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Making Words and Letter Organization

Do you do the activity Making Words?  I encourage you to make this activity a part of your word time if you do not already.  It is  hugely beneficial to your students in phonemic awareness, phonics, root words, endings, etc...  I can tell a big difference in the students who come to me that have had lessons in Making Words and those who have not.   There are several different books for this, but I like Patricia Cunningham's Making Words the best.  They are available for kindergarten on up to grade 5.  Maybe even higher than that, but I only service up to fifth grade so I am unsure just how high they go.

Basically, they take a word like cupcakes (from the cover of the book above) and you give students clues to make smaller words.  They start out easy: make a two letter word- up.  Students build the word with letter tiles or magnetic letters.  Next, add one letter to up to make the word cup.  Change one letter in cup to make it cub.  Add a letter to cub to change the sound of the vowel and make it cube, etc...  You can make your own lessons, but I have found that these books are great and I just pull a lesson to go with the chunk that we are working on that week.  

After students have made all of the words, it is time to sort words into groups according to their chunks.  

Next is a VERY important step and should not be skipped!  It is the transfer step to see if students can transfer the skill of using chunks of words they know to read and spell words they may not know.  These are written in a different color in this picture so you can see where the transfer words are. 

This is how I keep my letters organized so the letters do not become a chaotic mess.  Lakeshore sells magnetic letters that come a nice sectioned box.  I have two of these.

If you don't have these magnetic letter boxes, you can get plastic fishing tackle boxes at Walmart and set up the dividers inside to section off the spaces.  Then copy off your alphabet, laminate, and cut them out.  I have one for capital letters and one for lower case letters.

I have also just typed rows of the letters needed for the lesson in large type and handed those strips out to the students to cut the letters apart so they can use them to manipulate during the lesson and then just toss in the trash when finished.  So whatever budget you have, this is an activity everyone can do and should do!  It strengthens their knowledge about how letters and sounds work together, how to break words for decoding, using words you know to spell or read words you don't know, etc....   And as a plus, the students really do enjoy this activity and manipulating the letters and sounds.  :)

Join in the organization fun and link up with Ladbug's Teacher Files!!  
We would love to hear how you keep things organized!


  1. I LOVE Making Word activities!!! I, too, keep letters in a box. I used a tool box (like the ones to hold nuts, bolts, screws) for my letters. It keeps everything at your fingertips. Thanks for sharing!

    First Grade and Fabulous

  2. My kiddos love making words! Great ideas for storage :)

    The Learning Tree

  3. I love this activity and need to use it more with the older students I work with. I need to organize my letters better because they drive me crazy. I am heading to Wal Mart in a few minutes and will be purchasing something to help me out. I have the Teaching Tiles, which also has word chunks I use with my K and 1 students.

    Reading Toward the Stars

  4. I love this activity.. and the kids love it too!! I watched a big seminar on a teacher explaining it during one of my first grad school courses and have been hooked since.

    Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans

  5. I have the exact same box from Walmart for my letters & it works perfectly! I love that activity for making words. Thanks for sharing!

    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  6. I have a class set of letter cards in individual baggies. I pass them out then tell the kids which letters to take out for the day's activities. They keep the rest in the baggie. If you use the box, how do you get the needed letters to each student?

  7. I have heard great things about Patricia Cunningham's Making Words from a 1st grade teacher in one of my grad classes. I have 2 questions for you. 1) Do you do this in small groups or whole group? One reason I ask is management. It would be easy handing out the needed letters in small groups, but in a large group I feel like it would take an incredibly long time. I have the cards you show here but I like the idea of handing them a strip of letters as a one time use option simply because it'd be faster. 2)Are the kids supposed to record every word after they make it? Thanks!!

    ❤- Stephanie
    Falling Into First

  8. Ok love making word activities and the organization! Big question for you. . . Is your table covered in some type of whiteboard medium? If so did you do it? I definitely need to do that! It's brilliant!


  9. I love making words. I've done it whole group and in small groups. I love how each lesson is differentiated. There's something for the ones who struggle a bit as well as for those who need a challenge.

  10. I love your ideas and look forward to reading more of your posts. I am your newest follower and I'm glad I found your blog.
    You are welcome to visit me at: Teaching Kindergarten Kiddos.

    ~ Lisa

  11. Great storage-I like the paper strip idea too!

  12. I love tackle boxes...have several from Walmart. Your table is great. Is that a white board table?

  13. DeAnne, isn't Making Words just great! I love those kind of organizer boxes too. :)

  14. Thank you, Kimberly! I appreciate you coming by!

  15. Andrea, did you get your boxes? Those little letters can get in a real mess in a hurry!

  16. Katie, I love it too and find that it helps my students so much! Thanks for coming by!

  17. That's great, Lisa, that we have the same thing! Works so well! Thank you!

  18. That is a great idea with the baggie, Steph54! I have done passing out the letters several ways. You can set the box out and have the students get the ones needed or you can set them in bowls or paper plates ahead of time. That works well for small groups. For the classroom, I liked typing the letters needed in mulitple rows on paper and copying. Then you cut between rows and hand out the rows. They can either tear or quickly cut between letters.

  19. Stephanie, I have used Making Words with both small groups and whole classroom. When I was in the classroom, I did it once every week. I typed the letters needed for that week in multiple rows and copied. Then cut between rows and passed out the rows. Students either tore or cut between letters. I taught them to only make one cut between letters- no trimming to make it go faster. I did not have students write the words as they went and we sorted on the pocket chart. But now that I am teaching struggling readers, I have found that they need this extra step of writing each word as we go.

  20. Brittany, the tables are called markerboard activity tables and are available at
    I must say the are WONDERFUL!!

  21. I agree, Tammy, Making Words is a great whole group or small group activity! So valuable!

  22. Lisa, thank you so much for your kind words! I am now your newest follower and I left you a comment on your blog!

  23. Thank you, JTilton! The paper strip worked the best for me when doing this with a whole class.

  24. Thanks, Tammy from Primary Paradise! The table is a white board table called a markerboard activity table and can be found at
    They are just wonderful!!

  25. Great activity. I use the tackle box for my letters. I love your white board table!

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  26. Thanks Barbara!! I love those tables too!


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