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Must-Have Printable Free Phonics Games for 1st Grade

You hear me talk time and time again about fluency and it’s importance, right?  Well, behind fluency is decoding, and when you still have some students who need to improve on decoding, you simply cannot move forward with fluency – or, at least, unlock its full potential. There’s a way to build fluency skills in smaller ways to improve decoding accuracy – my free phonics games for 1st grade!  These free phonics games for 1st grade are a great way to make fluency progression simple and effective.  Let’s dive in!

The Role of Phonics in Fluency

Let’s set aside the idea of free phonics games for 1st graders just for a second and talk about the role of phonics in fluency.  When we talk about fluency, you often hear me chat about its foundations and what it actually means for a child to achieve fluency.  I always mention prosody, pace, reading with expression, reading with accuracy, and so on.  And all of those aspects of fluency are equally important.  But there’s something that comes before being fluent that cannot be overlooked: phonics and decoding.  Decoding is at the heart of fluency, and if students don’t have the ability to decode words (and decode them quite quickly), fluency will prove to be a difficult or even impossible task.  That’s why it’s so important to spend an ample amount of time ensuring that students know their letter sounds and can blend and segment sounds like phonics masters.  And that means plenty of phonics activities and phonics lessons!  In this post, we’ll be talking about how to build fluency skills with a phonics focus and I’ll share my awesome free phonics games for 1st grade!

Building Fluency Skills with a Phonics Focus

As with anything that takes time to master, reading fluency follows a progression.  First, we begin with some phonemic awareness and letter names and sounds so we can really give students right language skills and experiences.  We can begin with spoken word and oral PA practice, but it’s good to move into print as soon as possible.  Then, we use our knowledge of letter sounds to blend and segment words.  This is a pivotal practice in learning to read.  Studies show that a student’s ability to blend and segment words has a direct correlation to his or her future reading success.  After blending words, students move on to phrases/sentences (that include both words to blend and a sight word or two they’ve learned.) Blending and segmenting also helps students sound out new words they encounter.  Continuing on, students move onto short passages and then finally onto longer texts.  As you can see, learning to read doesn’t happen over night.  It’s a continual journey through a series of progressions that ultimately lead to a fluent reader who can comprehend and enjoy a full, authentic text.  

So, let’s go back to the beginning and chat about phonics and blending words, which is the idea behind this post.  First, one thing to remember is that you don’t have to wait until students learn all of their letter sounds before you begin blending and segmenting words.  You actually only need a handful of letter sounds and you can begin to blend!  In fact, the sooner students start blending and segmenting words, the better.  Once students have mastered a handful of letter sounds and feel comfortable manipulating different sounds, you can start working on VC and CVC words as a fluency focus.  To learn more about ideas for studying CVC words, check out my 10 Activities for CVC Words blog post!  There, you’ll find ten awesome, simple, and effective ways for introducing CVC words to your students.  Remember, you don’t need fancy markers or super amazing manipulatives to practice CVC words.  You don’t even need to equip yourself with the most engaging worksheet ever in order to have effective phonics instruction.  Sometimes the simplest strategies are the most effective and make better readers!  Now, as promised – free phonics games for 1st grade!

Free Phonics Games for 1st Grade

And if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last handful of years, it’s that phonics doesn’t have to be boring!  In fact, when you’ve got the right game, activity, or fun worksheet, learning phonics can be super fun for your students (and fun for you to teach!).  So let’s take a look at some free phonics games for 1st grade!  If there’s anything better than phonics, it’s the season of spring!  The rain brings promise of flowers and student growth, and my free Spring CVC Activities are the perfect way to make phonics engaging and fun for all.  You can use this freebie to work on building fluency skills with CVC words.  Yep, I said it – you can study fluency even with your early readers who are at the beginning of their reading journey and learning CVC words.  You don’t have to wait for each student to be a diphthong or long vowel expert in order to practice fluency.  This is one of my favorite free phonics games for 1st grade because it really focuses on a kid’s phonics skills. Included with this freebie is a page of studying CVC words, then reading them in simple sentences, and then again in short stories.  The game at the end is great for review and can be used anytime (with this freebie activity or even on its own as a literacy center.)  This awesome game provides yet another opportunity to decode CVC words accurately in a way that’s fun for students, not to mention it’s such a fun learning experience for kids.

This free phonics game is perfect for small groups, partner activities, literacy centers, or even as a send-home activity for parents.  The directions are easy to understand, which makes it great for independent activities as well while you’re with your small groups.  Now when I say independent work, you probably cringe a little bit, because let’s be honest – it’s really hard to have students focus on what they need to do during this time.  Not to mention, you’re unavailable because you’re working at your small group table.   So, in order to keep engagement up and students focused on these awesome phonics sheets, below are some ways you can keep them interested – and on task!  You can use these links below with my fun free phonics games for 1st grade to boost student engagement.


Please note that these are Amazon affiliate links and I earn a small commission.  Check them all out here, or through each link below!

  • Finger Focus Highlighter

    • Need to keep readers’ eyes ON the text?  Check out this focus highlighter!

  • File Folders

    • These pages make the best file folder center.

  • Googly eye rings 

    • Another fun way way to keep readers’ eyes focused on the text.

  • Game pieces

    • Sometimes it’s hard finding the right game pieces – but these are perfect! 

  • Wooden game piece characters

    • And so are these! 

  • Liquid Timers 

    • Have a group of particularly competitive students? They can “race” the timer when reading the words, sentences, and/or stories.

  • Fake glasses 

    • Why is it when students don’t have glasses, they want them?  These are just a fun novelty item that you can leave at the fluency center for students to put on while they work on fluency with these pages.  And let’s be honest – these are just plain fun!

  • Dice 

    • If you don’t already have dice in your classroom, this is a nice set of colorful dice to use for the games. You can just keep a handful at the center for students to grab when playing the games in a group or with partners.

  • Race cars 

    • Vroooom!  These can be used to move along the words or sentences. These awesome cars keep the students moving forward on the text!

More Phonics Games for 1st Grade

Want even more phonics games for 1st grade?  If you loved my Spring CVC Activities, you’ll love my Spring Phonics Games and Fluency Activities!   This is because when you get this resource, you’ll get ALL of the phonics patterns – not just CVC words.   And since it’s my ultimate goal to move you along the scope and sequence, it’s only right for me to provide you with the remaining phonics skills!  This set includes: CVC, digraphs, beginning blends, ending blends, added endings, CVCe, r-controlled vowels, vowel combinations/vowel teams, and diphthongs.   So that no matter where you are on the scope and sequence, you’re covered and I’m with you every step of the way.   And, just like the free sample, there are four pages included with each phonics skill (words, sentences, short stories, and a game board).

Loving these phonics games for 1st grade that you can use all year round?  Make this resource even more special by snagging the Spring Phonics Games and Fluency Activities BUNDLE!  You’ll be set for the entire year – and the best part? You won’t have to explain the directions each time, because your students will become well-oiled machines with this resource.  Students will gain confidence as they make their way through each page.  You can easily differentiate and switch up which phonics patterns to focus on throughout the year, based upon the needs of your group.  Each season includes all phonics patterns, so no matter where your students are and no matter what season it is, this bundle has you covered!  The Spring Phonics Games and Fluency Activities, as well as the Bundle, are perfect for kindergarten, 1st grade, and even 2nd graders!

More Resources, Please!

If you’re looking for more amazing spring resources to add to your classroom this April and May, take a look at my Spring Must Have Literacy Resources blog post! Through my blog, free phonics games for 1st graders, and spring resources, I hope that you find what you’re looking for to focus on fluency in the early years of reading. Spring is such a wonderful time to see the fruits of the students’ labor all throughout the year.  With these resources and games, you’ll have your students growing like flowers!

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Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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