Segmenting initial sounds involves the child identifying the first sound, or phoneme, in a spoken word e.g. “Can you tell me the first sound in the word cat?” or “Can you tell me where the /p/ sound is in pig?” Words that have consonant-vowel beginnings (eg. rip) are easier to segment than words beginning with consonant blends (eg. skip). Instruction should begin with easier words and progress to harder words.
Elkonin boxes are a useful method for helping children isolate phonemes in spoken words because they give children a visual representation of an auditory task. Children are presented with a picture, usually of an object containing two or three phonemes for beginners, and asked to move a counter into each box as each phoneme is pronounced. Coloured rocks or pieces of Lego can also be used instead of counters. Once phoneme isolation is mastered then counters can be replaced with letters or graphemes.
Isolating sounds in pig, hen, cow with Lego pieces
Elkonin boxes: using three counters for words containing three phonemes helps children to conceptualise the sound structure of words
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