Simple CVC Word Building

Learning to read is an exciting adventure and sharing in that adventure with the children I taught was one of my favourite parts of the job! Unsurprisingly, I’ve found teaching my daughter to read even more rewarding, and I thought I’d share this simple CVC word building activity which you can do with your child when the time comes for them to learn to read! As always, I’d recommend that you don’t push them to learn to read but follow their lead and do things as and when they are ready. This activity is perfect for when they are becoming familiar with single sounds and starting to blend them together to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. 

A yellow post-it note with a handwritten 'a' and magnetic letters either side forming the word 'tap'.

You will just need a few simple resources: 

  • a small piece of card, approximately postcard size
  • a pen
  • a selection of moveable letters, such as magnetic letters
  • a notepad and pencil, or small whiteboard

On card, write a vowel, with a line denoting a blank space either side.
Place the card on a table (or you can use a baking tray to keep the magnetic letters from sliding around) and arrange the magnetic letters nearby. It can be overwhelming using too many letters, so I’d advise using no more than twelve letters, and you could use as few as four or five. Use letters with which your child is fairly familiar, as the skills we are working on here are word building and blending letters, and having too many unfamiliar letters could become frustrating for them.

Simple CVC word building set-up: on a baking sheet there is some paper with a handwritten 'a'; a selection of magnetic letters, a notepad and a pencil

Encourage your child to play around with the letters, placing one in each blank space, and seeing which words they can make. They may make some words which are not words at all – with the above example, they could have made something like ‘taf’. This is fine, it’s part of the process, and they are still practising the desired skills! Make light of it – ‘that’s a funny word! Shall we try another?’ 

CVC word building in action - the word 'van' has been made on the post-it and a list of found words is being made

If you’re child makes a word they recognise, now’s the time to get excited: ‘Wow! You made ‘van’! That’s amazing!’ Praise them, and encourage them to make a list of any words they find. Don’t worry if they are resistant to the writing aspect – at this stage, it takes a lot of concentration and it’s not essential. You could try writing some for them, and seeing if they become more willing with some modelling from you. 

a letter 'p' has been placed after the 'a', with the first letter remaining blank. This reduces the challenge level.

The good thing about this activity is that it’s so open-ended. The child isn’t being asked to read or write a particular list of words, but rather to play around with sounds and see which words they can make. This removes the mental barrier of ‘getting it wrong’, and makes the activity more accessible. 
If they are finding this too challenging, you could try providing the first or third letter for them so they only have to change one word. For example, write ‘_ap’ and then give them the letters to create words such as cap, nap, tap, rap, and gap. Or conversely, to increase the challenge you could remove the fixed letters altogether and provide a couple of different vowel sounds for them to explore.

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