Word Sorting Activities


Types of Sorts

One of my favorite ways to teach phonics skills is through word sorting activities. Today, I am sharing three different types of sorting activities and how they help our first graders increase their decoding skills. I’ll also share easy ways to incorporate these sorts into your instruction.

Picture Sorts

syllable sorting activity
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Students sort pictures into two or three categories in a picture sort. Place a header at the top of 2 or 3 columns and present students with various picture cards. Picture sorts focus on building phonemic awareness skills. So they are a great place to start!

Here are some examples:

  • Beginning consonant sounds (great review at the start of the school year!)
  • Comparing digraphs (sh vs. ch)
  • Comparing short vowel sounds (i.e. short a vs. short o)
  • Comparing long and short vowels (i.e. short i vs. long i)
  • Where students hear a sound in a word (i.e. medial sound vs. final sound)

Word Sorts

Word sorts are a great way to increase understanding of word patterns.
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A word sort is just like it sounds- students are sorting written words! Word sorts are a key activity to increase students’ word awareness. During a word sort students group words by common spelling patterns. 

Here are some examples:

  • Sort by word families
  • Sort words by syllable patterns
    • One example is sorting CVC vs. CVCe words.
  • Comparing two to three sound/spelling patterns
    • One example is sorting vowel team ai and ay words. After sorting, students can see when each type of spelling pattern is used; ai at the beginning or middle of a word, ay at the end of a word or syllable.
  • Comparing the location of spelling patterns in words
    • An example would be words that begin with sh and words that end with sh

Writing Sorts

Writing sorts are a dictation activity. Dictation is an excellent way for students to transfer decoding skills to their daily writing. 

For this activity, students will need some type of writing materials. A worksheet with columns or a dry-erase board works great! Students will label the columns at the top and the teacher will orally dictate words for students to write in the correct columns. I also like to include a dictated sentence at the end that uses some of the sorted words.

Use writing sorts to help with spelling skills.
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Sorting pictures and writing words.
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You can grab a free writing sort by clicking the image below!

When and Why To Use Sorting Activities:

Picture Sorts: Picture sorts are essential in Kindergarten and the beginning of first grade. They help increase phonemic awareness skills.

Word Sorts: Use word sorts as soon as students begin reading cvc words. They help increase word awareness.

Writing Sorts: Can be used as soon as students are reading short vowel/cvc words. They help transfer word knowledge to daily writing. 

Word sorting activities work great for whole class instruction, small groups, centers, and independent activities.

Planning for sorting activities: 

You only need a few basic supplies for using sorts in your classroom! I love using a pocket chart for these activities. You need some header cards and some pictures. You can find great premade sets. Another option is to create your own header cards by writing the skill on index cards. You can also complete picture sorts on an interactive whiteboard, or students can complete their own sorts with a cut and glue worksheet.

Sorting words by word families activity.
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Word sorting center activity
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Word sorting activities make great centers! Use fun containers and interesting word cards to make it feel like a game!

Want some premade sorting activities? Check out these resources!

Phonics sorts activities
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Need more phonics activities? Check out this post about using decodable passages with your students.

Hi, I’m Jaymie! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I taught for 17 years including 12 years in First Grade, 4 years as a Reading Interventionist, and 1 year in Pre-K. 

I have a passion for creating rigorous, easy to use primary resources that require little or no prep! I hope you find some easy ideas to take back to your classroom or use in your homeschool!

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