reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

Try This Cute Reading Activity: Play A Secret Box Bingo Game

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Montessori Secret Box Reading Activity

The previous reading activity we learned about was word lists and having fun with rhyming words and books. Next in the Montessori reading sequence is the secret box. 

I have experienced that, as a teacher, the secret reading box lesson was sometimes not the most popular lesson for the children. However, I discovered that trying to make the game as fun and inviting as possible is essential.

This reading game is another excellent activity that allows your child to practice reading words in a different and intriguing way. 

We set up the activity with a unique and attractive box filled with little word labels folded in half like cute little books. 

Each little folded label is a “secret,” your child gets to share their “secret” by reading aloud the word to a small group of children.

In this post, I’ll share the secret box lesson I learned from my teacher training. I’ll also share the reading words bingo game I made to make the secret boxes lesson even more exciting! 

I’ll also share how it went with my five-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Annie, at home.

In This Post

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

Reading games can help with phonics skills

According to the Edutopia article, Using Games to Help Improve Students’ Phonics Skills,

“ 'You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.' This maxim applies 100-fold to getting beginning readers in kindergarten through second grade to practice new phonics patterns. Vinegar: asking students to read aloud a list of 10 words with the short-a sound. Honey: asking students to play bingo with cards that all have words with the short-a sound."

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo
Turn the secret boxes game into bingo

If a typical reading activity looks like work, sometimes it could seem like a tedious chore your child doesn’t want to do. Turning it into a game makes it much more engaging and motivating for young children. 

The original Montessori secret box lesson is a reading activity game, adding interest to regular reading word cards. You fold the cards and put them into a beautiful box. You pick a card, open it up, read it like a tiny book, and place it in front of you.

The little folded-up cards are little “secrets,” your child gets to pick one, open it, and read aloud the secret. It makes the reading activity more engaging and meaningful.

Reading the special “secret” words in front of everyone in a little group of children is fun. It’s also fun to listen to others read the words aloud. Turning it into a game helps young children to find joy in reading.

You can even take it further and turn the secret reading box game into a reading words bingo game! 

First, I’ll share how to do the original Montessori secret box lesson.

How to do the Montessori secret box lesson

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decorative container with folded word cards

You'll need

To do the original secret reading box lesson, you’ll need a collection of word labels containing the 40 Key Sounds represented by the letter sounds and symbols your child already knows. 

The word labels are folded and placed in an attractive, inviting container or box. 

Change the words frequently to spark interest in the reading game. If you keep using the same word cards, your child will be bored and not want to revisit the game. 

As with the preceding reading activity, words can be grouped differently, such as word lists and word families.

Set 1: Print the set 1 words on white, cream, or beige card stock. Set 1 words include:

3-letter short vowel words (CVC words)
For example: cap, jet, kit, mop, sun

Short vowel words with consonant blends
Such as clap, sled, ink, stomp, jump

Short vowel, two-syllable words
For instance: basket, camel, lemon, sunset, comet

You can group the words by word families
Like: dot, not, cot, pot, hot

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You'll need a decorative box and word cards

I used a collection of 24-word labels for set 1, which are below. The list of words below is a great start; you could move on to different sets of words after your child has gone through them. 

You can create these word labels at home or download them from my resources library.

  • top
  • jug
  • hip
  • clap
  • bat
  • frog
  • trim
  • net
  • comic
  • magnet
  • absent
  • west
  • plant
  • swim
  • yes
  • box
  • bus
  • basket
  • sand
  • tint
  • sun
  • zip
  • pond
  • melon
reading games, Montessori, secret box
read the word

Set 2: Print the set 2 words on green card stock. 

I suggest printing the words on light to medium or bright green card stock so it’ll be easier to read the words. 

If printing on white, you can mount the cards on green card stock so that there is a green border around the words. On white card stock, you could also make the font green or design a green border around each card before printing it out.

Also, be sure to underline the double phonogram letters or highlight the letters in red. 

Set 2 words include words with phonograms from the double green sandpaper letters

tie, goat, roam, blue, toy

You could also group the words by the same phonogram, such as:

ship, sheep, dish, fish, shell

reading activity, reading games, Montessori, secret box
pick a word and read it aloud

The list of set 2 words (24 total) I created is below. You can make them at home or download the ones I created from the resource library.

