Onset/Rime Games

The "onset" is the initial phonological unit of any word (e.g. c in cat) and the term "rime" refers to the string of letters that follow, usually a vowel and final consonants (e.g. at in cat). Not all words have onsets. Similar to teaching beginning readers about rhyme, teaching children about onset and rime helps them recognize common chunks within words. This can help students decode new words when reading and spell words when writing.

How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

More phonological awareness strategies

Why teach about onset and rimes?

  • They help children learn about word families, which can lay the foundation for future spelling strategies
  • Teaching children to attend to onset and rime will have a positive effect on their literacy skills
  • Learning these components of phonological awareness is strongly predictive of reading and spelling acquisition



Watch: Make a Word: Using Onsets and Rimes

Students blend onsets with rimes and listen to see if the blend is a word. See the lesson plan.

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Phonemic Awareness section as well as the Letter-Sounds and Phonics section.

Collect resources

From the Florida Center for Reading Research, download and print these activities:

These articles offer suggestions for how to use simple onset and rime activities to help students develop phonological awareness.

Construct-a-word: "ig" in Pig. The link below outlines a strategy that can be adapted to teach different onset and rime word patterns. This activity helps teachers isolate and teach the rime "ig" using the book If you Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff. There is an instructional plan that accompanies the activity and extension ideas included to advance the learning process. See example >

Download blank templates

See the link below for more help building word families using onset and rimes.

Differentiated instruction

for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Have students create and write word sorts of the target word pattern
  • Use pictures instead of words in activities for younger and lower level readers

See the research that supports this strategy

Bear, D., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (1996). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Chard, D., & Dickson, S. (1999). Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines.

Ellis, E. (1997). How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities.

Goswami, U., & Mead, F. (1992). Onset and rime awareness and analogies in reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 2, 153-162.

Wise, B. W., Olson, R. K., & Treiman, R. (1990). Subsyllabic units as aids in beginning readers word learning Onset-rime versus post-vowel segmentation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 4, 1-19.

Children's books to use with this strategy

I Can't Said the Ant

I Can't Said the Ant

By: Matthew Polly
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

An improbable cumulative tale with lots of interesting rhymes that uses illustrations as clues for meaning.

Fox in Socks

Fox in Socks

By: Dr. Seuss
Genre: Fiction, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tongue twisters abound in this lively and easy to read book by the famous doctor.

Clang! Clang! Beep! Beep! Listen to the City

Clang! Clang! Beep! Beep! Listen to the City

By: Robert Burleigh
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rhyming couplets describe city sounds with illustrations embedding the onomatopoeic sounds.

Cha Cha Chimps

Cha Cha Chimps

By: Julia Durango
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Chimps from one to ten counting sneak out to dance their rhyming way around and through this very funny counting book.

A Huge Hog is a Big Pig

A Huge Hog Is a Big Pig

By: Francis McCall, Patricia Keeler
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This rhyming words game is illustrated with crisp photographs and is sure to tickle the imagination as another rhyming description is sought. For more experienced readers (grade 2-3), try Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles by Marvin Terban — just what the title indicates.


Fantastic resources , simple yet leaves a room for retention - highly recommendable

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald