Phonics with Paint Trays

While I’m currently in the STEM and Makerspace world, I also teach advanced literacy for first grade, and I’m always on the hunt for hands-on, engaging strategies that I can use with my kids. After nearly 20 years in the classroom, I still love finding those “outside the box” ways to take my literacy instruction to the next level.

Last year, I was browsing Amazon for some craft trays for my Makerspace, and I came across these unique 20-well paint trays. Right away, my wheels started turning with all the possibilities for not only art, but hands-on literacy! I had to order one right away to try out. I made a list of some simple ideas, posted this video, and as it turns out, you all loved this idea just as much as I did!

Introducing my brand new Paint Tray Phonics!

Paint Tray Phonics is an ideal hands-on solution for your literacy instruction! Aligned with the Science of Reading, this resource includes 9 phonics patterns for students to build, make, and write, with components that are easily differentiated among K-2nd Grade students.


I’m SO excited to introduce my brand new Paint Tray Phonics! 🎉 Many of you already have these famous paint trays from Amazon that I shared last year, and this new resource aligns perfectly! Perfect for small group reading, interventions, and literacy centers, Paint Tray Phonics includes 9 phonics skills with grapheme cards, task cards, instruction cards, and recording sheets to support the Science of Reading. They’re easy to differentiate and the perfect way to add that multisensory magic to your literacy block, not to mention your kids will LOVE the hands-on engagement! ✨🤩 25% off through Monday only! Can’t wait to hear what you think! 🥰 Links in bio for resource and paint trays!🔗 #teacher #teachers #teachersofinstagram #makersgonnamake #scienceofreading #literacy #literacycenters #iteachk #iteachfirst #iteachsecond #iteachthird #teachoutsidethebox #tpt #teacherspayteachers #smallgroupreading #teachersoftiktok #tiktokteacher

♬ original sound – Brooke Brown

How Paint Tray Phonics Works

  1. The teacher presents the task card and pattern to the student or small group.
  2. Students build the word on their paint tray using grapheme cards and red/blue vowels and consonants.
  3. On the bottom row, students make each phoneme by placing pom pom balls or mini erasers on the tray, squishing playdough balls, or picking up magnetic chips with a wand.
  4. Students write the matching graphemes with a dry erase marker. They may also write the word on the provided recording sheet.
  5. Students check off or write the number of the task card on the top row. (This is also a great way for them to stay on track during literacy centers!)

All the grapheme cards are color-coded, so students can easily recognize patterns. Task cards with pictures and letter prompts are included for each grapheme. After students are familiar with the spelling pattern, you may choose to cover up the prompts on the right side of the card and have students build the words using only pictures. You may also choose to give them a grapheme card, then have them generate as many words as possible on their paint trays.

Here’s a closer look at all the included components!

I hope you love this new resource as much as I do and are excited about integrating paint trays into your literacy instruction!

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