Teaching CVC Words in Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade

October 12, 2021

Are you teaching CVC words in your kindergarten, first, and second grade classroom? In this post, I share a small group lesson with 4 parts that you can take and use in your own classroom right away! I also have a free CVC activity you can use with students below! Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:


Step 1: The Warm Up

I don’t like to waste any time when I set my students up for their small group activities, so I usually have a warm-up waiting for them once they get to the teacher table. A great warm-up for CVC words is an alphabet fluency square like the one below. This type of activity lets students review letter names and/or sounds we’ve already taught before we make CVC words!

They can make their way through the square by identifying each letter and naming the sound each letter makes. If you don’t have an alphabet fluency square, you can do this same warm-up by writing a bunch of letters on the whiteboard or on a piece of chart paper in front of the group.

Side note: If you are a member of my SJT Literacy Club, you can access these in the club under “Alphabet Knowledge”


Another great warm-up for practicing CVC words is an activity called Erase ‘em. All you need to do is draw two word families on the board like the photo below. Your students will look at the letters and figure out which one can go into the word families to make a real word, then they will erase that letter/sound and continue until they are all gone! These warm-up activities are great for reviewing old phoneme skills that they will be using in the CVC word lesson ahead. Of course, the ones below aren’t all CVC, this was an example from later in the year!



Step 2: Phoneme Segmentation

After the warm up, I like to have students practice a little phonemic awareness through phoneme segmentation. You will give your students 3-5 CVC words and have them segment the sounds that they hear. When segmenting sounds, I recommend using manipulatives like counters or play-dough to utilize a multi-sensory approach for practicing this skill. Students can also do this by simply segmenting the phonemes along on their arm (the first sound they tap their shoulder, the middle sound they tap the middle of their arm, the last sound they tap their hand).

A common mistake teachers make when teaching phonics is they forget to review old skills when introducing new lessons. When you have your students do an activity like this, you want to make sure you are still practicing the skills that you already taught them in the past. For example, if you are working on short /e/ CVC words in this lesson, but you taught short /a/ CVC words last week, you’ll want to include a mix of both short /e/ and /a/ words in this phoneme segmentation activity.

If you want to review other mistakes that are commonly made when teaching phonics before you try this lesson out in your classroom, check out my video here: 3 Mistakes Teachers Make when Teaching Phonics.



Step 3: Decoding CVC words

Students had a quick warm-up, then they were able to segment some sounds to practice phonemic awareness. Now it’s time to decode these CVC patterns! When doing this I like to first have students decode words in isolation before moving on to decode short sentences. I created a bunch of these one-page decodable sheets as a perfect activity for this because it has your students start by decoding sounds at the top, then working their way down to words in isolation, and finally reaching sentences at the bottom!

You could of course just write down some words on the board, use decodable texts, or print out your own decodable words/sentences, but if you want to check out my unit with over 100 different sheets, just click below!


Step 4: Practice Fluency with a Game!

I like to end my small group phonics lessons with a game so students can continue playing after we wrap up the lesson. These games can review anything from phoneme isolation to practicing encoding & decoding. In fact, I have tons of phonics and phonemic awareness activities I like to use here >> PHONICS & PHONEMIC AWARENESS ACTIVITIES. For this example lesson, I am sharing one of my favorite encoding games, and it is called Mix, Spell & Color:

(Freebie Alert! Click below to download this game for free!)

To play, your students will start by flipping over one of the picture cards and writing down the word on their whiteboard.  You can also have students make the word with magnets. After writing down the word, identify which vowel is in the middle and color the matching box on the recording sheet. Repeat this process until one column is colored in all the way to the top. Students can play this individually or in small groups! I also like this game because you can differentiate by only using short e and short a words. Or only short u, short i words, etc.



Teacher Tips

As always, these lessons are just a layout to help you teach new skills to your students. It doesn’t have to look exactly like this when you implement it into your own classroom, but you do want to make sure that you are always aware of these main points when teaching any phonics lesson:

  1. Review old sounds & teach new ones
  2. Practice phonological/phonemic awareness
  3. Practice decoding in isolation as well as in sentences or passages
  4. Encode words to practice phoneme-grapheme connections
  5. Model each exercise a few times first, then have your students try it out on their own


Bonus Tip: This post is all about practicing CVC words, but you can use these same four steps with any skill you want to practice with your students. Feel free to try them out with any of your lessons and let me know how it goes in the comments below!


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