Word work: building words with letter tiles

Using word work activities in your primary classroom helps your students build the foundations for reading and writing skills they will be using for the rest of their lives. Throughout this 5 part series, I will share how you can successfully use word work in your classroom to help your students master spelling, phonemic awareness, writing, and comprehension. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, I’d encourage you to take a couple minutes and check them out. In part 3 of this word work series, we will be focusing on how to use letter tiles to build words. It’s a fun activity my students always looked forward to and I’m sure yours will too!

hands on building words activities help students master phonics and spelling skills as part of word work

WHAT ARE letter tiles?

Letter tiles are cards with a consonant or vowel that students can manipulate to create words. Think scrabble but without the board. You can use plastic letter tiles or even magnetic letters. But I use printed letter tiles from me Engaging Word Work resources so that I can inexpensively provide each student with their own set of letter tiles. They are also easy to replace if a letter or two gets lost. My students always loved getting their own set of letter tiles for our word work activities.

getting ready for letter tiles

At the beginning of the year, or during the summer, I always prepped a class set of letter tiles. I liked to print them on two colors of card stock so students could easily see the vowels and the consonants. I would print the consonants on pink card stock and the vowels on blue, but you can really use any colors (or just use one color).

Cutting out a class set can be a time consuming task. This is a great activity if you have a classroom aide, parent volunteer, friend or family member asking how they can help.

After the letters were cut, I would put them in quart-sized zipper baggies. Each student would get their own baggie with a full set of letter tiles. I also put a snack size baggie inside the larger baggie. More about that soon. All baggies (big and small) were labeled with the students name.

By getting this done during the summer or at the beginning of the year, you will save valuable time during the school year and help keep everything in its place! I don’t know about you, but it’s always a great feeling to start the year prepped and organized!

Setting up Letter tiles for the week

Remember that small baggie, well it is time to use it! From the beginning of the year, students were trained on how to prepare the letter tiles they needed for the week. This time saving classroom procedure gave students the opportunity to be independent and responsible. And, it also saved us lots of time during our lesson.

Each week when I introduced a new spelling pattern, I would put out all of the letter tiles we would be using in our lessons. I liked to display them in my word work pocket chart, but you could just as easily write the list on the board. When students saw this list at the front of they room, they knew it was time to prepare for the week.

As part of morning work, the students would grab their bag of letter tiles and get busy searching for the tiles we need. They loved to dump out their big bag of letter tiles on their desk and hunt for all the letters. They put these letters into the smaller snack-sized baggie. The extra letter tiles and the small baggie were then stored inside the quart size bag in each student’s desk. Throughout the week students knew to grab the smaller bag for our word building activities.

This is such a great morning work activity for Monday morning when everything seems to be a little more hectic than any other day of the week. Students know the expectation and can get to work organizing their tiles without me having to say anything.

WORD WORK with letter tiles

Now let’s jump right into how we use these letter tiles to help students with important phonemic awareness skills. When it was time for our word work with letter tiles, all I had to do was ask them to pull out the letter tile baggie from their desk. The students knew that this meant the the snack-sized baggie with the tiles we need for the week.

The students would begin and line up the letter tiles on the top of their desks. I would also have the letter tiles ready to go. I liked using a pocket chart for these activities, but you could also add a small magnet to the back of each letter and use on the front board or you could project the same letter tiles using a document camera.

building words

I would begin by calling out the first word that would use our target spelling pattern. I would give students a chance to build the word and then I would build it. We would talk about our sound and spelling pattern.

building words with letter tiles is an excellent way to help students develop strong phonemic awareness, reading and spelling skills

Then, I would call out other words that we would use to practice. Each time giving students an opportunity to build the word and then check using my build.

I would have my students practice building words using word tiles on multiple days during the week. This was a quick 5-7 minute activity but it had a powerful impact on their reading and spelling.

Each sound in the Engaging Word Work resource comes with a word list so it’s really easy to have a variety of words at your fingertips for these word building activities.

Word building games

Sometimes, we would incorporate games into our word building time. I would ask a student to come up to the whiteboard and build a word with my pocket chart. They would have to try to spell the word before the kids at the desks finished theirs.

Sometimes I would play “I’m thinking of a word . . .” and use a riddle approach to word building. It might sound like this:

use letter tiles or magnetic letters to give students hands-on practice building words

I’m thinking of a word . . .

  1. where the first sound is the same as the first sound in ‘castle.’
  2. where the second sound is the same vowel sound as in ‘place.’
  3. and where the end sound is the same as the same as the starting sound but using a different letter.
  4. where the last letter in the word doesn’t make a sound
  5. I’m thinking of a word and the word is . . .

Then the class would answer “cake!”

By mixing in some game like activities the students always looked forward to word building time!

word work for the entire year

I hope that you found some letter tile activities that you can use in your classroom. To complete these activities and help your students build their reading and spelling skills all you need are some letter tiles and words.

If you’d like to save some time and have everything you need for an entire year of word work right at your fingertips then you need to check out Engaging Word Work! My entire word work program that I used in my first grade classroom is all bundled up in this one resource. Building words with letter tiles is just one component of that.

You can find all of the ready to use resources in my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Word Work Activities and Centers for the entire year

This bundle includes each of these resources. Everything you need for work work instruction and practice for the entire school year!

short vowels, blends and digraph word work activities
long vowel, CVCe, vowel pairs and vowel team word work activities
word work activities for r controlled vowels, dipthongs and more advanced phonics skills

Try it out for free!

Grab this free digraph ‘ng’ word work set and try out all of the word work activities that you will get for each and every sound and concept. This free set gives you the chance to see everything and try it out with your students too! Grab your free word work activities here!

free word work activities for the digraph ng

What’s next?

I hope you are loving all of the fun and engaging word work activity ideas so far. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 I would encourage you to hop over there and read through the tips I provided on word work and sorting activities.

Be sure to check back for the rest of this series too! Don’t miss any of posts by joining the Fun Times in First e-mails. I’ll notify you when each post is added.


Save These word work sorting activities

Be sure to pin this page to your favorite classroom Pinterest board. Then you can come back again and again for successful word work activities to last the whole year.

building words with letter tiles is an excellent way to help students develop strong phonemic awareness, reading and spelling skills


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