20 Hands-On Phonics Activities for Summer School


Are you looking for some engaging and hands-on phonics activities for summer school? It doesn’t matter what your summer teaching set-up looks like; extended school year (ESY), at home with your own child, or tutoring.  Even if you are at home “kind of” thinking about next year, make sure to bookmark this list for future planning. There are some great hands-on phonics activities here for everyone! 

There is something about phonics that makes me absolutely LOVE teaching the subject!  I don’t know if it is because it lays the foundation for fluency or because of all the fun hands-on activities I can come up with while doing it…  

However, I have found that it is often a topic my students need the most practice with.  Especially when halfway through the year in first grade their little minds are blown when they find out that all those vowels suddenly can make an entirely different new sound (thank you short vs. long vowels)!! 

Summer is a great time to reinforce those phonics skills taught during the year! Don’t let that “Summer Slide” sink in. Be sure to check out this great list of 20 Hands-On Phonics Activities for Summer School (or any other time of the year)!  

Phonics Activity 1. I Spy Early Literacy 

I have to start off this list with one of ETTC’s newest resources!  They are already “flying off the shelves” with students and teachers LOVING them!  Whether you are looking for morning work, transition work, early finishers, or a great resource to supplement along with your phonics lesson – this is going to be my go-to!  Your students will love to be detectives with these “I Spy” activities covering beginning sounds, short vowels, long vowels, and more!

2. Phonics Booklets

What if I said that there were over 200 pages of phonics exercises with this one? Don’t believe me? Check out for yourself! Whether you are focusing on vowels, digraphs, blends, or any other phonics skill check out these amazing Phonics Booklets! This is one of my go-to resources when I want to take the learning outdoors!  Grab a clipboard, and their pencil boxes/pouches, and head on outside to work in the sunshine!

3. Popsicle Short Vowel Worksheet

Follow the path of popsicles to the end using the short vowel sound /o/. A great summertime short vowel review or lesson. Bonus points if you have popsicles for your students to enjoy! (However, a disclaimer – popsicles are NOT included with this resource)

4. Ice Cream Cone Word Families

With popsicles and frozen treats on my mind…let’s toss in an ice-cream activity! Have students help you create this resource by writing word families, digraphs, trigraphs, or blends on a cone.  Have some precut ice cream scoops with various letters or words on them.  Students will have to sort ice cream scoops to the correct cone making the perfect ice cream cone dessert by forming real words to create an ice cream cone with multiple scoops! 

Hands-On Phonics Activity 5. Summer Review – Long Vowel Word Mapping 

Direct from our 2nd Grade Summer Review Packets, check out this Word Mapping activity with long vowel i. No matter how you map out the sounds of a word this is a great review for all! I am going to share some movement ideas while teaching this concept, but I always follow up with some hands-on practice like this mapping worksheet!

Some of us “tap” out sounds with our fingers.  Others may use a “chopping” movement where you chop up your arm while segmenting the words.  I love some movement in my lessons so I tried a gross motor activity while getting those sounds in.  Starting with a big stretch while standing up we say the word aloud (eg., “hat”).  Stand up straight arms down and say the beginning sound: /h/.  Bend your knees down for the middle vowel sound: /a/. Bend all the way down towards the ground for the final sound /t/.  Finally, we jump up and say the entire word: “hat”.

6. Phonics-Based Passages 

Ready for another great resource on this list that has NUMEROUS phonics activities?!? Here we go… Phonics-Based Passages! Whether you want short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, three-letter blends, r-controlled vowels, blends, or more you are going to LOVE these passages!  I like to use this resource and allow my students to work in pairs.

After practice and modeling, my students know that I expect each student in the pair to read the passage aloud to their partner.  Then they can work together to answer the comprehension questions.  Once they are finished with the questions, if time still allows, they can grab their highlighters and go back to the passage to highlight all of the words that have the focus phonics skill.

7. Syllable Type Sort

As we are aware, phonics is not just covering vowel sounds! Don’t worry – we know this and have you covered! Check out this syllable sort with open and closed syllable types!  I feel personally this is a tough concept for students to grasp.  So I am always on the lookout for a resource that allows some additional practice!  Thank you, Education to the Core!  Do you have any fun ways to teach open and closed syllables?  Please let us know in the comments below!

8. Syllable Hop

Sometimes if you ask really really nice…the gym teacher will let you borrow their supplies!

Borrow some obstacle equipment, like cones, hoops, or small hurdles.  Have each student pick an item and then hop over it for each syllable of the word you provide.  For example, the word “marshmallow”.  Marsh-mal-low, the student would hop over the item for each syllable, for a total of three hops. I like to create a path of hula-hoops.  Students must hop through the path by syllable.

9. Phonics Poems

I LOVE using these in my classroom! Yes, this is a list focusing on hands-on phonics activities.  However, this resource offers so much more than JUST phonics. Phonics Poems help build fluency and increase comprehension skills alongside that phonics skill you’re focusing on. Why do you ask? Because each of these poem passages comes with a comprehension page!  Remember the steps I talked about #6 Phonics-Based Passages?  The same steps and expectations apply to these poems!

Phonics Activity 10. Pop Its Centers – CVC Words

I have a small confession.  I dislike pop-its so much.  *eye roll*

Yes, I understand the fidget aspect of things and how they could help a student sit still and focus.  However, I don’t understand families sometimes and the size of these pop-its increases in size daily.  Alright, enough of that let’s get back to business here… where was I?

Oh yes…Pop Its Centers!  Now here is where I can get behind some pop-its in the classroom. Pair this hands-on tool with CVC words!

