EAL Classroom Basics – Word Building

Our last post covered the EAL basics to have at your fingertips for letters and sounds to best support English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners. This post focuses on word building as the next step.


While the EAL learner may know many words in their own language, they have the added step of learning English for these words also. Focusing on building vocabulary is important and there are many resources to help with this including:

The Big Box Of Easy-To-Read Words is a game students can work on independently. They match the 125-word puzzle pieces and 125 photo puzzle pieces to build vocabulary.

Basic Skills Charts are a great way to learn the basics necessary for the classroom and are usually found in most classrooms. Singing the days of the week and the months of the year helps students retain information.

Photographic Learning Cards can be used in many different ways, simply to learn vocabulary, then to develop sentence structure and storytelling. Resources that grow with students and can be used in multiple ways are always a good choice.

Pre-teaching vocabulary for a new math or science concept can give EAL learners an advantage. Understanding the keys words to be introduced gives them a safe starting point and builds confidence. They are then better able to contribute to discussions and maintain the teaching and learning pace in the lesson.

CVC Words

Learning consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words is the next step after learning letter and letter sounds. Many of the resources mentioned in our last post can be used for CVC words. Here are a few more:

The Big Box of Little Word Puzzles has 60 CVC words to build. This activity allows students to practice their letter sounds as they decipher the words using picture cues to support learning.

These phonics pebbles are great for developing letter recognition, word building and blending skills. The tactile pebbles can be combined to create more complex words and the colour coding for vowels always helps for CVC activities.

Playing with word families

Word Family Tiles have 42 onset tiles and 35 rime tiles allowing students to make their own words and explore the families in a fun way.

Pop For Word Families allows students to play a fun game once they understand how words are made using a family ending.

Sight words

Sight words are a challenge to teach because they often do not follow rules and need to be memorized. Luckily there are many fun ways to learn sight words.

Sight Word String-Ups are a fun interactive way to introduce and practice learning sight words.

Sight Word Bingo is always a hit and students enjoy the game without realizing they are learning challenging words.

Sight Word Readers are a natural way to teach sight words in context and the more students are exposed to words the better.


Having students begin with readers at this point is a great way to help them understand why they are working so hard and also to celebrate the success they are having. Levelled readers gradually increase the difficulty of the text and help students to gain skills and confidence.

What are you doing to help your EAL students build word power?