Using Sound Boxes in Kindergarten

Using Elkonin Boxes for Small Group Reading

Hello everyone! I began dipping my toes into the Science of Reading last summer. I knew there had to be a better way to help my kindergarten students learn to read - and there is! I've been working hard to incorporate more phonemic awareness activities (Heggerty is AMAZING!) and more phonics activities (Decodables for the win!). One thing that really helped my students this year is using Sound Boxes. These are also called Elkonin boxes, but that's a big nonsense word for a kindergartner, so we just call them Sound Boxes. 

How do we use sound boxes? When we are just starting out, learning to segment sounds orally, we use our sound boxes with colored chips. I give each student 2 colors - one color for consonant sounds and another color for vowel sounds. We segment the word orally, pushing a chip forward for each sound. For example, "fan" would be /f/ /a/ /n/ and we would push forward 3 chips. then we tap each chip in turn, saying the sound that it represents again:  /f/ /a/ /n/. And then, we swoop our finger from left to right and blend the sounds back together to say the whole word: Fan!

Once we know how to orally segment words into individual phonemes, and we have a good grasp of letter-sound correspondence, we move from using colored chips to using plastic letters! I like to use Learning Resource's lacing letters because there's 275 in a pack so I have enough for everyone in my small group, plus they're all lower case!


We follow the same steps as before - orally segmenting the word and counting the sounds. Then we say each sound separately and identify it "Bug, /b/ /u/ /g/. The first sound, /b/, is spelled with a b. The second sound /u/ is spelled with a u. The last sound, /g/ is spelled with a g." Once we have each letter on the card we say the sounds again and blend them together to make the word: Bug!

This has been amazing for my students - not only for their reading, but for their writing too! Being able to segment and blend phonemes is a foundational skill for both reading and writing - and its amazing when you can hear students doing it independently, whether while writing in their journal or while reading a Mo Willem's "Elephant and Piggie" book from our classroom library!

And the best part? When we use REAL PHOTOS, we are building our vocabulary! This is especially powerful for my English Language Learners! I don't know about you, but a lot of times I am puzzled by clipart, but there's no guesswork when using photographs! 
And of course, you don't stop at CVC words! You can use sound boxes for CCVC and CVCC words too!

But wait, what about CVCE words?? Yep, sound boxes are effective for those words too!

We use the same familiar process - segmenting each sound and then representing them with either chips or letters. Since the "e" is silent, it doesn't get its own box, but instead snuggles in next to the last consonant. This year, after using the sound boxes, it was so much easier for my students to remember to read the long vowel sounds in CVCE words correctly and to use the silent e in their writing.

If you're interested in trying out sound boxes in your  classroom, you can grab the bundle with CVC, CCVE, CVCC & CVCE Words here:

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