Elkonin boxes are a wonderful tool to help kids learn phonological awareness!
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Have you heard of Elkonin boxes? These simple tools help kids build phonological awareness by helping them divide words into their individual phonemes.
Some quick vocabulary review:
phonological awareness – the ability to hear differences in the ways words sound. If children have phonological awareness, they can identify beginning sounds, count syllables, and rhyme.
phonemes – the individual sounds within a word. For example, “rake” has four letters but only three sounds – /r/,/ā/,/k/.
Elkonin boxes help kids hear phonemes. They’re a fantastic way to develop an important pre-reading skill.
Here’s how they work!
Place a card in front of your child. Start with a simple one that has only two boxes.
‘Today we’re going to say the picture on each card and listen for the sounds in each word. We’re going to put one gem in a box each time we hear a sound. Let’s start with this first one. What picture do you see?”
“Right. So when we say the word bee and separate it into its sounds, it sounds like this: /b/ /eee/. I can put one gem here for /b/ and one gem here for /eee/. Can you point to each gem as I say the sounds again? /b/ /eeee/.”
Continue the activity with the other words that have just two phonemes. /b/ /ō/.
Move to words with three phonemes if your child is ready. /m/ /oo/ /n/
Finish with the words that have four phonemes. Always remember that we’re counting the sounds we hear, not the letters we’d spell. Elkonin boxes are an oral activity. /k/ /l/ /o/ /k/
I pulled these cards out for my Four, who knows his letters very well (thanks to our letter of the week activities), understands concept of word (because of our work with voice to print cards), and is even starting to read simple sight word books.
These were hard for him! It surprised me. He wasn’t able to isolate the sounds in each word, but he was willing to watch me do the activity and point to each sound as I named it. We’ll do the activity that way for now, and I think that one day soon he’ll be ready to try it himself.
Another way to use Elkonin boxes
- Name the picture and a particular sound. For example, say the word “moon” and tell your child to show where he’d mark the sound “/n/”. He should put a gem in the last box on the card.
Grab your free cards below!
P.S. The download contains cards with images AND with clip art (in both color and black and white). Make sure you mark the pages you want to print so you don’t waste ink.
- p. 3-11 (real images)
- p. 12-20 (color clip art)
- p. 21-29 (black & white clip art)
P.P.S. A reader asked for an answer key. You’ll find it in the download.
Looking for more activities to develop pre-reading skills? Nursery rhymes are full of possibilities!
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