Alphabet manipulatives are a must-have teacher resource in an early years classroom. Through play-based learning activities, alphabet manipulatives give students the opportunity to physically move and manipulate sounds. This helps phonics concepts to really STICK as students are first learning how to read and write.
Alphabet manipulatives CAN be expensive. However, there are many cheap ways to create your own phonics resources. If you are looking to DIY your own phonics resources, here are five simple ways that you can create your own alphabet manipulatives.
1. COLOURED BALLS
I write my sounds (single sounds and simple digraphs) on coloured balls. The kids can then build decodable words in muffin trays - this helps to stop the balls rolling around everywhere! By colour-coding the vowels, consonants and digraphs, this also helps to reduce kids wasting time looking for each ball, and gives me more bang for my (learning) buck!
Below are some coloured balls from Amazon which could be used to re-create this activity. I love the look of the pastel ones, but you also can't go wrong with a bit of rainbow!
2. VELCRO SPOTS
I have used my velcro spots for consolidating sound recognition, as well as word-building activities. Students love hopping on the spots and saying the matching sounds to build up their automatic sound recall. These spots can also be used to build decodable words - the velcro adds a sensory element to word-building which the kids love!
You could easily make your own version of these with some plain velcro sit spots, and a sharpie! I recommend using certain colours for certain sounds (e.g. vowels on blue/green, digraphs on red/orange) to help your kids easily find the sounds that they are looking for.
3. UNIFIX CUBES
I made my own phonics cubes by writing on plain unifix cubes with a sharpie. I colour coordinated for consonants, vowels, and digraphs. Students love building different decodable words, and the cubes add an element of fine motor to this phonics activity as well.
4. DRY ERASE WORD BUILDING BLOCKS
I purchased these connector blocks from Kmart Australia. I then used whiteboard tape to make it easy for students to write the sounds and decodable words as they build them. The larger blocks are great for representing digraphs e.g. th, sh, ll, ck.
This dry erase tape could be used on so many different materials to give resources a write and wipe element!
5. SENSORY SOUND STONES
These stones have such a lovely, sensory feel to them, and can be used for so many different phonics activities. Simply print and cut pictures, letters or numbers and apply to the stones using Mod Podge (an all in one glue and sealer).
Watch a reel to see how I create my own stones. My sensory stone templates are available as a free download here.
Below are the materials which I use to create the stones: Mod Podge from Amazonand Tuscan Path White Aztec Pebbles from Bunnings Australia.
< span style="color: #f80bad;">6. DOUBLE-SIDED COUNTERS
These counters have endless uses in your classroom, and can be used for many different phonological awareness and phonics activities. Some uses could be:
- Counting syllables
- Mapping the sounds in decodable words
- Word-building activities - write vowel phonemes on one colour and consonant phonemes on the other
- This or that activities - e.g. write 'ee' on one side and 'ea' on the other, and students must select the correct spelling alternative.
7. COLOURED BLOCKS
Coloured blocks could be turned into word-building blocks - simply write your sounds on the blocks with a sharpie. By colour-coding the vowels, consonants and digraphs, this will help to reduce kids wasting time looking for the blocks that the need to build their words.
I created word-building magnets using these coloured magnets from Officeworks Australia. As you can see, I did the vowels in blue, the consonants in white, and the consonant digraphs in red. Students build their words on cookie trays.
Here are some coloured magnets that can also be found on Amazon:
Students will love building words with duplo. Connecting blocks are a great way to get students segmenting each of the sounds in a word, and then connecting them together to make the word.
10. JUMBO POPSICLE STICKS
The humble popsicle stick can be used for so many classroom activities. Here's an example of how they can be used to build decodable words.
11. BOTTLE TOPS
This is a super simple way to recycle your existing bottle tops, and create an additional phonics manipulative for your classroom! I just write on bottle tops with a black or metallic sharpie.
12. MINI CUPS
These mini cups are from Kmart Australia and can be used to build decodable words. They also stack away easily for storage.
So many of the activities shared in the Phonics & Beeyond Handbook are learning disguised in games, and that is for a reason. Kids need lots and lots of repetition for concepts to stick in their brains, but they also need their learning to be FUN!