Word Lists

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How to Use Word Lists to Support All Areas of Literacy

Phonics word lists are an invaluable tool for teaching and reinforcing phonics skills, providing a structured approach to decoding and spelling words. The science of reading emphasizes the importance of explicit and systematic instruction, and phonics word lists offer a versatile resource to support various aspects of literacy development. In this blog post, we will delve into several ways to utilize phonics word lists, aligning them with the principles of the science of reading. We’ll explore examples focusing on grammar, sentence writing, multiple meanings, syllable sorts, and reading fluency.

1. Grammar: Building Word Awareness

Phonics word lists can be a powerful resource for teaching grammar rules. For example, by categorizing words based on their verb tense endings (-ed, -ing), students can gain a deeper understanding of grammatical concepts. By using word lists, teachers can guide students in identifying patterns and applying them in their writing. This approach aligns with the science of reading by providing explicit instruction and fostering word awareness.

Example 1: Suffixes sorts

Word List: walked, walking, jumped, jumping, sailed, sailing, etc.

Activity: Sort the words into verb tense categories (-ed, -ing) and use them in sentences to demonstrate correct usage.

Example 2: Parts of Speech

Word List: ai

Activity: Read the words and sort them into categories based on their parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective). Discuss with your students which words (like drain or mail) can be sorted into more than one category!

Word Lists - Phonics skill of vowel teams

2. Sentences: Expanding Sentence Structure

Phonics word lists can be utilized to practice and expand sentence structure. Teachers can provide students with word lists that include various parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives) and challenge them to construct grammatically correct sentences. This activity promotes sentence fluency and vocabulary development while reinforcing phonics skills.


Word List: Beginning Blends

Activity: Create sentences using at least two words from the list. Encourage students to use correct subject-verb agreement and appropriate adjectives to enhance their sentence structure. If needed, provide sentence starters to prompt your students’ writing like:

  • Write a sentence that lists three nouns from the list.
  • Write a question using the words crab and clam.
  • Write a sentence with a coordinating conjunction and two verbs from the word list.
  • Write a sentence with a compound subject that also uses three words from the word list.
Initial Blends phonics words to read and spell

3. Multiple Meanings: Unlocking Word Ambiguities

Phonics word lists can help students explore the concept of multiple meanings, enhancing their vocabulary and comprehension skills. By including words with different meanings but similar phonetic patterns, teachers can guide students in understanding context and discerning between homonyms or homophones.


Word List: Short a word list bat (the animal), bat (the sports equipment), or bat (the action of hitting a ball); or jam (the jelly-like substance on toast), jam (the action of pushing something that is stuck), or jam (a tight spot like a traffic jam).

Activity: Discuss the multiple meanings of each word and provide context-based sentences to illustrate the differences. Encourage students to identify and explain the various meanings, fostering critical thinking, vocabulary development, and comprehension.

Phonics homework activities and worksheets with Multiple meanings templates for vocabulary

4. Syllable Sorts: Mastering Word Patterns

Phonics word lists can be used for syllable sorts, aiding students in recognizing and analyzing different syllable patterns. This activity helps develop decoding skills and enhances one’s knowledge of the structure of words in our language.


Word List: Long o words: road, oat, foam, toast, stone, note, sole, hope

Activity: Sort the words into two categories based on their syllable type. Discuss the syllable patterns and identify any common phonetic elements within each group by highlighting the connected syllable parts.

road, oat, foam, toast = Vowel Team syllables; stone, note, sole, hope = Silent e syllables

Phonics sorts w/ Vowel Teams and Silent e Words to read

5. Fluency: Promoting Automaticity and Expression

Phonics word lists can be employed to enhance reading fluency by providing opportunities for repeated practice. Teachers can create lists of words with specific phonetic patterns or word families and encourage students to read them aloud with accuracy and expression. This approach aligns with the science of reading by reinforcing automatic decoding skills.


Word List: ar word list

Activity: Depending on the level of scaffolding needed, ask your students to highlight the target phonics skill in each work prior to reading. Then, encourage students to read with proper prosody and phrasing. This can be accomplished by the students tracking underneath each word as they read.

Fluency grid reading fluency ar

Orton Gillingham Mama offers elevated reading instruction through teacher-created Science of Reading resources.

Fluency Grids & Word Lists by Phonics Skill

Best word list ar words to read

Phonics” is often conflated with the term “science of reading,” but the research around how ALL children learn to read involves much more than just phonics. We must intentionally weave in all strands of the reading rope throughout our instruction. When we assess our students and target the skills they need, tools like simple word lists can be incredibly powerful.

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