New Spins on Old Games: Three Language Art Games That Teach Primary Students: Tic Tac Toe, Go Fish & Spinning Words

Language arts games are a fun way for primary students to practice phonics, phonological awareness and spelling. Use them in your

Language Arts Games

literacy centers, after the children finish work, or as practice after introducing a new spelling or phonics concept.

You can easily modify the games by changing the words you use. For example, if the game is to practice beginning sounds, some children may be working single consonant sounds, while other may be working on blends. You can even use pictures instead of words to focus on phonological awareness.

Tic Tac Toe

To play this game to practice the sh, ch, th and wh blends, give each child a blank grid with 16 squares. Each pair of students needs a spinner with sh, ch, th and wh as the four choices. Then give each pair a stack of word cards with words containing the four blends. To make the game easier you can have all of the words containing the sounds at the beginning. To make it a little more challenging use words with the h blends as the beginning or ending sound. Have each child draw cards one at a time and place them in the squares of his game board. To play the game, one person spins the spinner, and then turns over one card that goes with the blend that the spinner lands on. Then the other player spins and turns over a card. The first one to get three in a row wins. For a longer game, play until all the cards have been turned over.

For a whole class version that is more like Bingo, you can give the children blank grids and then draw the cards and call out the words. Have the children write each word that you call out in one of their spaces. When all of the game boards are filled in, spin the spinner and the whole class turns over a card to match. The first person to turn over four in a row wins. You can then start over or keep playing until everyone has four in a row.

Go Fish

Another great phonics game to use involves creating a word-family version of Go Fish. Make sets of word cards with four different word families. For a short letter i game, your cards might have four words for -in, -ig, -ick, and -id. Each player gets five cards and the rest go in the center as the draw pile. On his turn a player asks another person to give him all of her words that rhyme with pig. If he gets a match then he puts those cards down. If the other player doesn't have any words that rhyme, she says "Go fish" and the first player draws from the pile. Play until someone runs out of cards.

Spinning Words

Make a spinner with spaces for four word families, a "Roll Again" and a "Lose a Turn." On each child's turn he spins the spinner. If he lands on a word family, he has to think of a word to go with that word family and write it on a piece of paper. If he can't think of one, he loses a turn. Each player can only use a word one time. Play for a set amount of time and the player with the most words at the end is the winner.

All of these games can be played again and again with different skills. Your primary grade students will have a ball practicing their phonics and spelling in class.


Words Their Way; Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, and Johnston; 2007

This post is part of the series: Word Work: Spelling and Decoding Activities for First Graders

Use these fun language arts lesson plans and activities to help first graders become skilled spellers and decoders. Find ideas for word sorting, word families and word games to use with your students.
  1. Spelling Lesson Plans Using Word Sorts
  2. Word Family Lesson Plan: Words with -Ack
  3. Language Arts For Primary Students: Make Learning a Game!