Playing with Phonemes-Part 3

I am taking a little break from my usual Saturday’s Sites post to continue with my series on phonological & phonemic awareness.  There’s one more day of this series that I’ll post on Monday.  I’ll also be sharing more about my surprise then…I can’t wait to share it with you!

Phonemic Segmentation

There are many ways to work on phonemic segmentation, but I would like to highlight two of my favorite ways: Elkonin boxes & spelling words.


What are Elkonin boxes?  Boxes drawn side-by-side to represent the number of  phonemes or sounds in a word.  (Take note that the number of phonemes and the number of letters in a word may differ!)  Students listen for the individual sounds they hear in a word.  They can either put an object or a letter(s) to represent that sound in each box.

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For example, sheep has 5 letters, but 3 phonemes.  SH makes one sound /sh/, EE makes one sound /e/ and P makes one sound /p/.  I think Elkonin boxes are a great way to scaffold or support a young speller.

Here are some great online resources for using Elkonin boxes.

  • Mrs. Mc has a great activity with Cheez-It crackers and modified Elkonin boxes for her young learner.
  • Mrs. Kilburn’s Kiddos shows how she uses these boxes with CVC words.
  • Try this website for some Elkonin worksheets containing words with 3 or 4 phonemes (sounds)
  • Reading Rockets has an article and some children’s books you can use with the strategy

Once a child can successfully identify sounds in Elkonin boxes, a way to give him a little more independence in the task would be to say, “I’ve got 6 beans on this table.  I’m going to say a word.  Listen for the sounds you hear in the word and push a bean forward for each sound you hear.”


Another great strategy for developing the ear for phonemic segmentation in early readers is spelling!  And how a young child spells a word clues you in on her level of phonemic awareness.  For example, a child who spells B for bus has less knowledge about how the sounds in words work than a child who spells BOS for bus.

Invented (or phonetic) spelling is a great way to allow kids to stretch their phonemic “wings” and explore sounds in words.  Here is how you can do it:

Child: “Mom, I want to spell getting.”

Mama: “Okay, let’s s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the word and see what sounds we can feel in our mouth.”  Say the word very slowly.  “What sound did you feel/hear at the beginning?”

Child: “A g!”

Mama: “Good, write that down.  Now, let’s say the word again and listen for the next sound you hear/feel.”

The child may or may not be at a word knowledge level where she hears or feels the e and that’s okay.  If she misses the e and goes straight for the t, here are a couple of things you might say (and both work equally well).  It all depends on what you think your child can handle as to which strategy you use.

  1. You can model by saying, “Yes, you did hear a t.  Great job!  But I also heard an e.”  Say getting again and really emphasize the short e sound.  “So, let’s write an e before the t.”
  2. You can praise her efforts, having her write down the t and move on.

Continue doing this with the entire word.  At 5 1/2 years of age, ALuv’s most recent spelling of getting was GETG.

Stretching out the words as he spells makes him more aware of the sounds he feels in his mouth and hears with his ears when he says a word.  To see some of the reasons this reading mama likes spelling, click here.  Reading Rockets also has some great information about invented spelling.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: More Butterfly Writing « This Reading Mama

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