Phonics First in a Virtual Classroom: A Guide for Parents

Posted by Brainspring (StephanieCastillo) on 10th May 2021

Hi Parents!

If you’re reading this, your child receives phonics instruction using a program called Phonics First®. As we all adapt to virtual classrooms, your help with Phonics First® will be very important as it is a multisensory program. There will be times when you will need to assist your child with the multisensory activities their teacher provides.

Phonics First is split into multiple sections, and our advice to you is outlined in accordance with the order of a typical lesson. We understand that everyone is adjusting to the new (hopefully temporary) normal in different ways, if you have time for only one activity a day have your child read aloud to youa.

Thank you!

Brainspring Staff

3-Part Drill

The 3-Part Drill is a tool used to associate letters with their sounds, eventually blending these sounds together. Ask your child to read and reread the lists of words and syllables your teacher has provided to you. Offer the correct pronunciation should an error occur and ask them to reread the word/syllable correctly.

Vowel Intensive

Assess your child’s proficiency with the self-check Vowel Intensive your child’s teacher has provided. Students will use the letters/pictures to sort them according to sound. Students will need copies of the sounds, rimes, and CVC words and syllables provided to you by their teacher.

Dictation Words

Your teacher will provide your child with the Dictation Words for the below activities. If your child struggles to pronounce the word, slow down until they have pronounced it correctly using finger-tapping techniques.

**Please Note: Some activities require two copies of the Dictation Word Cards.


Activity #1– Go Fish

You’ll Need:

  • Two copies of the Dictation Word Cards.

The Game:

1.    Mix/shuffle the cards, deal three to each player, and place the rest face down on the desk.

2.    Students/players take turns asking for the match to one of the cards in their hand. If the other player has it, he/she must hand it over. The first player lays that pair to the side and it is the other person’s turn. 

a.     Added Challenge: When a match is made, have your child define the word or use it in a sentence.

3.    If the other player does not have it, the person who asked picks a card from the card pack.

Activity #2 – Memory

You’ll Need:

  • Two copies of the Dictation Word Cards.

The Game:

1.    Mix/shuffle the cards and place them face down in a grid on the table.

2.    Students/players take turns flipping over two cards, saying each word after each flip.

3.    If the words are a match, the student keeps the pair.

a.     Added Challenge: When a match is made, have your child define the word or use it in a sentence.

4.    If the cards are not a match, the cards are replaced, and it is the next person’s turn.

Activity #3 – Sentence Savvy

You’ll Need: 

  • One copy of the Dictation Word Cards
  • Lined paper
  • Pencil
  • Glue

The Game:

1.    Students select a Dictation Word Card and create a sentence using that word.

2.    Students write the sentence on lined paper and glue the word card into the sentence.

a.   Added Challenges:

                                               i.     Use two or more words in one sentence.

                                              ii.     Use the word in different types of sentences such as questions, exclamations, titles, quotes, etc.

b.    Please Note: Only make spelling corrections on phonetic words and Red Words that have already been taught.

Activity #4 – Race to Read

You’ll Need:

  • One copy of Dictation Word Cards
  • Stopwatch

The Game:

1.    Shuffle and place the cards face down in a stack.

2.    On your mark, your child will flip over each card and read the word. They can only move to the next card when they’ve read the word correctly.

3.    Record their time to correctly read every word in the stack.

4.    Students then try to beat their old time and set a new personal record.

Activity #5 – Word Sort

You’ll Need:

  • One copy of Dictation Word Cards

The Game:

1.    Provide your child with a word category (Blend Sounds, Noun/Verb, etc.)

2.    On your mark, they sort the cards accordingly.

3.    Once they’ve finished completing one category, move to the next one.

a.     Have your child sort the Dictation Word Cards into at least three types of categories.


Your teacher will provide your child with syllabication words which have already been taught and practiced. Ask your child to read and reread each word. As a bonus activity, students can illustrate the word, write a sentence with that word, or write a definition for that word.

Red Words

Your child will be given lists of previously taught Red Words. Whenever students write Red Words, they are to use a red pencil or crayon. Students can illustrate each Red Word, use it in a sentence, and write it multiple times on a textured surface. To achieve textured/bumpy writing, place a piece of printer paper on an old window screen, on sandpaper, or on a thin layer of salt in a cooking sheet.

Ask them to copy each Red Word onto an index card and use these to practice loading and arm tapping. This will be a fun moment for your child to teach you something – the loading and arm tapping technique. Once each Red Word has been copied onto an index card, set them aside for optional activities.

Activity #1 – Tic-Tac-Toe

You’ll need:

  • One set of Red Word cards
  • A tic-tac-toe board
  • A red crayon for your student
  • A red pen for you

The Game:

1.    Place the Red Word cards face down in a stack.

2.    Players take turns picking a card, reading the Red Word to their partner.

3.    The partner writes the word in a space on the board.

4.    Take turns reading and writing Red Words until someone has three in a row.

Activity #2 – Bingo

You’ll need: 

  • One set of Red Word cards
  • Blank Bingo boards
  • Red writing implement
  • Black marker

The Game:

1.    Pick a card, call out the word, and have players fill in one space with the word.

2.    Once the boards are complete, shuffle the cards, and play Bingo!

Create two sets of Red Word Cards to play Memory and Go Fish!