Tap and Say - An Activity For Segmenting Words into Individual Phonemes

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SWBAT use a series of colored squares in order to tap out the individual phonemes when segmenting words.

Big Idea

What do colored squares have to do with reading?

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

     All of the current reading research says that teachers will help students progress and get "the most bang for their buck" by explicitly teaching phoneme segmentation and blending.  You can add a phonemic awareness activity to your phonics lessons each day and it will only add a few extra minutes to your lessons.  You also don't need to buy expensive manipulatives for your students to use.  There are lots of low cost ways to make phonemic awareness manipulatives you can use in your classroom. Your students will get the manipulatives they need in their hands and it won't break your pocketbook either. This is one such activity.

     Today's lesson will show you how to incorporate the phonemic awareness activity into an overall phonics lesson. When we specifically work on segmenting and blending, we are working on standards RF1.2, RF1.2b, and RF1.2d. In this activity students will be able to point at different squares and actually isolate and tell me the different phonemes within the word.  This addresses standard RF1.2c. There is also a phonics portion to this lesson. As we introduce letters and learn the phonics rules in order to read our words, we address standard RF1.3.  Finally, we will complete a sentence dictation in the lesson.  As students learn the grammatical rules in a sentence, and then learn print concepts associated with reading their sentences, we are addressing standards RF1.1, and RF1.1a.

     You will need to make some tap and say manipulatives for each student in your class.  If you read my reflection here you'll see how you can make the classroom management piece of this activity a lot better than how I set this up in my classroom. 

     I tap along with the students, so they can see a good model of how to do the activity. If you would like to model and tap along with your students you will want to use the Smartboard Tap and Say Activity.notebook or Activboard Tap and Say Activity.flipchart template .  During the phonics portion of the lesson we will tap and map out our sounds.  If you would like to tap and map out your words to model for your students you will also want to use either the Smartboard Word Tapping and Mapping.notebook or Activboard Word Tapping and Mapping.flipchart template.  If you don't have a specific phonics paper to use with your class you may want to make copies of this paper Phonics Practice Sheet.pdf for each student in your class.

     Most teachers have a reading series and a specific phonics program that goes along with the reading series.  If you have a specific program that you already use, this activity and student recording sheet will fit in nicely to what you already teach.  If you don't have a specific program and are wondering about a scope and sequence for what skills to teach and when, I have found two Common Core aligned reading programs with suggestions for a scope and sequence.  Check them out here Journeys_Scope-Sequence_2014_gradesK-6.pdf and here Phonics_Scope__Sequence.pdf.

Sound Automaticity and Modeling Section (I Do)

5 minutes

     I always start my phonics lessons with reviewing  letter/sound correspondence. I use the sound spelling cards that come with my reading series, but if you don't have access to sound spelling cards, you can print some here.  I say the letter, key word, and sound quickly, and we go through the cards quickly, just like flashcards. Once students have mastered sounds, I take those cards out of the pack and we continue to work on the cards that students need more work on.  For example, if this lesson were taking place in the middle of the year, we wouldn't have consonant cards in the pack. We'd be working on digraphs, suffixes, and vowel teams. The whole reason we work on our flashcard pack is to have students recognize the letter and associate the letter with its sound automatically.  As a teacher, when you build automaticity with your students, you are helping to build fluency because you are freeing up their "cognitive deskspace" because they don't have to spend much energy determining which sound is associated with which letter. 

     For the purposes of this lesson I will show you how this lesson would go if we were working on words that had  ai or ay spellings.  After I go through the card pack with my students I say, "OK boys and girls, we are going to learn how to be awesome readers and spellers today, and the tool that we are going to use is our tap and say squares. I've learned that scientists say that if we can't break a word into its sound parts, or phonemes, then we will have a hard time learning how to read and spell? When we learn how to break a word apart into its phonemes it's called segmenting. Let me show you how we are going to segment our words using our tap ans day squares."

     One of the key shifts in the Common Core standards is to make sure understand academic vocabulary.  I want to make sure that my students aren't just able to decode, but also to understand what the reading process entails.  The need to know the academic vocabulary associated with the reading process in order to do this, so I don't shy away from teaching them words like phoneme, segment, and syllable.

    I continued by saying, "Now watch carefully as I segment this word  into its phonemes using these squares." The process went like this:

  • I say the whole word first.
  • I point at my students so they repeat after me, saying the whole word.
  • Then I tap on the squares that are displayed on my Smartboard. For each phoneme I say I tap on one square.
  • Then I say Word? (This tells the students I want them to blend the word back together again.) Then I blend the word back together again, swiping my finger under all the squares from left to right. 
  • I then work on isolating phonemes with my students. I point at one square at a time and ask the students for that sound.

     So if I was doing the word rain, I would model it like this:

  • rain
  • (students repeat) rain
  • /r/ /ai/ /n/
  • I say "Word?" And the students tell me "rain."
  • Point at the first square. What sound does that make? Point at the third square. What sound is that?

Segmenting Our Words Orally

3 minutes

    I had the list of words for today's lesson at my side.  I used the words that we were going to spell and we segmented and blended them first.  I have a video here that really shows the process of how this activity would look in your classroom.  Watch the video here to get a good understanding Tap and Say Guided Practice.mp4 .

     I am writing down a list of words that have the ay and ai spelling patterns, just to give you an example of a word list for this activity.

play (play) /p/ /l/ /ay/

brain (brain) /b/ /r/ /ai/ /n/

bay (bay) /b/ /ay/

stay (stay) /s/ /t/ /ay/

train (train) /t/ /r/ /ai/ /n/ 

You can also see this short clip of my students doing this activity Tap and Say - Students.mp4

Taking It To the Phonics Level

20 minutes

     Now it was time to do the phonics portion of our lesson. In this next video I will show you how we tap and map out our sounds.  This is another small tweek I have made to my classroom instruction in phonics and I have seen marked improvement in student achievement, especially my students who needed extra support in reading and spelling. You can see see this process here Tapping and Mapping Sounds Long A Words.mp4.

     After we tap, map, and write our words.  We also practice writing our sight words for the week, and then we complete a sentence dictation using our spelling words for the day.  I have some great strategies that will help your students be successful with learning how to write sentences.  You can watch how we do our sentence dictations by watching this video Rereading Strategy Long A Words.mp4.


2 minutes

     At the end of the lesson I said,  "OK boys and girls, why did scientists say we need to segment words? What will happen if we segment and blend our words every day?  I want my students to understand that segmenting and blending is important and that if they work hard on these skills their reading and spelling will greatly improve.