Favorite Tools & Tips for Small Group Literacy!

September 5, 2021

Looking for some fun ways to spice up your literacy groups?! I am sharing 5 of my favorite tools and tips to use in small groups that will help your students stay engaged in effective learning!

Just so you know, I shared these ideas over on my YouTube channel, so if you would rather watch/listen to this content, just click play below and subscribe to my channel to learn more fun tips and ideas for teaching K-2:

To read about how I use each tool, just keep scrolling below!

I should preface this post by saying you don’t NEED any of these tools in your classroom by any means, but they sure do offer some high-engagement fun for your students, so I thought I would mention them. I will also link where to grab each tool on Amazon if you are looking for where to get them. Please note, these will be Amazon affiliate links so if you purchase through that link, I will receive a tiny commission from the sale.

1. Magnet Letters

This is the tool I use the most during small group literacy centers. You can use any magnet letters you find, but I like these ones below because the consonants are blue and the vowels are red! Especially when we are building CVC and VC words, I like for students to really see and notice the color-coding of the consonants vs vowels.

You can use these magnet tiles in a variety of different ways! I like to use these when students are matching graphemes to phonemes, where I would say a sound aloud and students would find the matching magnet tile to represent the grapheme.

I like to use only about 5-6 tiles at a time for this, so after we review sounds, I like to have them build some words using the small group of tiles. After building a few words, I like to practice phoneme manipulation and have students practice some word ladders. With the letter tiles below, an example of this type of lesson would sound like this:

which letter makes the sound /a/?

what letter makes the sound /t/?

which letter makes the sound /m/?

(students would pull down the letter that matches in front of them)

using the letters in front of you, build the word MAT

change that beginning sound to the /c/ sound. Which word did you make?

how can you change the word cat to cap?


2. Whisper Phones

You can use whisper phones in many different ways. You probably most commonly see them in independent book bins for students to whisper read to themselves. I love them for this, but there are a few other ways I use them too!

We can use them for phonemic awareness in small groups and I will ask students things like, “please say the sound the letter t makes” and they will whisper it into the phone. They can also use for some phonemic awareness drills. I will ask them to do things like “segment the word mop” or “blend these sounds to make a word, /t/ /a/ /p/” and they will whisper their responses into their phones!


I love using these in small groups because we can all work on the skills independently, but I can easily listen in to see if any of my students may be struggling with a certain skill!


3 & 4 : Finger Lights & Sensory Poppers

These I am going to put together because I like using items like these to really focus on making learning more multisensory. Now, I talked about the importance of multisensory learning in my How to Teach Sight Words According to the Science of Reading video as well as my How to Teach Letter Names and Sounds video, so you can take a peek at either of those to see more!

As for how I use these tools, I love to use finger lights as a way for students to track print as they read words in a book. They can also track individual letters to blend together to make words. I also like to have students actually use their hand and the light to make different letter names and or sight words on their desks, walls, or ceilings with their light!


These sensory poppers have been *popping* up everywhere lately! These are often used as fidget toys, but leave it to teachers to find an academic way to use these fun toys. I like to use these in the same type of way you can use something like play-dough for a multisensory activity. You can easily give students some words (for example chop and couch, if working on /ch/ words) and students would map the sounds they hear in the word by pressing down a popping bubble for each one!

You can see an example below:

Just like using playdough, these poppers give students a nice, tactile option to practice different literacy skills! It also gives them a visual to see exactly how many phonemes are in each word.


5. Dry Erase Dice

Last, but not least, I love using these dry erase dice many different ways in my small group literacy centers. If you’ve been following me for a long time, you will know that I love using games to help reinforce a skill and these dice are great to mix up different skills!

These are the particular ones I love most because the white board portion of them is great quality and doesn’t just rub right off:

For some examples on how to use these, you could take one of the dice and write all 5 of the vowels and then in the 6th spot, draw a star for “wild.” Then, on a small white board, you would write CVC words with a missing vowel (m_t, c_p, t_p, m_p, etc.). Students could take turns rolling the die and using the vowel they landed on to complete and create a real word. You could do this same type of activity with silent e words as well!

If you were working on something like digraphs or blends, you could fill the dice up with some word endings (-ip, -op, -ick, -at, etc.). Then, tell students the target skill is /ch/. Students would simply roll the die and add /ch/ to the beginning of the ending rolled, blend it together, and say the word aloud (chip, chop, chick, chat, etc.). You could extend it by having students draw a picture of that word or use is in a sentence.

Another idea is to simply write some of the phonics skills or letters that you are reviewing and students would roll and say the sounds!


Those are just some of MY favorite literacy tools for small groups! What are your favorites?! Let me know in the comments!


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