  • green
  • boat
  • shut
  • chip
  • tried
  • trail
  • vault
  • hunter
  • blue
  • mound
  • enjoy
  • cook
  • quit
  • with
  • paint
  • seed
  • barn
  • corn
  • such
  • dash
  • rain
  • cloud
  • star
  • book

You can also create a bingo game with this reading activity! Read about the Bingo game below! 

First, we’ll read about the original Montessori secret box lesson.

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

* If you would like to download the secret reading box and Reading Words Bingo that I made, as well as the lesson plan PDF, sign up for the resources library below. If you’re already a subscriber, be sure to get the most recent password from my latest email. 

Step-by-step: secret box

Invite your child or a small group of ‘reading’ children to a rug (2 or 3).

reading activity, Montessori, secret box
attractive container

Say, “This is the secret box,” and point out the attractive container.

Tell your child(ren) that each person can pull out one of the labels one at a time and read it out loud to everyone.

reading activity, Montessori, secret box
pull out a word card and read it aloud

You, the adult, will go first to serve as a role model.

Choose a label, read it out loud, show it, and then place it on the rug in front of you.

Take turns around the rug and continue as long as there is interest.

reading activity, Montessori, secret box
continue reading the words as long as there is interest

Tell your child(ren) that they can play this reading game with another ‘reading’ friend anytime they want.

reading activity, Montessori, secret box
read as many words as you like

Show your child(ren) how to return the work to the shelf.

Play Bingo!

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

You can also turn the secret reading box activity into a fun bingo game! As a classroom teacher, I noticed that the kids didn’t want to do secret reading boxes a lot—the reason could be that it was not engaging enough.

You always have the option to change up the lesson to make it different or more challenging. With the secret reading box, since the children pick a word and practice reading it aloud to the group, it reminded me of bingo! 

You can make bingo boards with the exact words found in the secret reading box lesson.


reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo
Secret box reading bingo game

When you choose a word from the box, you read the word and look on your bingo board to see if you have the word. If you have the word on your board, place a stone, pebble, bead, or chip on the word.

You play the game like regular bingo and try to get a row, column, or diagonal line. You could also keep playing until you fill-up the whole board.

Annie loves the board game “Zingo,” which is like bingo, and she loves playing the reading words bingo I made! She loves to try to fill up the whole bingo board. 

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo
Use Secret box to play a Bingo game

I created the bingo boards if you’d like to download them! There are 24 word cards in set one (pink) and 24 in set 2 (green). 

For sets 1 and 2, I created three bingo boards each that are 3×3: if you have a small group of children, they can each get their board. 

I also created one 5×5 board for each set 1 and set 2, which could be the master board because it has all 24 words on it. You could also use this board as a “community board” that everyone shares and “wins” as a community.

More secret boxes ideas

Besides creating a bingo game, you could also:

  • Create a word booklet of all the words your child reads with the secret boxes game. 
  • Your child can write the words if she’s practicing writing.
  • Print word cards for different themes you’re learning about (nature, garden, animals).
  • Change up the paper into different colors and textures for the word cards.
  • Regularly update the words and bingo boards for more variety and to keep interest and motivation.

Concluding Thoughts about the secret box reading activity

The bingo game was a big hit with Annie! She loved doing the original secret box game, too. Having a beautiful, attractive box helps with the excitement of the work.

With the bingo game, Annie took the lead in who’s turn was next and enjoyed checking to see if the word appeared on all of the boards. She also loved helping to pull a card for me to read if it was my turn. 

Reading games are a great way to help our children focus and be motivated to decode and read new words. The reading words bingo game made reading words more engaging and more enjoyable for Annie. 

The added benefit is that reading games can also help with organizational skills, communication, and interaction with others while fostering a positive attitude toward reading.

Have you tried bingo games or other reading games with your child? Leave a comment below!

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

More Montessori Resources

* If you would like to download the secret box and Reading Words Bingo that I made, as well as the lesson plan PDF, sign up for the resources library below. If you’re already a subscriber, be sure to get the most recent password from my latest email. 

reading activity, Montessori, secret box, bingo

19 thoughts on “Try This Cute Reading Activity: Play A Secret Box Bingo Game”

    1. Hi Amber,

      Thank you for your comment! I’m so glad you would love to try this bingo reading activity with your kiddos!

  1. such a fun activity and you have provided so much information on this. i will share it with family with young ones

    1. Hi Vidya,

      I am so happy you enjoyed all of the information and that you will share this reading activity with your family!

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