CVC words are the best type of words to teach beginning readers! They're perfect for building basic decoding skills to help your students become capable readers. Learn how to teach CVC words correctly by following these easy steps!
What is a CVC word?
A CVC word is a three-letter word made up of a: consonant + vowel + consonant
Some examples of CVC words include:
These consonant-vowel-consonant words are special for a few reasons. Firstly, they always have short vowel sounds.
Secondly, they also have just one syllable since they have one vowel sound. This is a helpful lesson for students to learn early, before they move onto other letter patterns and syllabification.
Plus, CVC words are typically easy to decode. If your students know their letter sounds, it will be easy to identify the individual sounds in each new word and blend them together.
What skills do students need to learn CVC words?
In synthetic phonics (part of a Science of Reading based approach), we're helping students' brains learn how to read through systematic, explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.
Since simple CVC words are some of the first words students will ever read, it's important to ensure that students have these necessary pre-reading skills.
- Letter sound identification, including knowledge of the five short vowels
- Oral blending skills
- Oral segmenting skills
How to Teach CVC Words: Step-by-Step
Ready to get started? Below, I'll guide you through how to use phonemic awareness to teach your students CVC words. This structure will build on what they already know, which makes it easier for you and them.
Although there are seven steps below, don't overthink it! It's so much easier than it seems, and you don't need to do everything in one day.
If you're overwhelmed trying to teach phonics following the Science of Reading or want to make it a little easier, don't forget to download my free 250-page phonics handbook Phonics and Bee-yond.
It will tell you everything you need to build your students' phonics skills and phonological awareness in no time.
CVC Lesson Overview
Whilst not necessary, particularly when students are FIRST learning to read and write, you might like to start with a brief mini-lesson about what CVC words are, and record on an anchor chart for easy referencing. This will help students to understand that CVC words follow a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern.
- Practise oral isolation, segmenting, and blending by following the steps below for a few minutes each.
- After that, decode the written CVC words. Incorporate some word-building games to make it fun and engaging.
- Invite students to work independently or with a partner to practise their new skills. Ensure that students have been explicitly taught how to play the activities before asking them to engage in independent practice.
As your students develop these foundational skills, you can stretch their skills even further by incorporating phoneme manipulation and making their independent practice more complex.
Step 1: Phoneme isolation
All reading starts with oral language, and students already know these simple 3-letter words. Tap into their existing knowledge by breaking apart each sound out loud.
Let's practice breaking apart the sounds in "hat."
- "What's the first sound you hear in hat?" /h/
- "What's the last sound you hear in hat?" /t/
- "What sound is in the middle of hat?" /a/
Students will typically identify the consonant sounds the fastest. The middle sounds are harder to separate. Practise this routine as a whole class for 1-2 minutes.
Step 2: Blending
This next step is basically the opposite of the last one. Provide students with a word's distinct phonemes (individual sounds) and have them blend them together.
- Say /d/ /e/ /n/ out loud to the whole class as separate sounds
- Ask: "Put those sounds together. What word did I sound out?"
Repeat this for 1-2 minutes with new words before moving on.
Cars can be a great way to support students as they learn to blend.
Step 3: Segmenting
Once the students have practised their oral blending, move on to segmenting. To do this, say the word and invite them to tap out or write the sounds they hear.
I recommend using orthographic mapping to help your students encode these words to memory. Give your students a copy of my free printable sound box template in a plastic sleeve for daily practice.
- Say or show the word.
- Ask students to say the sound each letter makes (the individual phonemes).
- Sound out the first letter.
- Sound out the middle letter. Remind them that it will be a short sound!
- Sound out the final letter.
After students sound out each letter in the word, coach them to put the sounds all together. Since these words are so simple, this is a great way to practise blending.
Poppits can be a great way to support students as they are learning to segment.
- Show the word: den
- Identify the sounds. /d/ /e/ /n/
- Say the whole word.
Like the other skills above, practice daily for 1-2 minutes at a time. These skills are really quick and fun!
Step 4: Phoneme manipulation
Once your students know their CVC sounds, stretch their thinking by inviting them to add, delete, or substitute sounds in the word. This one feels like a brain stretch, but it just requires a little practice every day.
Addition: "What word do you get if you add /m/ to the beginning of /at?/"
Deletion: "What word do you get if you take away /p/ from pin?"
Substitution: "What word do you get if you change the /c/ in cat to /r/?"
Step 5: Independent Practice
After you've explicitly taught your class CVC words and provided them with opportunities to segment and blend both orally and with the written word, students are ready to practise CVC words independently.
I recommend explicitly teaching these activities with the whole class or in small groups, checking to ensure everyone understands the instructions.
Then, they can work on these fun activities independently in literacy centers. These fun CVC games are also a great alternative to homework.
Especially for young children, make this play as tactile and interactive as possible. Hands-on learning will keep your students engaged and will help them lock in these new literacy skills.
CVC Activity Suggestions
- Say it, Build it, Write it - FREEBIE
Step 6: Decode simple sentences
As students become more and more comfortable decoding short vowel CVC words, offer them some very simple decodable sentences.
I sat on the cat.
Students can read "I" easily. "The" is one of the first high-frequency words (also known as heart words) we teach, whilst 'on' can also be decoded with minimal effort. The two CVC words have the same ending sounds, so once students decode the first one, it will be easy to also decode the second one.
You can make these sentences more complex over time, but this is one of my favourite ways to help students start reading. They'll feel so proud to read their first sentences, too!
Easy CVC Decodable Sentences
Decodable CVC Sentence Mats - First set is FREE!
Decodable CVC Sentences Read & Match - First set is FREE!
CVC Sentences Read, Match & Write - First set is FREE!
Step 7: Read decodable books and passages
As your students practice their decoding skills, they can work their way through longer stretches of text. I recommend only using decodable books, not predictable texts, to ensure your students can read each word. We don't want to promote compensation strategies like using context clues or looking at the pictures.
If you don't have decodable readers available at your school, I recommend these sources:
- Little Learners Love Literacy
- Decodable Readers Australia
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