Grade Levels: K-3

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades K-3, features a game that challenges students to identify and distinguish various phonics sounds in words.   

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Watch BrainPOP Jr movies featuring phonics skills.
  2. Use Make-a-Map to create spider maps identifying words that make certain phonics sounds.
  3. Match and distinguish phonic sounds playing an interactive, online game.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Beanbag (extension activity only)


This lesson plan features the PBS Kids game Halfpipe Hoverball, a phonics game from our partner The Electric Company.  In this game, students help Marcus shoot word balls into pipes with a matching sound. The target sounds featured in the game include initial consonant blends, long and short vowel sounds, hard and soft consonant sounds, word families, and more.

Preview and play Halfpipe Hoverball to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be working in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game, read Halfpipe Hoverball: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP Jr. phonics movies: ch, Long A, Short Vowels, Silent E, and th, sh, and wh.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Share one of the the BrainPOP Jr. phonics movies on the whiteboard for the whole class. Depending on the level of support your students require, you may choose to pause during the movie to invite students to come up with additional words that make the featured sound. For example, in the ch movie, when Annie introduces a bunch of words that have the “ch” sound, such as chair, sandwich, and teacher, pause the movie and ask students to think of more words that make the “ch” sound.
  2. After watching a phonics movie, project Make-a-Map for that movie. Choose the spider map template. Use a blank node to type the featured sound in the center of the map (e.g., “ch”). Ask students to brainstorm words that make the “ch” sounds and type them in nodes around the center.
  3. Project the game Halfpipe Hoverball on the whiteboard and invite students up to try and figure out the game mechanics, or how to play. You may want to demonstrate for younger students.
  4. Now have students play the game independently or with a partner. You may also play the game with a small group of students while the rest of the class plays it independently. Remind students of cooperative gaming expectations (see Preparation).
  5. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during game play, and reflect on their thinking and strategies. Review Halfpipe Hoverball: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP for suggested prompts.  
  6. Bring the class together to discuss their experience playing the game. Which phonics sounds did they find challenging? Which did were easier? What strategies did they use?

Extension Activities:

Have the class form a circle. Holding a bean bag, say a word with one vowel sound, such as long e in feet. Throw the bag to a student and have that student say another word that has the same vowel sound (e.g., seat). Then the student throws the beanbag to another student, who says another word with that vowel sound, and so on.