time to make word muffins!

With this activity, students will either work with you to practice phonemic sounds, or they will work independently with a specific list of words.

Student-Teacher Activity (or Guided Reading Lesson)


Muffin tin

Magnetic letters (ideally more than one set in various fonts)


1. Explain to your student that he or she will be combining special “letter ingredients” to create word muffins.

2. In this activity, you will be working on phonemic awareness and letter sounds. Display all of the magnetic letters so that the student can see them all at once. Then, say a word aloud and ask the student to spell it out with the letters.

3. If the student is struggling while trying to spell the word out, then help them sound it out by saying the word sound-by-sound.

4. After the student creates the word using the magnetic letters, put all of the letters for that word in one muffin cup. Yea! You have just created a word muffin!

5. Following that same procedure, allow your student to fill up the pan with words.

Student Solo Activity (or Center)

The procedure is similar if students are working independently to create word muffins.


1. First, create a list of scrambled words.

2. Prepare the word muffin tin by putting the letters for the scrambled words in each of the muffin cups. (So, each cup will hold the letters for a different word.)

3. Students will take all of the letters out of one cup at a time and try to unscramble them to form a word. If they are unaware of a word, they will need to sound it out.

4. You can ask your students to write down their unscrambled words on a piece of paper so that you can review their answers later.

TIP: You will find that it is probably necessary to have more than one set of magnetic letters to do this because sometimes letters repeat.

Another Magnetic Idea

If you simply want to work on your students’ spelling and phonemic awareness, you can use a metal cookie sheet as the base for magnetic letter work. It provides a nice solid surface on which the letters can be manipulated while still being controlled.

TIP: If your students are searching for letters to create words or to identify letter sounds, have them first organize all of the magnetic letters alphabetically. This will help them find the correct letter quickly. There is no need to waste time searching for letters! I usually do this by writing the alphabet on sentence strips and then having the students place the magnetic letters on the sentence strip before beginning their word work.

Children love the unique use of these kitchen items in the classroom. It’s a “yummy” way to encourage phonemic awareness and sight word mastery!

Looking for magnetic letters in different fonts and colors? Here’s a slew of ’em at www.schoolbox.com.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience. We appreciate her great ideas!

1 Comment

Filed under Centers, Phonics, Reading, School Readiness, Spelling

An Ocean of Discovery

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By Sandra Jacoby

At some point in every primary level classroom, an ocean creature is going to float across the minds of the students. Whether you teach using themes and talk about ocean life for weeks or only briefly cover sea mammals, fish or plants, here is an activity that teaches more than just the ocean!

First, the things you will need:

• paper plates (a half for each child in the classroom)

• crepe paper (in a variety of colors, cut into four different lengths, between 6-12 inches)

• crayons

• scissors

• glue

Steps to follow:

1.) Have the students write their names on the side of the plate that you would normally cover with food.

2.) Let each student select for pieces of pre-cut crêpe paper – one of each in four different sizes.

3.) Allow the children to arrange the crêpe paper from shortest to longest (or visa versa). When they have it correctly arranged, they should glue the pieces to the side of the paper plate where they wrote their names.

4.) When all pieces are attached, have the students pick up their jellyfish by the plate and turn it around to see. If children are capable, have them write “shortest” and “longest” on the appropriate sides. If they cannot do this step on their own, provide help: your hand over theirs, sentence strips with the words on them, etc.

5.) If time permits and if preferred, have the students draw a face on their jellyfish.

What you taught and what to do with the jellies:

You have just covered so many things with your students. The letter J and the sound it makes, shortest to longest, writing skills, counting, sea creatures…and you now have a great classroom decoration to boot!

Sandra Jacoby graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December, 2008, with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies. She currently teaches pre-kindergarten in Fredericksburg, Texas.


Filed under Science, Writing