Not only does it get the student thinking about the sounds in the word, but it is a highly engaging strategy. Students LOVE sorting the picture cards!
Get pictures of the phonemic strategy you are working on. If you don't have some already, you can find them these picture sort cards at our TpT store (Word Sort Cards). we use this T-chart for sorting. Some teachers like to use note cards or post-it notes with the categories. We, however, laminate the T-chart and we use them throughout the year. We also use this chart for the analogy strategy so it's just easier for me to have the one chart. If you need your own T-chart click here for this one.
Once the strategy that is being focused on has been identified during a small group or individual teaching time explicitly teach the rule(s) to the students. Then, explain (the first time) that they will be sorting according to that rule.
An example (that follows this picture) is: "Some words start with the a sound. Say "a" (students say the sound for a). Some words start with the b sound. Say "b" (students say the sound for b). We have a pile of pictures that either start with the a or b sound. Go through the pictures with the students then (they all have the same pictures in their personal piles, or we sometimes just do this as a group using one pile) because you don't want them to spend too much time trying to figure out the picture. You want them thinking more about the sound the word has.