Top 10 Tools for Hands-on Reading

Looking for the coolest, most engaging tools to add some multi-sensory magic to your small group reading instruction and literacy centers?! I’m counting down my top 10 hands-on reading tools to support the Science of Reading and take your ELA instruction to the next level!*This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing items using these links, I will receive a small commission.*

Fun pointers are a great way to help our kids track as they read! You can also use them as a warm-up or exit activity during small groups by having students “search and find” a specific type of word or sound. (i.e. Point to a word with a digraph, Find a compound word, Point to a past tense verb)

These colored word highlighters are awesome for highlighting key words, context clues, text evidence, and more! Students can also use them to track as they read.

Poppers, or “fidget toys” took the world by storm a few years back, and teachers quickly set to work figuring out innovative ways to incorporate them into our instruction. This phonics popper is one of the coolest versions that I’ve seen because it includes letters, blends, digraphs, diphthongs, vowel teams, and more! You can call out a specific word or sound and students can “pop” the matching graphemes.

These letter cubes include both capital and lowercase letters and are color-coded to distinguish vowels from consonants. They’re perfect for word building in small groups and literacy centers!

As a STEM teacher, I LOVE using mini cups for engineering, but they are also a fun and engaging option for word work! You can stick address labels with letters and graphemes on the front, and even better? The white plastic mini cups are actually write and wipe, so students can write and erase directly on the cup! Check out my Word Word Construction with Mini Cups templates that fit the cups perfectly.

These magnetic wands and chips are a favorite for orthographic mapping! Students can use any elkonin box template to write words, place the magnetic chips over or underneath the graphemes, and then use the magnetic wands to swipe across the chips and say each phoneme aloud.

How cool are these building brick letters?! These Alpha Briks make an awesome literacy center that your kids will love. Grab the FREE and editable template below:

These write and wipe Paint Trays from Amazon are the BEST tool for small group reading because the possibilities are endless for all the literacy skills that you can incorporate!

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.


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

Looking for an all-in-one toolkit that includes a variety of hands-on literacy manipulatives, plus engaging lessons for comprehension and word work?! Check out my Reading Construction Toolkits from hand2mind in three differentiated grade level bands. They contain a teachers resource book, instruction cards and enough hands-on materials for four students to use at once!

Also, check out my Comprehension Construction Toolkits with printable components to assemble your own hands-on literacy boxes.