When it comes to phonological awareness, phoneme blending and phoneme segmentation are two skills that are critical for students to master before moving on to more complex skills. Elkonin boxes are an incredible tool that allows students to practice both of these skills.
Elkonin Boxes Teach Phoneme Blending
The National Reading Panel found that phoneme blending is a huge indicator or how successful a student will be as a reader. Phoneme blending is the ability to blend sounds together to identify a word.
So if the teacher has the word “ship” and gives the students the sound /sh/ /i/ /p/, they should be able to blend those sounds together to form the word “ship”. If kids can do this well, they will be able to decode easily too.
Elkonin Boxes Teach Phoneme Segmentation
The National Reading Panel also found that if a student was able to segment phonemes, it was also an important predictor of becoming a strong reader. Phoneme segmentation is the process of breaking down a word into individual sounds.
So if you give students the word, “ship”, they should be able to produce the three sounds /sh/ /I/ /p/ they hear in response. This skill supports students in their ability to encode, which we know as spelling.
Let’s take a look at how to use the boxes to support your students. Here is an example of what the Elkonin boxes look like:
Teaching Students to Use Elkonin Boxes
Elkonin boxes are pretty simple – just empty boxes with an arrow underneath. Each box represents one sound. To use the boxes, each student will receive markers to use as they read the individual words.
Students will move one marker into each box as they say the sounds they hear. For example, if you give the student the word “in”, the student would have two boxes and two markers. They would move the marker into each box as they say the sounds /i/ /n/. Then they would slide their finger under the word in the direction of the arrow to say the word “in”.
When students are moving the markers into the Elkonin boxes, students are practicing phoneme segmentation. Then when they are sliding their finger under the word and saying the word, they are practicing phoneme blending. Elkonin boxes empower students to practice both of these skills in the same exercise. You can then provide students with a variety of words with as many boxes as there are sounds to
You’re All Set!
If you’re ready to use these, you can grab your printable mats here to use for words with 2, 3, and 4 sounds.
Remember, this is something you can download today and start using tomorrow! Using these Elkonin boxes will ensure your students can work on two of the most important skills they need to master: encoding and decoding.