I was inspired to make these rhyming wheels by a book from the 1970’s called Teaching the Young Child by Susan Rounds. Her idea involved two paper plates and no flaps or pictures, but she didn’t have the photo editing software that made making these easy.
Basically, the way these work is that each of the four wheels features four easy, rhyming words, so that kids who are learning how to read can get confidence sounding out words in a fun way. By making the answer be covered by flaps, it turns into a guessing game. The child can try to sound out the word, then lift the flaps to see if they were right. By spinning the wheel 90 degrees a new word and picture appear. (Even my 5 year old thought it was magic when he opened up the flap and saw a different picture.)
I made these rhyming wheels with my kindergartner in mind, since this is about the level of words he is capable of figuring out on his own. They definitely were as big of a hit as I thought they would be, since he loved being able to predict what was going to be under the flaps. However, what surprised me more than how much my 5 and a half year old liked them was how much my 3 and a half year old liked them. She knows about half of her letters and is able to guess the more obvious letter sounds, but she is nowhere close to reading.
However, after watching intently as her brother solved each wheel, she wanted to try for herself. I would show her each word holding the flaps closed and my husband and I were astonished that she was able to get more than half the words right. Really, all she needed to do was remember the pictures and then make an educated guess based on the first letter, but she was able to do that surprisingly often. For example on the “-an” wheel, she may not be able to blend the letters p-a-n, but knowing the pictures are of a can, van, fan, and pan and that p says “puh”, she’s able to correctly (and proudly) “read” the word.
I thought these were going to be for my kindergartner who is starting to read, but it turns out they’re really for my pre-reading preschooler. I’ve seen her playing with these wheels independently multiple times over the past few days. She loves spinning the wheel and opening the flaps. I don’t know if she’s making any connections to the letters when she plays independently, but she definitely seems to be focusing pretty intently. I intended these rhyming wheels to be great for reinforcing reading concepts that a child already knew, but it turns out they are also a great introduction to sounding out words for kids who are not yet reading at all.
- paper (for printing free Rhyming Wheels printable)
- 4 laminating pouches
- 4 paper fasteners (aka brads)
Supplies & Tools:
- x-acto knife
- self healing mat (or other surface for using x-acto knife
- Print out the free Rhyming Wheels document. (Note that you only need to print the first 8 pages. The last 2 pages contain legal information regarding sharing and image sources.)
- Laminate the pages.
- Cut out each of the 8 circles.
- Use an x-acto knife to cut out the opening for the first part of the word and to cut along the lines to make the flaps.
- Use a paper fastener, also called a brad, to stick the front and back of each of the 4 wheels together. To do this I lined the fronts and backs of the wheels up, then used the x-acto knife to make a small slit for the brad to go through.
The first time you present this to the child, I recommend holding the wheel and then showing them the word. Once they sound out the word (possibly with help), have them open the flap and “magically” see the appropriate picture underneath. Once they’ve gone through each wheel once, they can do them completely independently.