Light Up Your Phonics Instruction

Hi Friends,
It’s Hope King from Second Grade Shenanigans and I am so excited about one of the newest strategies that I have implemented into my classroom to help my sweet little struggling spellers/decoders. Lately, my little phonics group that is still hard at working mastering the “sound it out” technique has really been uninterested bored out of their minds  straight up struggling!  I have tried everything…AND I MEAN EVERYTHING to get their attention, catch their eye and really get them focused on the importance of spelling and the knowledge of how words work. I must say…if you can’t pay attention to the CRAZY lady practically standing on her head…I don’t know what will work. I will have to say I was beginning to become a tad frustrated {not with them of course…with the “situation”}…yes we have ALL been there! So, I decided to try yet another little method to get them going. I bought some very inexpensive lights at Walmart to help them visually see how many sounds are in the words that we have been trying to spell. I was a hopin’ and a prayin’ that this would literally give them a light bulb moment.
I decided to use the lights {I refer to them as tap lights} during small group phonics instruction for my struggling readers and spellers. {A little note: these lights are now used with all of my groups…the kids are dying to get their hands on them}. Here is how the lights are working in our room.
As we sound out each word, the students tap a light for each sound.
Here we were working on the word scuff.
Once the students know how many sounds are in the word, they build the word using magnetic tiles.  Scuff has three sounds /sc/ /u/ /ff/ so the students turned on three lights. Then they pulled down the letters that represented each sound.
Now…here is the BEST part! When the student creates the word, I tap out the lights of the sounds that are correct. For example, in the word scuff, the student had the middle and ending sound correct, so I turned those lights off. They now know that something is wrong with their beginning sound. Rather than saying, no…you got the word wrong, they can correct a specific part.  {Ahhh…just thinking about how well these little lights have been working just makes this girl giddy!}
When all parts of the word are correct, the lights are all turned off and the student knows they are right on track! {I totally forgot the next picture had the word track until I looked down at the picture!}
I have had more success in the past three days of phonics instruction than I have had all year. My students are seriously on fire during phonics time and are beginning to manipulate letter sounds and create new words. Phonics Tap Light + My Students = A Match Made in Heaven. My other groups have been using the lights to segment words into syllables. They tap a light for each syllable in their word to learn how to break words apart.
If these lights are going to motivate my students with phonics {seriously…it was bad y’all} I may need my parents to provide a year supply of batteries to incorporate these little gems into all subject areas! J
How do you get your students enthused about phonics??? I am dying to know...just in case all of my lights burn out!


  1. First of all brilliant. I have a lot of kids struggling with phonics and am just lost on how to teach them the skills they need and the skills they should of had or at least just need tweaking. Do you just have 3 lights for each child?

  2. Oh my gosh, this is so neat! I am stealing this idea for sure! Thank you for sharing, I can't wait to try it with my firsties!

    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

  3. Love this idea. I saw these lights at the Dollar Tree. They even had some in different shapes.

  4. This is SO great - for two reasons! 1. It's just a genius, fun idea. 2. My school uses the Wilson Fundations phonics program and they are literally taught to 'tap out' the sounds using fingers. This would be so great for the kiddos that still struggle with that concept because they would physically be tapping the lights on!! Thanks for sharing!!


  5. Hope, this is such an amazing idea! Thanks for sharing. These are much more exciting than Elkonin boxes! My kiddos will love them!

    Down Under Teacher

  6. Great idea!!! I love it! This would be great for my ESOL kids!

  7. BRILLANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Omiword, I am struggling with the SAME THING and this just made my day. I can't wait to share out with my teammates!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  8. Neat idea!!! Thanks for sharing! :)


  9. Amazing idea!! Now where did you buy these lights? I think I'll be needing some :)

  10. Thanks so much for the sweet comments! I hope that this can help your kiddos out just a bit! :) The lights came from Walmart. I think they were just under 3 bucks for four! I have also heard Dollar Tree? I will be checking it out!

    I do have lights for each child but I teach this concept in small groups. :)

  11. This is an awesome idea! I will definitely have to keep it in mind!! Thanks!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  12. This is a fantastic idea! I just shared your blog post on facebook so all my teacher friends could check it out. Thanks for sharing wonderful ideas!

  13. BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!! I saw something like this on Teacher Tipster but yours takes it to a whole 'nother level!!!!! Walmart, here I come!
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  14. This is a fab idea!! It is perfect for my class needs right at this moment!

    Thank you,

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  16. Hope, Thank you so much for this great idea. I homeschool my three children and am always searching for great ways to keep my kindergarten son engaged in learning! He LOVES LOVES LOVES flashlights and we are going to use this for spelling his CVC words. What a great idea - Thanks again!

  17. This is fabulous! My kids are not decoding yet, but it would be a great take on the traditional Elkonion or sounds boxes that we use to develop phonemic awareness...Tap on a light for every sound they hear. Guess who's making a trip to Wal-Mart?

  18. Thanks for the idea. I am going to try this with my kindergartners. Right now we are working on 3 word sentences and some students are still having trouble. And when we move into 3 letter words then the lights will come in handy too. :)

    Kinders on the Block

  19. Love, love, love the idea! Such a refreshing way to work with those sounds! I wish I had another fun way to share back, but most are what we have seen with tapping, pushing, framing, and such. Thanks and LOVE your blog here and at Shenaningans! :)
    Simply The Classroom

  20. What a great idea! I am going to try this for both sounds in words and syllables! Can't wait! Thanks for sharing!

  21. I think this is a great idea! Very visual.

    Just a note, though: 'scuff' has FOUR sounds, not three. s...k...uh...f

    1. Actually the "SK" is an initial blend in this word, so, in phonics we consider that 1 sound.

  22. what is the color coding you have with your magnet letters the kids use?

  23. Where did you get the letter tiles?



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