Sound Boxes and Magic - A Phoneme Segmentation Lesson

14 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT segment words into phonemes using sound boxes, tokens, and magnetic wands.

Big Idea

Students will use magnetic tokens and wands to blend the word back together in a "magical way".

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Today's lesson is one of my favorites for teaching phoneme segmentation. You will need to prepare some materials for this lesson.  I have a phoneme segmentation mat Phoneme Segmentation Boxes.pdf  in the resource section that you need to copy on white construction or cardstock. If you would like to model the activity or work along with your class for guided practice you will need to download either the Smartboard Phoneme Segmentation Boxes.notebook or Activboard Phoneme Segmentation Boxes.flipchart template.  Then the mats need to be laminated.  Each student should have 1 mat.  You will also need to buy magnetic tokens and wands.  You can buy them relatively cheaply at a bingo supply company.  I have found  a company here if you would like to check it out. 

I make tool kits for my students.  You may want to make kits for your students so they can get their materials out quickly each day. Some of my other teacher friends have used pencil or shoe boxes to store the phonemic awareness supplies.

When you first start this lesson, it is going to take some time to have students become accustomed with getting their materials out quickly and doing the routine easily.  It is going to seem tedious at first, but once the students get the hang of it, you will be so glad you took the time to set up this routine. 

If you look at the mat, you will see 3 rows of boxes.  If you watch this video Phoneme Segmentation Boxes.mp4, it will explain to you how many rows of boxes we will use today along with the tokens and magnetic wands.  There is another alternate activity which you can also use with the mats, tokens, and wands. I've shown you how to do this activity in the video as well. When we specifically work on segmenting and blending we are addressing standards RF1.2, RF1.2b, and RF1.2d.  There is also a phonics component in this lesson. When we introduce the letters and learn the phonics rules in our lesson so we will be able to write and decode our words we are addressing standard RF1.3.  Finally, we will be completing a sentence dictation in our lesson.  When students learn the grammatical rules when writing a sentence as well as the print concepts associated with reading their sentence, we address standards RF1.1, and RF1.1a.

Once we get to the phonics portion of the lesson, you will want to download either your Smartboard Word Tapping and Mapping.notebook or Activboard Word Tapping and Mapping.flipchart template for tapping and mapping our words.  You will also need to make enough copies of the student practice papers Phonics Practice Sheet.pdf for each student in your class.  Lastly, if you don't have a specific phonics program or if your reading series doesn't have a phonics component, I have found 2 scopes and sequences from 2 reading series that I know are Common Core aligned. You can use these resources to help you to determine when to introduce the various phonics skills.  You can view those here Phonics_Scope__Sequence.pdf or here Journeys_Scope-Sequence_2014_gradesK-6.pdf

Sound Automaticity and Modeling Section (I Do)

5 minutes

I start our phonics lesson every day by going through our sound spelling cards, just like a flashcard pack.  We only work on the letters and sounds that my students need work on, so once my students have mastered certain sound, such as consonants, those come out of the pack. I quickly say the letter name, key word, and then the sound. Then the students repeat after me. I use the sound spelling cards that come with my reading series, but if you don't have a set, you can copy a set here.  The reason we do this each day is to build automaticity when recognizing the letter and sound associated with the letter.  The more automatic a child is with letter/sound recognition they are freeing up some "cognitive deskpace" in their brain and that part of their brain can now focus on comprehension.  Automaticity also leads to fluency.

Once we've finished our flashcard pack I said, "Now I'm going to show you how to segment our words into our phonemes. What is a phoneme again? That's right it's a sound part.  Remember, scientists have told us that if we can't break a word down into its phonemes, we are going to have a hard time learning how to read and spell, so it's really important that we learn how to do this well."

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. This is why I don't shy away from using vocabulary such as phonemes, segmenting, and graphemes. If I want students to truly understand a process, then I use the correct vocabulary.

I had my phoneme segmentation template projected on my Smartboard.  I said, "Look at the board. Notice the arrow is at the bottom. The arrow on your mat has to be at the bottom too. I have to set my tokens up in the very bottom row. One token goes in each box. I will say a word.  Then you will repeat the word. Then we will break the word up into phonemes. I will push my token up into the middle row of boxes. For each sound I say, I push one token to the middle row. When I am done segmenting the word, I need to blend it back together again. As I say the entire word, I am going to pick up my wand and sweep them across my tokens.  The wand will magically pick up the tokens."   Then I proceeded to model the word jump, pushing my tokens as I segmented, and then, since I was using the Smartboard, I pretended to use my wand and sweep across the word as I blended the word back together.

Segmenting Our Words Orally

3 minutes

   After I modeled the first word, I had my list of words ready to recite to the students.  I had my students get their mats, tokens, and wands out.  They put one token in each box of the bottom row of boxes.  Once again, this is the process we used:

  • I say the word. The students repeat the whole word after me.
  • The students segment the word, pushing one token for each sound in the word up into the middle row of boxes.
  • The students grab their magnetic wand and as they blend the word back together, they swipe their wand from left to right. The magnetic wand picks up the tokens with the metal ring around it. In a first grader's eyes - it's magical! 

     I have two quick video clips of my students segmenting their words with this activity.  You will have a good idea of how the activity works and how it might look like in your classroom.  Check them out here Sound Boxes 1 and here Sound Boxes 2.

Taking It To the Phonics Level

20 minutes

Now it's time to do the phonics portion of our lesson. Last year, I didn't tap and map  the words like in the video I'm about to show you. I've made this minor change in my teaching practice this year and it has made all the difference in the world for all my students, but especially for my students who struggle with both decoding and spelling. You can see the process for how we tap and map our words here Tapping and Mapping sounds Ending Blends.mp4 .

After we tap and map our words we practice our sight words that aren't phonetically regular. Then we complete a sentence dictation that utilizes some of the words from today's lesson that we've mapped out.  I have some great strategies for teaching sentence dictations here Rereading Strategy Ending Blends.mp4.


2 minutes

     I like my closures to be short and sweet, especially for phonics.  I asked a few simple questions of my students such as ,"Who can tell me how many phonemes the word jump has? How many graphemes does the word sand have?" I simply took the words we had practiced today, and the questions were a good assessment as to they were beginning to understand the basic building blocks to the reading process by knowing what phonemes and graphemes were.