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What Are the Top 10 Most Important Literacy Tools to Support Reading Instruction?

Image of a toolbox with tools

How do you choose the most important literacy tools for your classroom? I mean, classroom wish lists – we all have them. When budgets are tight, the discerning teacher understands that it is important to prioritize when it comes to ordering classroom supplies.

Assuming that you have the basics such as pencils, paper, and decodable books, the items listed below can take your teaching to the next level and keep students engaged. Please note: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links!

Here’s what our classroom wish list looks like:

Literacy Tools to Support Phonemic Awareness

We love, love, love Pop-its. These gadgets started out as a way to help calm students with Autism and/or assist students with ADHD in maintaining focus, but teachers have discovered that this useful tool can help readers learn how to segment words.

Rainbow Colored Pop It Fidget Toy

It’s easy to use. The student(s) have the Pop Fidget on the surface in front of them. The teacher says a word (i.e. found) and the students push down a bubble as they say each sound in found. /f/…/ou/…/n/…/d/.

Later on, this device can be used to help students encode phonetically regular words. The teacher says the word, students repeat the word, students push down a bubble as they say each sound in the word. Students write the word. Simple yet effective!

Literacy Tools to Support Fluent Reading

Image of a little girl talking into a feedback phone.

Beginning and struggling readers benefit from reading aloud. This can be distracting for others in a whole class or even a small group setting. These whisper phones help keep students’ voices at a whisper level and gives them immediate auditory feedback regarding independent reading and fluency.

Get Students Tracking

For beginning and struggling readers, it’s very important for them to develop one-to-one correspondence. This is best done by having the students track the print. Tracking helps students keep their eyes on the print and prevents their eyes from moving randomly over the page. But what’s a teacher to do if students are resistant to tracking? These plastic fingers are the answer!

Many beginning readers and students who struggle to read fatigue relatively quickly when reading connected text. When this happens, their eyes may begin to tire, and students may have increased difficulty in tracking text. We have found these transparent plastic windows to be an effective way to support students in tracking text, sentence, by sentence.

***DISCLAIMER – these word windows are NOT to be confused with color overlays and vision therapy***

Image of 6 sentence windows with clear, colored middles to help students track text.

Multipurpose Literacy Tools

These magnetic wands and bingo chips can be incorporated with a variety of literacy games. We particularly like to use them with our Phonemic Awareness Bingo Games. Students place the magnetic chip on matching Bingo squares. When a student gets a full row of chips across, down, or diagonally the say, “Bingo!” Then the students wave their ‘magic’ wands over the board and the chips hop up to the wand. Young learners really get a kick out of this.

Image of 5 magnetic wands and colorful bingo chips.

What child doesn’t like taking on the role of the teacher? These ‘handy’ pointers (pun intended) are a whimsical way to get your mini-me to lead the classroom in a letter/sound drill. We find they are a powerful motivator for those students who tend to disengage during literacy lessons. Handing them a pointer and giving them the role of teacher, can be a game changer!

Set of three plastic pointers (red, blue, and green) with a white-gloved hand at the end.

Connect 4 Lends Itself to a Variety of Literacy Games

Here’s how we use Connect Four during an intervention group of two students (four students if you have two game sets).

Image of the game, Connect 4

Encoding – familiar high frequency (heart words) or phonetically regular words – Each student has a dry erase board. The teacher says a word. Player A writes the word on the whiteboard. If it is spelled correctly, Player A slips a disc into the game board. If the word is spelled incorrectly, then Player B has an opportunity to spell the word and the chance to drop a disc into the game board. The first player to get 4 in a row is the winner.

By adding a competitive edge to encoding practice, our students tend to be more inclined to follow the spelling procedure of say the word, tap the word, spell the word.

Letter formation – Follow the same procedure as above, but this time the teacher says the sound of a letter and the player writes the matching letter.

Word reading – Write either familiar high frequency words (heart words) or phonetically regular words on index cards and place them face down. Player A draws a card and reads the word. If the word is read correctly the first time, they drop a disc into the board. If not, Player B gets the chance to read the same word and the opportunity to deposit a playing piece into a slot.

This friendly competition helps encourage students to read the word correctly the first time rather than impulsively guessing.

Don’t Break the Ice Is Another Versatile Game

Image of the game, Don't Break the Ice

Don’t Break the Ice is played relatively the same way, except instead of inserting a disc, students select an ice cube to tap.

Letter Recognition – This game is ideal to provide students practice with commonly reversed letters. Using a dry erase marker, write one target letter on each cube of ice – b or d for example. The teacher says a sound /b/. Player A selects a cube of ice with /b/ and taps out the cube and says the name of the letter. Or reverse that – the teacher says the letter name and the student says the letter sound.

Reading Phonetically Regular Words (or High Frequency Words) – It’s the same concept as letter recognition. The teacher writes a word on each of the cubes. Students take turns choosing a word to read. If the word is read correctly, they get to tap out that block.

Spelling Phonetically Regular Words (or High Frequency Words) – The teacher dictates a word. If the player spells the word correctly, they tap out a cube.

Versatile Literacy Supplies That Can Be Adapted as Games

Two must have supplies that can be incorporated in any number of ways are index cards and individual dry erase boards and markers.

We use index cards to play games like Memory and Go Fish. They are perfect for reinforcing letter recognition and reading phonetically regular words. Simply write the letters or words on separate index cards and play the game of your choice.

Image of a 5 pack of 3"X5" Oxford Blank Index Cards, 500 in each pack
Buying in bulk helps to keep costs down.
They even have dry erase index cards!

Dry Erase Boards also lend themselves nicely to games. Students don’t mind practicing encoding when the spelling of words is embedded in the game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Image of a classroom set of 30 dry erase boards, markers and erasers
We’ve been LOVING these 4 x 6 inch mini white boards in our small groups!

Another favorite is the game “Do We Match?” – shout out to Michelle Breitenbach of Read to Rewire for this simple, but attention-grabbing game. In this game, the teacher plays along too. Every player has a board and a marker. The teacher calls out a word. Everyone writes the word on their board. When all the players are ready, one person calls out ‘Do we match?’ at which point everyone shows their board. Players earn a point each time they spell a word correctly.

Want more helpful tips with a sprinkling of humor?

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