How I use games to increase students' phonics word level fluency

I sat with my grade level team, reviewing this month’s oral reading fluency data and they could not stop asking me how I moved my group. 

In a word – games. 

The team had decided to work on accuracy instead of words correct. (I’m not sure there is a great way to increase reading fluency but okay I’m in.) Sometimes starting small is way better than not starting at all and this group has never ventured into the world of using one's data for anything. 


This year, grade-level teams are working with our Coach to create monthly data-based goals. We just started using Benchmark Advanced, so teams are looking at all the reading data and making a decision on a long and short-term plan. (For most of the teams I work with–this is the 1st time they have really looked at and done anything with their classroom data.)

This one, as much as I’m shaking my head, I can see a place where I can layer in additional fluency work at the word level with their students and not sacrifice fidelity.

Over the years, I have moved the oral reading fluency scores in a variety of ways. I have never found something that works with most of the students I support for reading.  From repeated readings to focusing on specific words, nothing works for all the students in a group. 

All my reading groups this year are OG. I live and breathe OG, which means there is a precise lesson plan and very little room to add “other” things. I’m not sure how many really get this. This year, teachers want me to fix everything. 

I use Yoshimoto. I really love the flexibility it gives me. I dislike the amount of flexibility it gives me but I can lay out each group's scope and sequence and add my “others” as I need to. Mind you within reason. 

Last year, I began working in very specific game days to target word-level fluency. These days tended to be on Fridays (aka Fun Friday).  When a Game Tub in tow, students played Crocodile Dentist and Squeaky Squirrel.

Slowly, the sounding out loud stopped. The confidence in the learning target increased. Slowly, the syllable understanding increased. And then the accuracy scores changed. Then the big daddy of them all, the iReady Phonics scores started to move. 

Now, was this all by adding game time to their practice do this. I have no way of knowing. But what I do know is that if students are engaged and motivated then everything falls into place.

Reflecting on this growth over the summer, led me to add phrases and sentences based on the skill being taught. You can find my game pieces in my store to begin building self-confidence, language skills, and word-level fluency in your students.

My students do have their favorites but I make a point to rotate them about every month. 

The cool thing about all of the game pieces is that it is super easy to differentiate the cards depending on who is in the group and what each student needs to work on. 

Nothing like being able to stack the deck. lol

ROAR–CVC, CCVC, CVCC is built using pictures to support the words from Smarty Symbols but you also get cards with no pictures.

You can play with just CVC or CVCC with and without pictures.


When I have a group working on Five and Six sounds. I pull out Melt. Then students can work on real and nonsense words. You can add easier words to build fluency or a couple of compound words to make it more interesting.


If it’s a Monday after a long weekend, I like to play Crocidle Dentist. You have to set a timer or the whole time is gone before you know it! It’s a great way to build just fluency before he closes his mouth. This game is perfect for a quick push to help students move from sounding words out aloud to a more grade-appropriate strategy.

Click on any picture to check them out for yourself. Your students will love any of them. 

What games do your students like to play?

Chat soon,


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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