Help your kindergarten student work on phoneme segmentation with this introduction to what is phoneme segmentatio and why it matters to kindergatners. Simply print these free printable phoneme segmentation activities and you are ready to improve reading and spelling skills by segmenting words with students!
Phoneme segmentation is dividing words into their individual sounds or phonemes. It’s a crucial step in learning how to read! Join us as we explore this topic and give you some teaching strategies to help your students master this skill. We’ve also got a free printable to make things really easy for you.
What is phoneme segmentation?
Phoneme segmentation means breaking a word apart into its component sounds. Phonemes are basic elements that make up spoken language. Phoneme segmentation helps students focus on these phonemes and their relationships with each other.
The ability to break words into their individual sounds allows students to begin decoding the written language and reading.
For example, let’s look at the word “map.” To segment this word, we must identify each individual sound in the word. We can break this down into three sounds /m/ /a/ /p/.
How about the word garden? It is a bit longer, but can be segmented into four sounds. We have /g/ /ar/ /d/ /en/.
Phoneme segmentation is essential for all students, but it is especially crucial for early readers. Kindergarteners need a lot of practice and repetition to master this skill.
Why is phoneme segmentation important?
Students must break down words into their basic phonemic sounds and then connect those sounds before they can begin reading read fluently. The reader must know what sounds the letters make and blend them together to read a word. To spell a word, a student must segment a word into sounds and then figure out what letters or groups of letters make that sound.
As if things weren’t hard enough already, some letters make different sounds depending on where they are in a word. The letter C in the word “cap” makes a very different sound to the c in the word “trace.” Also, some letters join to make one sound like /sh/ /ch/ /th/.
You can see why it takes a lot of practice!
Difficulty with segmentation can often lead to difficulty with both reading and spelling. It is one of the common symptoms of children with a learning disability like Dyslexia.
When Should Phoneme Segmentation Instruction Start?
Phoneme segmentation should be taught as soon as students are familiar with letters and the sounds they make. In most cases, this will be in kindergarten or first grade. They also need to have worked on Phonemic awareness skills.
See this post for more information about Phonemic awareness, along with 50 + free activities to help your students develop it.
Teacher Tip: If you find students are struggling with segmentation, go back to basics. Focus on some rhyming and syllable work to help your class practice their phenome listening skills. This will lay a solid foundation for segmentation.
How to teach phoneme segmentation?
Teaching segmentation skills requires a lot of practice. Basically, you do it in this order.
- Start by splitting up sentences into words
- Move onto splitting words into syllables
- Finally, start segmenting words into sounds.
Phonics Hero gives a good overview of this process and has many good ideas for activities and games at each stage.
Phoneme segmentation word list
To make it easier for you, we’ve created a free printable to help your students with the last stage of segmenting words into sounds. Our segmentation mat incorporates three phoneme words, Elkonin sound boxes, and manipulatives.
Elkonin boxes are a series of squares representing the sounds in a word. We use words with three sounds, so our boxes have three squares. It is best for children just starting out to have one square for each sound. Here are the words we are using.
- Tap /t//a//p/
- Hat /h//a//t/
- Cat /c//a//t/
- Duck /d//u//ck/
- Map /m//a//p/
- Fish /f//i//sh/
- Pen /p//e//n/
- Mug /m//u//g/
- Car /c//a//r/
- frog /fr//o//g/
- Dog /d//o//g/
- Nest /n//e//st/
Phoneme segmentation activities
The segmenting mat is easy to use. A picture of a three-phoneme word is placed on the mat. The student breaks down the word into sounds, says each sound in turn, and puts a token into the box as they do.
We’ve created our mats with a spring feel, although they could be used any time of year. It features butterflies, flowers, and even a famous caterpillar that your students will probably recognize instantly. We have two variations. The first is a lovely shade of green but will take a fair amount of ink. The second (on the last page) is more ink-friendly and won’t drain your ink cartridges.
Phoneme segmentation examples
Elkonin boxes are a powerful tool for teaching phoneme segmentation. They work remarkably well for 3 reasons.
- It encourages students to segment words into individual sounds.
- The squares provide a visual representation of the number of sounds in any given word (not always the same as the number of letters).
- They help students see and then grasp the concept that letters represent sounds. It is those sounds that join to make words.
You can grab your copy by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.
- Free printable (link below)
- Scissors or paper cutter
- Small manipulatives such as buttons, pompoms, or even mini erasers.
- Laminator (optional)
- This activity will work best if you work with the students one at a time or in small groups.
- Invite the student to choose a one-word card and place it on their mat.
- Direct them to place one manipulative in each flower.
- Ask the child to identify the picture in the word card.
- Explain that you will be saying the sounds in that word. Point to the three flowers and count them together. Then count the three squares. Tell the child there are also three sounds in the word.
- Demonstrate how it works. You push one manipulative from the flower into the box as you say each sound of the word. You may have to do this several times with different cards.
- After all the manipulatives are in the boxes, slide your finger across the arrow and say the word.
- Then invite the student to do a few cards with you assisting as needed.
- Then they can do the cards on their own. How many cards can they do?
Sound blending activities
Phoneme segmentation is a vital skill for all students, but it is especially crucial for early readers. Kindergarteners need a lot of practice and repetition to master this skill. We hope you find our free printable and segmenting mat helpful in your classroom or homeschool.
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