Real Word or Silly Word? (Decoding Game for Pre-Readers)

This is, by far, Big Brother’s favorite activity on our Build-a-Word Tray. It is a super-simple decoding game that involves children choosing a white tile letter, a blue gem, and another white tile (in educational terms, this type of word is called a CVC word–consonant, vowel, consonant). The child places each tile on its individual “sound star” at the bottom. The child will then “sound out” (decode) the word by saying each sound the word makes and blending all the sounds together. Once the child says the word, he/she then must figure out whether it is a real word or a silly word! Be prepared for lots of laughs!


His first choice of letters…SILLY!



Another selection:  A REAL word!

Apparently, “vim” is a real word. However, because it is not a word that a preschooler/early elementary student would know, we’re considering it “silly” for the time being. This isn’t a vocabulary exercise…it is decoding practice.

Big Brother loves to make the silly words the best! :)

And here is a short little video illustrating this activity…


  1. Jenae, thank you so much for this great idea! My 2 boys (ages 4 and 5) had fun putting together the build-a-word tray, brushing on the glaze, etc. Last night we tried your silly/real word game and they loved it. My older son just started kindergarten and he wants to take this to school for show and tell. He also asked if we can play the silly/real word “game” again today. Each assembled tray came out to $5max… it’s hard to believe that such simple, random items could come together and become such a fun toys that help my kids learn. Thanks again!

  2. What a fun activity! Where did you get your tiles and gems? Are there magnets on the back? I’m assuming those can be purchased at any store (Walmart, Target..etc?) I am looking to make this at some point this week! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *