Games to Improve Word-Solving Skills

May 24, 2021 | Articles, At Home Learning Tips, Reading Tips

In our last blog post we focused on five reading activities that are great for young readers. This week we want to do a deep dive on one of those reading skills—decoding (word-solving skills). We present to you: suggested reading games and activities to help your child with decoding skills. 

Why decoding matters

First, let’s dig into what decoding is and why it matters. Decoding is making sense of letters as they fit into words-it’s knowing the letter sounds, putting them together, and creating words. And research shows that it’s helpful to teach in isolation as well as within text, so playing reading games that build decoding skills is a keystone to success!

Games to build decoding skills

Decoding Game #1: Concentration

What it teaches: Sight word recognition, building a stronger working memory

Directions: This is an old favorite that we can transform to teach a variety of decoding and reading skills! Best part? You can make this game simply at home with scratch paper or index cards. Place all cards face down and one player at a time flips two cards over, saying the words (or letters) out loud and trying to find a match. If a player gets a match, they continue playing until they have flipped over two cards that don’t match.

Here are a few versions to try:

  1. Sight word concentration: Sight words are words that your child should know by sight at different developmental ages. You can play sight word concentration in a few different ways: Matching like words, or matching words to pictures for younger kids. You can find lists of suggested sight words on this page, divided up by grade level.

2. Initial sound concentration: Same game, different spin! Choose pairs of words that have the same initial sound or blend (a blend meaning more than one consonant together like br, bl, cr). Your child finds words that have the same consonant blend or initial sound!

3. Got older kids? Try playing concentration with homonyms or contractions. 

Getting bored of concentration? See the directions for “Go Fish” below!

Decoding Game #2: Go Fish

What it teaches: Letter recognition, letter sounds, sound blending, word recognition

Directions: Take words from a sight word list or a book your child is reading and create playing cards using index cards (or use the cards from concentration above!). You’ll want words in pairs. Shuffle the cards and deal 5 to each of 2-4 players. Each player holds their cards in their hand and asks any other player for a card to match one in their hand. If the player asked has the card, they must hand it over. If not, they say “go fish” and the current player who asked for the card must retrieve one card from the pile. 

Decoding Game #3: Real Word or Made-up Word

What it teaches: Sound blending, letter sounds, word recognition 

Directions: This game is a favorite with kids! You can play this game with several types of materials: index cards and markers, repurposed Scrabble or Bananagrams letters, or magnetic letters. Your job as the grown-up is to create a word: Real or made-up. Your child has to read it and then guess whether it is a real word or a made-up word!

Decoding Game #4: Hide and Seek Words

What it teaches: letter sounds, sound blending, letter recognition

Directions: Cut one side out of a shoebox or a hole in a box, so a child’s hand can fit in but they can’t see inside the box. Go over a list of sight words with your child. Ask them to visualize the words in their head. Take magnetic letters and place them inside the box to create one of the words. Allow them to feel the word in the box, encourage them to visualize and guess the word. 

For younger children working on letter recognition, you can do this with a letter instead of a word.

Looking for more resources? Please check out:

Math Games for Learning At Home

5 Signs Your Child Needs Help With Reading

6 Tips to Help Your Child Pay Attention

This online or in-person Community Classroom Summer Reading Group

Photo of pink letters by Jason Leung on Unsplash


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