11. I Spy Phonics

Here is the original ‘inspiration’ for #1 on this list!  Your students are going to LOVE these I Spy resources!  (shhh..they come in a Math and Sight Word series as well).  The cool thing in my eyes is that these activities are so flexible.  I like to keep these on hand because they are the perfect filler activity if my students grasp or fly through something, so I don’t panic.  My students also request them frequently! They are just so fun!

They are so popular that I even had students attempt to make their own by drawing pictures and writing words below to see if their friends could find their drawings!  Thank you, Education to the Core, always there for inspiration.

12. Fishing for Phonics

You can get as creative as you wish with this activity!  By placing cut-out fish with a paperclip on the floor “in the pond”, students can head off to fish!  Yes, there are small student fishing poles you can get, or you can be artsy and create your own with a ruler, string, and a magnet!

Once your students catch a fish, have them identify the letter, the sound it makes, or even sort it and use it in a word!  Feel free to adapt this activity to meet the needs of your students.  Are you working on beginning sounds?  CVC words?  CVCe words?  Blends? Digraphs?  Whatever you are working on can be on your fish for this activity!

Hands-On Phonics Activity 13. Dice Centers – Roll and Read Blends

I love some hands-on activities (as you can tell by this list)! Especially during summer school! Grab those dice that you have lying around and have some fun with blends!  You can have students complete this individually or in pairs!  If in pairs, I like to tell my students for each of them to have a different color.  So then you can count up your color at the end to see who had more blends colored in.  Also, if students are working in pairs they can check each other when reading the blends words.  They get to color the word if they can read it correctly.

14. Summer Color By Number – CVC

It wouldn’t be a summer school list unless I included a summer color by number activity! Your students will remain engaged and on task with these! Oh… best part? The Color By Number activities are ACADEMIC too!  These color-by-number activities are not just coloring tasks.  Believe it or not, they are engaging, differentiated, can be used as assessments, and are academic in nature!  Find out more here.

Phonics Activity 15. Phonics Interactive Notebook – Syllable Puzzles

These Phonics Interactive Notebooks are definitely among my top favorites on this list.  For good reason too.  I LOVE interactive notebooks! Not only do they offer a great review and practice of the skill you just taught.  Yet, students can continue to revisit the activities in the future for additional practice.  I provide each of my students with a composition notebook so that each interactive piece goes in their Phonics journals and it is easily accessible.  On occasion, I will have their notebooks as a station for my literacy centers or as an option for early finishers.

16. Fly Swatters

My students get so excited when I open my cabinet doors and pull out my two oversized fly swatters! (aff)  I divide my class into two teams and provide each team with a giant fly swatter.  One at a time a student from each team comes to the center of the board.  On the board, I already wrote a bunch of words with the skill in mind (long vowels, short vowels, blends, real/nonsense words, etc.).   Once I state the skill the first student to “swat” the word on the board gets a point for their team!   The rules are simple, the team cannot moan or groan, make fun of the other team, or they will lose a point.  Cheering is always allowed!

17. Phoneme Replacement

I have to be honest about this topic. It is a skill that I don’t work on enough with my students. It is a goal of mine to focus on phoneme replacement skills more in the future! I am going to start this summer!  My students often have a hard time with this skill and I don’t know if it is because I don’t practice it enough or if they find it challenging.  Either way, this is a great worksheet to get started!

18. Summer Review – Digraph Spelling Maze

I included another great activity from the Summer Review Packets! Why? Because they are filled with tons of fun cross-curricular activities that are fun and engaging! Just like this maze activity!  Students will enjoy trying to navigate their way through the maze finding all of the digraphs along the way!

19. Phonics Word Work

Ready to extend and practice all of those great phonics skills that you applied in the prior 18 activities? Here is the perfect word work print-and-go worksheets! Complete with writing practice, spin and write, rainbow write, and more!  Are you looking for some home connections work?  Families will love these activities!  They are easy and the students will know exactly how to complete these at home as well as in the classroom after some practice with you.  Allow your students to show off their skills to their families while they are reviewing the phonics skill topic.

Hands-On Phonics Activity 20. Phonics Introductions

With the beginning sound of your name, can you identify traits that begin with that same sound? This is a great activity for our older students, but you can still try this with our younger ones too!  Adapt as needed. You can also add in favorites or places, even words that describe themselves or others near to them.  Let me try… 

  • Christopher
    • Caring
    • Compassionate
    • Cakes and Cookies (I have a sweet tooth)
    • Cuddles my two dogs.
    • Copernicus and Horton are my dogs’ names. 

Premium Membership 

Having an Education to the Core Premium Membership provides an All-Access opportunity to all that Education to the Core has to offer!  Immediate downloads, early access to the brand new releases on resources, and more!  Join the LEADING Primary Printables Membership Community today!  

Don’t let these activities go to waste! They are a great review for the beginning of the year as well as summer school! Make sure to add these Phonics printables to your membership library to save for later!

Simply click, download, and print any of these worksheets with your Premium membership! Grab a clipboard, your crayon box, and head outside to work under the sun.

Alright Teaching Trailblazers, what are some of your favorites on this list?  My personal favorites on this list are #1, #9, and #15! I hope you can take a few of these activities and try them out this summer!  Be sure to check back in with us and let us know how they went!  Even better if you share pictures!

Written By – Christopher Olson


At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

If you enjoyed what we have to offer at ETTC, be sure to join our email list, so you won’t miss a beat. We are here to help with all your resource needs. Become a Premium Member of Education to the Core and receive immediate access to thousands of printable activities. For one small monthly or annual fee, everything ETTC can be at your fingertips all of the time.


Welcome! I’m Emily, Founder of Education to the Core. We are all about helping K-2 teachers by providing unlimited access to affordable printables for every subject area.