Phonics Activity

Looking for new ways to prepare your Year 1s for their phonics screening check? This fun activity can be used in a PE lesson or during outdoor play and will give them plenty of practice at reading the type of pseudo-words (“alien” words) they will meet in the screening.

To complete this activity you will need:

  • A set of “real” and “alien” words, printed on card or laminated ( You can use past screening checks for the” alien” words or search on the internet for lists.)
  • Two hoops or buckets for each team labelled “real” and “alien” (or labelled as appropriate for your phonics scheme.)
  • A marker cone for each group
  • Divide the class into teams of 4 or 5. Set up the activity with a cone for the children to line up behind, and the two hoops or buckets a few metres away. Place the cards next to the cone (or have a team member hold them and pass them as needed)

Phonics Games

At a signal, the first child in the team takes a card and reads it to their team. They decide if it is a “real” or “alien” word and the child runs to the hoops and drops it in the appropriate one. They rejoin their team at the back and the next person takes their turn. Continue until all of the words have been sorted.

Extension Ideas

  • Use the cards in a Treasure Hunt activity. Ask the children to sort them into “real” and “alien” words as they find them.
  • The cards can be used to play games in pairs or small groups inside, taking it in turns to turn over a card, read it, and sort it into the correct pile.
  • Put the cards into the literacy area, with pots labelled “real” and “alien” to sort them into as an independent activity.
  • Ask the children to design their own aliens and name them using the alien words (or by making up their own alien words).

Be careful when choosing the words to ensure that they are truly pseudo-words. Do not use words that are phonetically identical to a real word (for example “bigh”) as children will categorise them as “real”. During the phonics screening children are required to read pseudo-words as this tests their phonic decoding skills in isolation.

A summary of information and guidance with all the key dates for the 2016 screening is here

Previous Phonic screening tests can be found at the bottom of the page here.

Learning Outcomes

National Curriculum 2014 – English

KS1 – Pupils should be taught to apply phonic knowledge and skills as the route to decode words. They should also be taught to read accurately by blending sounds in unfamiliar words containing GPC s that have been taught.

This post was by Sam Collins

Sam teaches in Devon, and has over 20 years experience in primary education teaching Early Years, KS1 and KS2.

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