Do you use Elkonin boxes with your students? Using Elkonin boxes (also called sound boxes) in the classroom helps build the foundation of phonemic awareness for students. They are a set of boxes where each box represents a phoneme to model segmenting words into individual phonemes. While they seem so simple, they are a powerful tool!
Fun Fact: Elkonin Boxes are named after D. B. El’konin, a Russian psychologist who introduced this strategy in the 1970s.
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Why You Should Be Using Elkonin Boxes
Phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds, is where reading readiness and teaching a child to read begins. Using Elkonin boxes can provide students with a different way to visually see how to segment words into sounds and blend sounds together. You can guide students through practicing hearing the phonemes in words. Elkonin boxes can be used both one-on-one with a student who really needs more support or in a small group. Jan Richardson’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading suggests ways to use these sound boxes with students who read on level A all the way through level G. They can be used for CV and CVC word practice and to help reinforce initial blends, final blends, and digraphs. Building the phonemic awareness foundation for students sets them up to be more successful with reading!
How to Use Elkonin Boxes
You will just need the Elkonin boxes printed and laminated and some manipulatives like counters, unifix cubes, etc. You can grab your own Elkonin boxes for FREE HERE!
- Say the word you’re going to use slowly, stretching it out. I call it “turtle talk”.
- Then, have the student repeat it back to you.
- Next, have the student count the phonemes they hear (ship would be 3 /sh/ /i/ /p/)
- The student will then slide one manipulative into an individual square of the Elkonin box as he/she says the word slowly.
For students who still really struggle with this skill, you can give them only the amount of boxes they will need. Once they get better at it, you can have them count the phonemes, choose the Elkonin box they need, and then slide the manipulatives into the boxes. For more advanced students who already have a strong foundation, you can also have students move a letter tile into the boxes or write the letters for each phoneme. Just remember that above all, the definition of phonemic awareness does NOT include alphabet identification or matching letters to sounds.
I like these Elkonin boxes that have a visual reminder on top! Say the word, listen to the sounds, then move the manipulatives.
You can read more about phonemic awareness in this post HERE.