Powering up Early Literacy Instruction with Coko Educational Bricks

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Phonics, the method of teaching reading and writing by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters, forms the bedrock of early literacy instruction. 

The Coko Educational Bricks hold great potential for teaching phonics effectively, because:

  1. They clearly demonstrate, visually, how letters combine together to make the different sounds within words.
  2. The physicality of using the bricks means they offer a multi-sensory approach: proprioceptive, tactile and kinesthetic input. The pushing of the bricks onto a base plate and the pulling to remove them particularly provides “heavy work” (proprioceptive input) engaging more neurological pathways and assisting the learning process.
  3. Coko Bricks are a solid hands-on material that makes learning phonics a more interactive and engaging experience and are fun to use.
  4. They cater to a range of diverse learning needs and allow truly flexible and individualised instruction.

Teaching Phonics Using Coko Educational Bricks

The Coko Educational Bricks cater to all aspects of teaching phonics. Here are some 

  • Letter recognition. Use the individual lower case letters to teach individual letter recognition and naming. Not sure what order to teach the alphabet letters in? We have a great blog post for you on that! Click here for blog.
  • Sound-Symbol correspondence. Use the individual letters to teach and reinforce letter/sound correspondences (the common sounds each letter says).

    • Digraphs and Trigraphs. Use the bricks to teach and reinforce important letter combinations such as; "ay" as in day, "ee" as in tree. This is a particular strength of using these bricks as they clearly show how a letter combination represents a phoneme. For example, three letters combine to make one sound "igh" as in night or "ar" as in part. Of course, we would be doing lots of examples of words containing the grapheme we’re focusing on, but see the clip below for an example. 

    • Synthetic Phonics. Synthetic phonics refers to blending sounds together to make a word. Once a few letter/sound representations are known (eg s a t p i m), children can start learning to join those sounds together to make words (eg tip, map). In our specialist tutoring centre, we find two of the most common issues for those struggling to learn to read is:
      - (1) N ot knowing letter/sounds and/or common digraphs, and
      - (2) N ot knowing how to join the sounds together (blend).

      The children who come to us for tutoring are behind the eight-ball because they lack word attack skills. Once children have a basic command of phonics, the single most important skill they can be taught is successive blending.

      Combining phonics knowledge and successive blending skill opens the gate to being able to attack (decode or “figure out”) words when they are reading.

      These bricks make learning and mastering the strategy of successive blending so much easier. Here is how we teach successive blending…

    • Segmenting and encoding. Segmentation in phonics, refers to being able to identify the individual sound in a spoken word. For example: Trick can be broken into 4 separate sounds “Trick” →  t + r + i + ck. Children use the bricks to spell (make) words. We also like to use the bricks to put words back together, to reinforce the learning and mastery of a digraph or spelling rule. See how we use the bricks in this way here…

    • Blends. Blends are different to blending. Blends are when two or more separate sounds are “chunked” together (but technically remain as distinct sounds). For example: bl + a + ck the "bl" is a blend but the "ck" is a digraph (one sound).

      Being able to recognise blend chunks, helps decode words more rapidly. You can use the alphabet lower case bricks to teach blends, however the Coko Bricks do come in various “blends” packs which do help children learn to chunk.

    • Onset and Rime. This refers to the two parts of a syllable: the onset is the initial part and the rime is the second part including the vowel. For example: cling cl (onset) ing (rime). Once again, being able to recognise, rapidly and automatically, onsets and rimes helps with decoding efficiency and reading fluency. The Coko Educational Bricks also have word family packs that can be combined with the lower case and blend packs.

    Tips For Using Your Coko Educational Bricks

    Which sets do you need to start out?

    If you’re on a budget, start out with our recommended 3 pack. You can always add to this as you go.

    We recommend the following as a starting point.

    • Lower Case 50pc pack
    • Digraphs
    • Vowel Sounds
    • Large Base Plate
    • Small Base Plate

    If you have Duplo base plates, the bricks are compatible so absolutely save yourself some money there.

    If funds can be stretched, we suggest getting two of the lower case packs. They do come with multiples of most letters, but sometimes you might find yourself short of a letter or two needed.

    How do you set up the bricks?

    If you have a large base plate, it is worth storing your bricks on them. It makes sure they are always facing the front and up the right way!

    If you have a “system” for where they are on the base plate, it is going to save you so much time finding a brick you need. This ensures there is no lost time and your children are less likely to get bored while they wait or distracted (and more likely to stay focused).

    We like to set up our bricks with the:

    • Consonants in alphabetical order
    • Vowels separate
    • Digraphs grouped in “teams” of like sounds

    What to do if you don't have a brick you need?

    Some digraphs and dipthongs and letter strings are not included in the packs. You can easily make your own “brick” by simply sticky-taping lower case letters together. That’s what we do with the /au/ sound (as in because). It definitely makes it easier if you have two packs of lower case letters.

    Some of the people we work with struggle recognising the foundation style letter ‘k’.  We put a white sticker over the top and hand-wrote the k in the more familiar style.

    How can you clean your bricks?

    We recommend using a household cleaner such as “spray and wipe” and paper towel. They clean up really easily.

    We have tried nail polish remover, however it removed the print from the bricks - so definitely stay away from that!

    Free Download

    To get you started, we have created a free word list download.

    This download gives you word lists with short vowel sounds, progressing in difficulty from CVC  → CVCC   →  CCVC   →   CCVCC


    The Coko Educational Bricks are so much more than plastic blocks. They have the capacity to power up your literacy teaching.

    If used well, they can be a gateway to literacy for young learners.

    They are especially helpful in literacy instruction of those with significant learning difficulties or disabilities, they help support literacy instruction one brick at a time.

    If you found this blog useful, we would love for you to share. Our goal is to provide meaningful content to as many people as possible.


    Kirstie Wishart M.Ed (Special Education).
    Owner and founder of The Starfish Store. Kirstie’s professional life has included: teaching (in both public and private schools in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand), lecturer and subject coordinator at the University of Wollongong, Educational consultant (working with children and young people with a trauma background), OoHC Case Work Manager, and Specialist Tutor (working with children and young people with significant learning difficulties and/or disabilities).

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