Tic Tac Toe Board with Electrical Tape

Students like to play this game. I choose skills or words that they need to practice. Great for handwriting practice, cvc words, sight words, or tricky vowel sounds.

Create a reusable whiteboard to practice handwriting and spelling.

Tic-Tac-Toe was one of the first games I learned to use as a tool, to help teach my preschool students. Simple x’s & o’s, and the spatial awareness of drawing the lines. The kids think of it as a game and are more willing to pick up a pencil or crayon if it feels fun.

White Board with Tape Lines.

Using electrical tape has created something reusable. I was surprised at how much the kids loved erasing the words, and the lines stayed. It was like magic to them. They wipe the letters off and rush to play again. Hooray!

Adding the lines has given new life to this old scratched-up whiteboard.

Cutting the Tape

The original thickness of the electrical tape is wide. Making the lines thinner, by cutting with scissors was too hard. Using an Xacto made it easier to cut.

Carefully cut away from yourself.

Cutting a straight line without a guide was too hard. Don’t try it! I found a plastic milk cap that was a nice thickness. With the electrical tape flat on the table, I could keep the Xacto knife flat on the cap. Rotate the tape slowly and cut the tape with a little bit of pressure to cut the tape. Be sure to cut away from your body.

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Try CVC words.

CVC words are great for this game. After we play the Uno CVC game, I will choose some words they need to practice writing.

Using the tic-tac-toe game is great for practicing sight words. Try capital letters and lowercase letters. Especially in words like the letter /i/ (It, If, Is, In) Those are good words to work on. Remind the students to sound out the word as they write it.

Sometimes we practice just the letters b, and d. This helps with letter reversals.

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C Pirate Letters Sand Tray

Correct formation of the letter e is very important. This has been helpful for many students. Letter e is the only letter that starts in the middle.

Montessori-Style Letters with an Engaging Pirate Theme

Handwriting can be an engaging activity with a pirate theme in a sand tray. In book two of this handwriting letter adventure, the pirates have just realized that they have no vowels. All the letters that they learned in book one can not be used to spell any real words. Their excitement turns to confusion.

A cheeky bird calls out, “Aw, au vowels.” Then it flies away.

The pirates rapidly chase after the bird and learn to make the C-shaped letters along the way. This group includes c, a, g, d, q, o, s, e.

Sand Trays

The use of sand trays in the Montessori style is one of my favorite ways to practice letters. Normally, I just would rotate different colors of sand, or customize the tray bottom with different colored or shiny paper. But this storybook pirate theme opens up my options and lets me add items from the book. The kids can recreate the letters by following along or re-enacting the story. This gives me more opportunities to talk to them about starting spots and correct letter formation in a fun way.

Choosing the right supplies to make a mini fake coconut for the C-letter theme.

Gathing Supplies for the C-Letters to Trace Around

Any box will do to make your own sand tray. It can be a fancy wood one like this, or a shallow box with a lid if you are concerned with spills. The fake coconut may be harder to find. My husband brought me a macadamia nut still in the shell. I think is the perfect size. I need to cut it and paint the inside white. The larger object next to it was an avocado seed, but the shape it off. I don’t think I will use that one.

Yellow paint on the coin gave it extra shine.

Pirate gold at the top marks the start spot for most of the letters in the group. I had a foreign coin that was about the size of a penny, with some extra yellow paint added, it now stands out from the sand color. This was the best size for my small box. If your box is bigger, you could use the fake gold they sell in the party supply stores.

The Letter e, Starts in the Middle

You might want to have one fake coconut that is still whole and roll it in your sand tray for the letter e. In the story, the pirates hear a weird noise in the brushes and one of them rolls a coconut like a bowling ball in a straight line. Then, the monkey pushes it away and it makes the letter e shape.

When I teach this to students at my writing table, I open the book and show them the pictures. We say the steps together roll it straight and the monkey pushes it around in the c shape. That is the letter e. This has been helpful for many students. Letter e is the only letter that starts in the middle.

Correct formation of the letter e is very important. Many students make sloppy rushed letters. In the case of letter e, it might look the same as the letter c. This is a problem that impacts spelling especially if the /e/ is close to the letter /k/. Then the word looks like it ends with /ck/.

You can order the books from Amazon and the letterstrips, letter cards and worksheets can all be found on TPT.

The adventure continues, the pirates think that someone has been digging for treasure on the island. A huge surprise in the sand leads them to learn the next set of straight-line letters.

These letters are the third handwriting group they learn: i, j, l, t, f, k.

The straight lines of the turtle tracks leading to the water are a very good way to explain the direction of travel and remember to start at the top. The hatchling eggs mark the dot on top of the letters i and j.

Pirate theme handwriting letters

Book 3 of the handwriting adventure.

The pirate’s journey is complete and they find the last vowel and the treasure in book four X Pirate Letters. Shark teeth are used to make the pointy slanted line letters.

The whole pirate adventure is available in one storybook on Amazon. The Pirate Letters: Lowercase Handwriting Storybook.

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Back to School Handwriting Program

Engaging Handwriting Orton-Gillingham Styled Letter Tracables and Story Book Lessons

This book and handwriting program has fun visual links to help students see the letter shape patterns and avoid letter confusion.

Great for back-to-school, colorful pictures with an animal and pirate theme.

Find the book here on Amazon. The printables can be purchased on TPT

Phonics Spelling Games Bundle Decodable Digraphs

Leveled educational intervention for the different structured literacy stages.

Lots of great phonics spelling games in one big bundle.

A fun way to learn spelling rules and reading flashcards in a game-style educational setting.

Great for leveled educational intervention for the different structured literacy stages. Easy to fit into your scope and sequence.

CVC, CVCC, Floss, R-controlled, CVCe, Long a, C+le, Many sounds of y, many spellings of sh, Many silent letters, syllables, vowel teams, many spellings of “ew/oo” and sight words.

Based on many familiar kids’ games: Uno, War, Old Man, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Rummy, and some editable play cards. You must see, there is so much in this bundle.

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You might also like the tricky Schwa sounds

Long Vowels Spelling Test Clip Card Bundle

Decodable game-style testing ay, ea, ei, e, i, -y, ey, igh, y_e, ie, ign, oa…..and more. Long a, e, i, o.

This is a great way to check on the student’s spelling without them knowing that they are being assessed for spelling. It works well in small groups and it is fun.

© Pure Joy Teaching – Vowel Team Spelling Cards

There are four sets of cards in this bundle.

You can get them here from TPT.

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You may also like the suffix game.

Which do I use letter C or the Letter K?

I remind them to listen for the vowels. If it is a, o, u, use c. If it is e or i, use the k.

Do your students ever ask you this question? Is it c or k?

 Letter C or Letter K . Reminding the students to listen for the vowel sounds is great to figure it out.  If the sound is: a, o, u, the use letter c. 

If the vowel sound is: e or i, use the k.

This game is one way to let them read words that have the c and k spelling patterns.

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You may also like the final K game.

Many Sounds of the Letter u.

Do you know all the different sounds letter u can make?

This might be a tricky one to teach. Some students that are learning to decode by the traditional phoneme sounds have trouble with words that do not follow the normal sounds. Example words: you, push, pull, put, was, banana.

So, with that in mind. I made up this silly picture and sentence to help them.

Unbelievable the U pushed the super unicorn

The vowel can make lots of different sounds. This sentence and the silly picture is a clever way to remember some of the sounds and different spellings of the Y-oo!

You can find it here.

The letter u can make a  shocking amount of sounds. The sounds can be hidden in many different spellings.  Example words: the, was, push, super.  In the word unicorn, the letter u name and the schwa sound comes from the letter i.  Crazy! Right ….

Unbelievable! You pushed the super unicorn

This Super Unicorn Collection can be helpful for teaching and clearing up some of the sounds and spellings by grouping them together in word lists and adding colorful pictures to create mnemonic clues. 

Check out my large bundle of Long Vowel Spelling Test Clip Cards.


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Chef vs Magician, Sh Sound Spelling ci, ti, si, Card Games

Pairing up the right lessons with card games has given my struggling readers and spellers a great advantage.

How to teach spelling lessons with fun card games?

Pairing up the right lessons with card games has given my struggling readers and spellers a great advantage.

Education games that students want to play. Over and Over again.

Posters can be used to teach single a lesson or combined into many lessons.

War-style card game Chef VS Magician has colorful images and letters for the many different spellings of /sh/.

