Activities to Teach Phonics and Math


Little hands need to be manipulating items during learning. And I’m not talking about a touchpad or mouse… What if you could include some hands-on activities to teach phonics and math to your students?  No printer is required and they get away from being glued to a computer or tablet screen! These easy prep phonics and math activities will keep your students engaged in learning and having a little bit of fun!

Photos of hands-on activities to teach phonics and math


Here are some activity ideas to teach phonics and math. All can be done with items you currently have in your home or tucked away in your classroom cupboards and closet!

If you want to add some additional practice pages to these activities, you can easily search, download, and print from a variety of options using Education to the Core Premium. Our one-stop-shop membership for unlimited access to teaching slides, printables, centers, anchor charts, and digital resources. Give Premium a try for only $1.00 this week and grab up to 10 activities. 


Phonics Activities

All of these activities to teach phonics will work on words containing certain single letter sounds (m, s, t, r, p, etc.) or multiple letter sounds (sh, pl, gr, ee, ay, etc.).

  • Phonics Scavenger Hunt – Have your students find objects in the classroom that contain the phonics sound.
  • Swat the Sound – Write words with the phonics sound on sticky notes and give your students flyswatters.  They get to “swat” a sticky note and then tell you or a classmate that word.
  • Magazine Search – Have your students go through old magazines or newspaper ads and find words or pictures that contain the phonics sound.
  • Sidewalk Chalk Words – Take some chalk outside and see how many words your students can write that contain the phonics sound.
  • Pancake Flip Phonics Style – Write words that contain the phonics sound on circles cut out from paper.  Lay them word-side down on a table or the floor.  Give your students a spatula and have them flip the “pancakes” over, saying the words as they flip them.
  • Hide-and-Seek Phonics – Your students write words that have the phonics sound in them on note cards or pieces of paper.  While your students close their eyes or are out of the classroom, hide the note cards. They then have to “seek” the cards, reading the words as they find them.

Spatula flipping "paper pancakes" that contain the 'sh' sound


Phonics Games

Turn some popular games into activities to teach phonics.  They are a fun alternative to learning words with phonics patterns.

  • Life Size Phonics Game Board – Cut out circles and write words that have the phonics sound on them.  Place around the room, roll a die, and walk that number of steps on the circles.  Once they’ve landed on a circle, they need to say that word.
  • Phonics BINGO – Create a BINGO board (at least 3×3) and fill each square with a word that has the phonics sound.  Write those same words on small pieces of paper that you will draw out of a cup.  Your students will cover each word that is drawn, trying to get a BINGO or “blackout”.
  • Phonics Pictionary – Think of as many words as you can that contain the phonics sound and write them down on small pieces of paper.  Using a pencil and paper, pick up a word and draw a picture of that word. Your students have to guess what word it is.  You can switch and take turns who is drawing and who is guessing.
  • Memory Match – Write at least 5 pairs of words containing the phonics sound.  Mix them up and flip them over.  The goal is for your students to read and make all of the matches.
  • TIC TAC TOE Phonics – Create a 3×3 grid and have your students fill each space with a word containing the phonics sound.  Then with a marker, play tic tac toe.  You have to say the word before you can cover the space with an “X” or an “O”.

Paper rectangles that have matching words containing the 'ay' sound



Word Family Activities

In addition to teaching phonics sounds, these are some activities that focus on word families.

  • Rhyming Twist – Using a straw and toilet paper tube, create a word family “spinner”.  Cut the tube into two parts (⅓ and ⅔). On the smaller part, write a variety of beginning sounds, and on the larger part, write the word families.  Place both tubes on the straw and allow your students to “spin” them, creating a variety of words.  
  • Sliders – Cut a slit and a rectangular opening into an envelope.  Write the word family to the right of the opening (example at).  Using a strip of colored paper, write the beginning sounds down the strip.  Your students can slide the strip through the envelope to create a variety of words.
  • Sticky Notes – Write a variety of beginning sounds on a piece of paper and the word families on sticky notes.  Have your students mix and match the word families with the beginning sounds to create words.
  • Eggs – Write a word family (ex. op) on the bottom part of the plastic egg.  Write a variety of beginning sounds for that word family on the top part of the plastic egg.  Your students then put the egg together and spin the part with the beginning sounds to create words. Have them read and write each word as they spin it.
  • Magic Spoon – Write a word family on the back of a plastic spoon (ex. “an”).  On a piece of paper, write beginning sounds that create words in that word family (ex. m, p, c, r, t) Your students place the spoon after each beginning sound and reads the words.

Paper with consonants written on it; spoon with 'it' written on the back. Place the spoon after each consonant to create a word.


Math Activities and Games

I know you don’t only focus on phonics activities, so I wanted to include games you can use to teach math concepts as well.

  • Board Games – Play board games that involve counting, such as Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Monopoly, etc.
  • Snack – When giving your students a snack, have them count out a certain number of pieces, making groups.  Can they identify which group has the most and which group has the least?
  • Shape Scavenger Hunt – Ask your students to find objects in your classroom that are a certain shape.  Need to extend it?  Ask them to find solid shape objects (cylinder, sphere, cube, and cone). 
  • Money Skip Count – Every child loves to play with money!  Why not use it to help them skip count?!  Give your students a variety of pennies, nickels, and dimes.  They will need to sort them first and then arrange them in a line before practicing counting by 1s, 5s, and 10s.  Double up the pennies and they can skip count by 2s. 
  • Playing Cards Math – Use a deck of playing cards and remove the jacks, queens, and kings.  Shuffle and deal the whole deck between two students. Each of them flips a card over and adds the two cards together.  Whoever says the sum first wins both cards. The game ends when one player has all of the cards.  You can also play greater than/less than this way.  

Photo collage of activities that teach phonics and math


Share with Us

Let your students “unplug” and enjoy some fun hands-on activities and games that teach phonics and math skills.  We would love to see pictures of the games that you come up with.  Please take a picture and share them in the comments below.  Or if you have an amazing hands-on activity you are using in your classroom, we would love to hear about it!  

Written by: Janessa Fletcher


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