20 Free Word Work Activities You Can Do With Any List - Elementary Education

20 Free Word Work Activities You Can Do With Any List

I spent way more time than I’d like to admit making word work activities from scratch for every single unit. Every time I introduced new word lists or phonics skills to my students, I’d create or buy new worksheets and games. It just wasn’t sustainable.

Thankfully, by now I’ve long since lived by the power of repurposing and working smarter (not harder). One of my absolute favorite ways to make sure I’m not reinventing the wheel is to find activities, games, and ideas that work across multiple topics or subjects. For example, this list of word work activities you can do with any list? Chef’s kiss.

cover photo that reads "20 Free Word Work Activities You Can Do"
  1. Which one doesn’t belong?

This word work activity can be played as a whole class, in small groups, or in partners. Write 3 words on the board. 2 of the words should have a feature in common (they rhyme, start with the same letter, etc.). They can share more than one common feature but should have at least one. Students must decide which one has to go, and in doing so, must justify why.

whiteboard with the words rap, cup, and cap
In this case, rap and cap go together due to the ‘a’ in the middle. You could also argue that cup and cap belong together since they both start with ‘c.’

2. Blind sort

This is one of those word work activities that is best done when words are new to a student. This might be a new word study spelling feature (for example, CVC words ending in -at). In a blind sort, students are given all the cards and/or words at once and are tasked with finding the features of the words and sorting accordingly.

A white paper with green cards sorting
I give students the picture cards without the guide cards you see at the top. Once they think they have cracked the code, they ask for their “clue cards” to see if their categories are correct.

3. Prove it

Best done in a whole class, partner, or small group setting, Prove It is when one person states (for example), “This word rhymes with feet” as they show a word.

The class or opposing student(s) yells, “Prove it!” The original player must prove they are correct–using writing materials or other forms of words–why their statement is true.

4. A to Z 

Best done as an independent word work station, A to Z involves students either sorting or writing their word list in alphabetical order (for an extra challenging twist, they can write the words in reverse alphabetical order).

alphabet linking chart in black and white
alphabet linking chart in colored ink

5. Knockout

While I might be a bit biased on this one, it remains one of my all-time favorites when it comes to classroom fun. Moreover, Knockout is a beast when it comes to making boring subjects (looking at you, phonics) fun. Knockout is always played in a whole-class format. The one specifically seen here is a vowel teams game where students must determine which 2 vowels make the pattern. You can download this entire game for free by filling out the form below!

    To learn more about the rules of Knockout you can check them out here.

    A Knockout game showing one side of the screen showing a 3 and the other side showing people arguing.
    In this case, one player from each time would shout out “e-e” or “u-e” and the first one to answer correctly stays in the game.

    6. Paperless phonics prompts

    If you are looking for word work activities students can do independently either for stations or at their desks, this one is for you. I’ve been a huge proponent of paperless journals for some time now, and this phonics one is no exception. I’ve loved using these paperless prompts to do quick assessments–when done in the notebooks, they are super easy to walk around and check or collect for later. Also, these prompts are not out in my TpT store, so if you are interested in seeing them in my store please leave a comment and let me know!

    A whiteboard showing a writing prompt featuring the word "because"

    7. Type the words on file folder “laptops”

    This one is SO fun and although my photos and videos don’t show you the file folder aspect, it’s easily done by gluing a paper keyboard to the inside of a folder and laminating the entire thing. Students “type” their words by using their flashcards for guides.

    8. Keep it Tactile: Water Write

    Keep a small drawer stocked with Q-tips and Dixie cups and watch the magic unfold. Students can “write” using water on colored paper. The best part about this is if it does get messy, it’s just water (but feel free to use trays for this one if it makes you feel better).

    9. Stamping

    Stamping is self-explanatory! Students can stamp their words onto a piece of scrap paper or you might choose to have them do it in their designated word work notebook.

    10. Make your own flashcards

    Keep a stack of small index cards (you can cut them in half to go even smaller!) and a stack of black markers and let students go to town. Did you know that flashcards are way more fun when you get to make them yourself? 😉

    11. Building the word

    Using plastic letter tiles or other letter manipulatives, students can build words on their list. Nothing like connecting those neurons through multiple sensory activities! #nerdalert

    A student sorts letter tiles on the floor

    12. Rainbow Write

    Keep a drawer of multi-colored markers for this one. It’s simple, really. Students use a variety of colors to write their words. Use one color per word or one color per letter to create a vibrant display that also strengthens word knowledge.

    13. Bright Write

    What is it about a highlighter that just makes things fun? They’re just so…bright. Similar to rainbow writing, students use highlighters as their utensil of choice to write their words. Warning: sunglasses make an excellent addition to this activity. Students get a kick out of how bright the colors are!

    14. Teachers pens

    This word work activity is versatile in that it also makes an excellent birthday perk or UnHomework raffle prize. Using the “teacher pens” is a coveted thing where you get to use your teacher’s actual writing supplies. Not the classroom stuff–I’m looking at you, Flair pens. Now of course make sure you’re actually willing to part with a few pens because you know kids are not kind to utensils.

    15. Match Makers

    Choose one word on the list to start with. Then, either find or generate another word that has something in common with your original word. Once you verify they are a match, set them aside and look for a new match. See how many matches you can make!

    16. Good Guy, Bad Guy

    This is quite literally the opposite of Match Makers. Choose a word that is not the same as your original–this is the “bad guy.” It’s “bad” because it doesn’t contain the targeted feature, but it can get fun when students start actually using their word cards as action figures—they get into this one.

    17. Sort them

    While the blind sort was already mentioned, it’s important to note that you can put several twists on the idea of a word sort., Some easy and common ideas include:

    • Timed sort (set the timer for a pre-determined amount of time)
    • Speed sort (see how long it takes to sort all the words)
    • Team sort (sort together with a partner or small group!)

    18. Test each other

    This word work activity is great for partners as a word work station. Trade lists and use a whiteboard or word work notebook, students “test” each other and read words while the other spells. Bonus points if you give students grading materials like stickers to grade each others’ work.

    19. Speed read

    This one can work in a variety of ways. Students can simply time themselves or their partners to see how quickly their word list can be read. Alternatively, students can also use silly voices like monster voices, opera singing, etc. as seen below.

    20. Fancy letters

    This one is fun for the 1st-2nd grade crowds since they are likely to really grasp the meaning of the fancy script. Show them and model ways to use block letters, squiggly letters, dotted letters, and so on–the options are truly endless!

    While the world of word work is definitely one of those things that is constantly throwing new terms and best practices our way, it pays to have a go-to stash of activities that are timeless and can be used with any list of words. I hope these help!

    Remember that if you want to download a free Knockout game to help you along your word work fun in your classroom, check it out:

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