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Phoneme Segmentation in Kindergarten: Teaching Strategies for Reading

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!

Join us as we explore the topic of phoneme segmentation and give you some teaching strategies to help your Kindergarten students master this skill. We've also got a free printable segmentation mat to help children practice segmenting 3 phoneme words. Perfect for literacy centers, early finishers, and homeschools. Grab your copy today

Phoneme Segmentation

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.

What is phoneme segmentation

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.

How to teach phoneme segmentation

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.

Why is phoneme segmentation important

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/

When Should Phoneme Segmentation Instruction Start

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.

  1. It encourages students to segment words into individual sounds.
  2. The squares provide a visual representation of the number of sounds in any given word (not always the same as the number of letters).
  3. 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.

Materials

  • Free printable (link below)
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Small manipulatives such as buttons, pompoms, or even mini erasers.
  • Laminator (optional)

Phoneme segmentation word list

Segmenting words

  • 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?

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!

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.

Help kids work on phonics skills and mastering Ch Sh Th sounds with these FREE printable Digraph Games. This th games is a fun, easy-to-play phonics digraph activity to help kindergarten and first graders improve reading and spelling skills. Simply print the digraph game pdf file, print, and play the low prep, sh ch th Games that help kids learn to read! Make practicing digraphs fun with this super cute, free printable Digraph Bingo. This Digraph game is a fun bingo game perfect for helping elementayr age students in first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade practicing learning digraphs with a fun twist! Simply print the phonics game pdf file with the and you are ready to play and learn with a digraph activity!  This super cute, handson digraph activity is a fun way for early readers to identify digraphs for kids! In these flower digraph games students will make flowers by matching the petals to the digraph. This digraph kindergarten is way better than boring digraph worksheets! Simply print pdf file with  digraph activities for first grade.  Teach digraphs for kids with these super cute, free printable digraph puzzles. This digraph activity is perfect for kindergarten, first grade, and 2nd grade students who are working on reading and spelling more complex words. This phonics activity allows students to work on ph, th, ch, gu, wh, and sh digraphs. Simply download pdf file with digraph printables to use in color or in black and white.

Digraph Activities

FREE Crack the Code Worksheets - Become a detective and solve the case by deciphering the cvc words. These free worksheets will make practicing phonemic awareness, beginning sounds, reading, and spelling FUN! Simply download the pdf file with these free printable, Crack the Code Worksheets for pre k, kindergarten, and first grade students! Crayon CVC words Activity Printable CVC Words Short A book to cut and paste for kindergarten and first graders

FREE CVC Words Printables

transportation blends activity for kindergarten sliders 2 rhyming blends games ending blends activity beginning blends activity puzzles

Blends Activities

Looking for more blends activities for young learners? You will love these resources:

Join us as we explore the topic of phoneme segmentation and provide teaching strategies to help your Kindergarten students master this skill.

Phoneme blending

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About the author

Sharon

Sharon is the proud mom of three grown boys, a trained educator, and former children librarian. She draws on her years of experience as a parent and teacher to help parents to make the most of the time they have with their kids. You find her posts on rediscoveredfamiles.com

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