Grade Levels: K-3

In these lesson ideas, which are adaptable for grades 1-4, students use an online interactive game to create words through various combinations of onsets, rimes, and compound word segments.

Students will:

  1. Apply their knowledge of onsets and rhymes to build words.
  2. Create compound words using a variety of word segments.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP


These lesson ideas feature a PBS Kids game called Combotronic. Players build words by combining word parts from a given pool of onsets, rimes and compound word parts. Players are challenged to make as many words as possible with each set. To play, just click on word parts and move them to the blue or red boxes to create a word.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Here are some different ways you can integrate this game into your reading instruction:

    • Project the game on your interactive whiteboard. Read the word segments together. Which are onsets? Which are rhymes? How can you tell? Have volunteers come up to board and make words. Draw students' attention to the explanation Combotronic gives as to why the word is incorrect, or the proper definition of the word if it is correct.

    • Provide students with scrap paper and project the game onto your interactive whiteboard. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Challenge students to work with a partner or small group to list as many words as they can possibly create using the word segments in the game. When time is up, have students suggest the words and check them through game play. Is it possible to use one onset or rime to create multiple words? How many different words can be made with each word segment?

    • How can you tell if a word is a real word? Challenge students to suggest ways they can check the meaning and spelling of words they write. Ideas include classroom word walls, dictionaries, online dictionaries, spell check, and search engines.

    • Allow students to play the game with a partner. Encourage students to discuss their thinking with one another. Talk about various strategies with students as they play. Draw students' attention to the fact that some word segments can be used in multiple words, while others are much more limited. Challenge students to think several moves ahead as they plan their word-building strategies.

    • Provide additional support for below grade level readers by playing the game during small group instruction. Students can copy each of the word segments onto paper or index cards and practice making words by physically moving them around. Once each student in the group has composed a word using a particular word segment, allow a volunteer to plug his or her word into the Combotronic game and test to see if it's real.

    • Which onsets and rimes can be used to create compound words? Challenge students to identify compound words as they are made, and explain how they know the words are compound.

    • After game play, ask students to create definitions for each of the words they created. They may want to record these in a personal word wall or word bank. Encourage students to use various tools (both online and offline) to assist them as needed.
Filed as:  English, K-3