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The tricky sh sound spelled ci, ti, si, xi, ss, sh, ch, s, c, can now be used as a game.  Students love playing card games like War and Uno.  These 144 cards were made to highlight the tricky “sh” sounds in words and added a point value to the different spellings. Including the French ch = sh, and letters like c and s, in words like ocean and sugar.

“It is a trick?”

Knowing there is a trick is the best way to avoid being tricked by it. This is a fun play on words. Words like ocean, sure, and sugar all have a “sh” sound that we can not see from the spelling clues.

144-Word cards with color-coded /sh/ (many different spellings of the “sh” sound) with single beginning syllable and ending syllables.

You can find it here on TPT . The are many different ways to play. Use the cards for UNO, War, or flash cards. Printing out multiple sets have been extra helpful for me. I work with many different students at different levels. It is easier for me to have the cards grouped into leveled decks ranging from easy to advanced.

The lesson posters can be cast to the TV or smartboard. I like to keep them all bound up in a booklet, it is handy for working with small groups or tutoring students.

We review the spelling lessons and write a few words from the word lists. Some students like to draw mnemonic pictures for different /sh/spellings. Then we play the card game to put reading into practice.

Level one starts with the main spelling of the sh sound, and explains to the students that these are single-syllable words. The next level can be introducing tricky words like: sure, sugar, and ocean. Or moving on to multiple-syllable words and compound words.

Lesson Booklet Option

Binding up the pages created a valuable handy resource for me.

These mnemonic picture-embedded spelling tips have been very helpful. Especially for the very tricky R-controlled Trigraphs.

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Hu bu hu bu Handwriting – Helps with b d reversals

Letter reversals can be a huge problem, and sometimes the letter b comes out looking like the number 6. 

This is a fun way to practice the correct letter formation and the letter sounds at the same time.

Letter reversals can be a huge problem, and sometimes the letter b comes out looking like the number 6.  Some students start both by drawing a straight down and then they can not remember which way the b or d should turn.

So we use the h b h b practice.  I tell them the letter h and b are almost the same, the only difference is the letter b is closed at the bottom. So, make the tall letter h then close the bottom. Now it is the letter b.  Be sure to make the letter sounds when you write.  “h, b, h, b.” This is very important to make the letter sounds. Be careful not to use the letter name too much. Referring to the letter by its sound can help to avoid letter name interference. Letter name interference is very common with w, y, and u.

How to correct b and d reversals in handwriting

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This is also a great time to remind them that the letter h is a tall letter, and the letter n is a small letter.

It is super important that students learn to start the letters at the top, not the bottom. We have found that when students start the letters on the bottom line there is a good chance that they will turn out backwards. We were seeing confusing letters and thought “Is it dyslexia?” In this case no, it was not. It was just bad handwriting habits that needed to be corrected by teaching the students to start the lowercase letters at the top, and not the bottom.

This is one of the reasons that I wrote this book R’s Pirate Handwriting Storybook. The shape of the letter r is a really good way to group all the letters that make the same starting shape. Practicing these letters together can also help remove the b d confusion. This book series is full of effective practices for teaching writing.

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You might also like these!

Blue Tongue Spelling Tip CVCC Words

Think of a blue tongue to remind you how to correctly spell the word tongue. They both have the same /ue/ ending.

Teaching with card games.

Spelling tip today.

    Think of a blue tongue to remind you how to correctly spell the word tongue. They both have the same /ue/ ending.

The other day we were playing the CVCC Uno card game after our reading group. The word tong, was one of the cards that we took the time to discuss vocabulary and meaning. That brought us to the word tongue and blue, in a roundabout way. One student was thinking the word (tong) might be “tongue.”

They were surprised when I wrote the words tongue and blue on the whiteboard. I underlined the ue and told them to think of the word blue to remind themselves how to spell this tricky word.

There are many teachable moments in these small reading groups. It is pure joy for me to hear them working out new words that they have never read before and discuss their meanings during our games. Teaching the students with flashcard games helps them to sound out new words that they may not find in regular reading passages. When they have confidence in their decoding abilities, then they can stop guessing with the whole word strategy. It is awesome, to hear the shock in their voice when they realize they can read a new word they never knew before.

You can find this CVCC Uno Here. Take a look at the R-Controlled Uno game too.


Here are more of the mnemonic spelling cards.

Full of more picture clues embedded within the letters to help visual learners.

Test your knowledge. How many animals have a blue tongue? Here.

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