• Katelyn Robey

Daily Phonics Drill, part 1: Look and Say

Updated: Jun 9

In this mini-series, I’ll be breaking down each component of a phonics review that I do almost daily with my students.

The Daily Phonics Drill has 4 components, 2 of which use phonics cards:

  1. Look and Say: Students look at a phonics card, and say it’s sound. I’ll describe this part in more detail below. No worries, it’s quite simple.

  2. Hear and Do: Students hear a sound, and “do” (or write) the sound in a way that piques student’s tactile memory. I choose sand, but there are other less messy options as well. More on this to come in another post.

  3. Segment and Blend: Phonics cards are set up as syllables for students to segment and blend together.

  4. Short Vowel Practice: Students practice hearing and isolating short vowel sounds by listening to a syllable and repeating the vowel sound

LOOK AND SAY: The details


My suggestion for whole group review with The Daily Phonics Drill:

  1. Kindergarten – 4 or 5 times per week

  2. First Grade – 3 times per week, unless the class as a whole struggles with phonics and is still reviewing alphabetic concepts (d says /d/, a says /a/, etc.)

  3. Second Grade – 2 or 3 times per week, again depending on the class’s phonetic skills

  4. Third Grade – 1 or 2 times per week, probably at the beginning of the week to get brains up and running again after the weekend

  5. Forth Grade – 1 time per week, if that.

This drill is perfect for use in intervention, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of students. As an intervention tool, I would use it daily for K/1 students and at least 3 times per week for 2-4 grade students. Obviously, this is all completely dependent upon the needs of the group. Currently, I use this drill twice per week with my highest level (5th grade intervention) groups who are reading at a level T (Fountas and Pinnell levels), and daily for my lowest (4th grade intervention) groups who are reading at a level D.


The whole point of this component of the drill is for students to practice seeing letters and automatically associating them with a sound (or sounds in some cases). For young learners, this is important in learning single letters and digraphs. As students move through phonics concepts, they’ll need to learn to see consonant blends as a group of letters to notice together, vowel teams as a group of letters, and, finally, more complicated phonetic concepts like -igh as a group of letters that work together to make a long i sound. This Look and Say drill helps students practice seeing these letters as groups and through repetition will automatically associate the appropriate sound(s) to those letters.

For this drill to be successful, it’s important to have phonics cards ready and available to be used immediately after teaching a new phonetic concept. Letters can be written on index cards, or printed from a pre-made set of phonics cards.


The Look and Say drill for reviewing previously taught phonetic concepts:

  1. Add the newly taught phonics card to a deck of all previously taught concepts/cards.

  2. Hold the deck of cards up for students to easily see.

  3. Students look at the card showing, and say “{LETTER NAMES} say /letter sound(s)/”.

  4. Teacher moves the card to reveal a new card.

That’s it! Easy peasy!

To keep motivation up and keep students interested in participating, I generally try to keep the pace very quick which also creates a nice rhythm as students name the letters and make their sound(s). The rhythmic piece also adds another element to the multi-sensory nature of this drill and, therefore, helps students remember the sounds even better. (More on the multi-sensory piece of this drill below)

Here’s a link to one of my groups doing this Look and Say component of the drill if you care to watch.


Below are some specific notes about the above steps that will hopefully clear up any misunderstandings if you have any:

  1. Step 3 may look a bit confusing, so here are some examples of how that step would go. If the ‘sh’ card is showing, students would say, “S – H says /sh/”. If the ‘c’ card is showing, students would say “C says /k/” OR “C says /k/, C says /s/” depending on how far along you are in teaching sounds (c as /s/ is not taught for quite a while in the progression of phonics concepts I use). If the card shows ‘ai’, students say “A – I says /A/ (long a sound)”. Get it now? Hopefully that clears it up a bit. If not, comment below or contact me and I’ll do a better job of describing it.

  2. The cards should get mixed up before each new Look and Say drill. Keeping the cards in order will allow some students to simply memorize the order rather than force them to notice the letters on each card as they move through the deck.

  3. If students DO NOT correctly make the sound(s) of a phonics card, model the correct way the sound is made. Then, students should repeat the sound THREE times in a row (at least). The card is then put back into the deck so that it comes up again before the Look and Say part of the drill is finished for students to attempt again. If students still struggle with the sound, the teacher may consider taking it out of the deck in order to reteach that phonetic concept again.


I do my best to make sure all of my lessons/strategies/activities are multi-sensory. Often we think of a multi-sensory activity as being pretty fun and playful. While this is not always the most exciting part of the phonics drill, does, in fact, fall under the multi-sensory category. Here’s how:

  1. Students see the phonics cards = visual

  2. Students repeat the letter’s name and sounds out loud = auditory

  3. Rhythmic pattern = auditory

  4. Adding short vowel motions or cues = kinesthetic

  5. I always have students use short vowel motions and have made up my own motions for other letters/sounds based on student need. For example, I put two fingers up and cross them for x to remind students it’s putting two sounds, /k/ and /s/ into one. Each digraph has a motion. Some other sounds have a motion to remind students not to add the /uh/ sound that is so easily added to the end of some sounds.

  6. The Hear and Do part of the daily phonics drill leans more heavily on the kinesthetic piece of multi-sensory instruction.

While the Look and Say activity is simple, it will take a bit of practice with your students to get the routine down perfectly, so stick with it! I’ll explain the other parts of the phonics drill more fully in future posts, so keep an eye out for those (subscribe to make sure you don’t miss them!).

#phonics #phonicsreview #reading #lettersandsounds #lettercards #literacy #phonicscards #scienceofreading #instructionalstrategy


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