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Phoneme Identification With Sound-It-Out Chips

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Activity Type: Introduce
Activity Form: Standard
Grade: K
Group Size: Small Group, Whole Class
Length: 10 minutes
Materials: Three-plus blank chips per student
Goal: Given a spoken word, the student can say whether a given sound is at the beginning, middle, or end of the word ( "mat", where is /m/? -> "beginning" ).
Items: 12 picture cards (make sure only the picture is visible on each card, not the word)

What to do

  1. Give each student three chips. Make the chips that students use here similar to the letter card chips they will use later but without printed letters. In this way they make the chip-sound connection now and the letter-sound connection more easily later. Select a picture card for a three-phoneme word such as cat and put it where the group can see it. We’re going to use these chips to stand for each sound in this word: cat. I want you to place one chip in front of you as you say each sound in the word. My turn first: caaat. Place a chip each time you say a sound until you have three chips in a row.
  2. Now you do the same: say each sound in cat and put one chip down for each sound. Ready? Students: caaat. If a student has trouble (eg, putting chips down out of step with the sounds), model for him and have him try again. If he still has difficulty, try leaving the three chips down and having him point to each chip as he says the sound.
  3. That’s great. Okay, now listen carefully because in a moment I’m going to try to trick you. Point to your first chip and say, This first chip stands for the first sound in hat. What is the first sound in hat? Students: /h/. Right! /h/. The middle chip stands for the middle sound in hat. What sound is that? Students: /a/. Right! /a/. The last chip stands for the last sound in hat. What sound is that? Students: /t/. Right! /t/.
  4. So let’s see if I can trick you. Point to the chip in front of you that stands for the /h/ sound in hat. Is it the first sound, the middle sound, or the last sound? If students have trouble say, listen for the /h/ in hat: haaat. Point to each chip as you say the word slowly. Where is the sound /h/ in haaat? Point to the chip. Correct! It’s the first sound.
  5. Now I’ll try to trick you again. Where is the /t/ sound in hat? First, middle, or last? Again, help students who have difficulty with this. Right! /t/ is the last sound in hat: haaat.
  6. Next, select the picture card for another three-phoneme word, say, moon. Okay, let’s try another. Pick up your chips. Now we’re going to use your chips to stand for each sound in this word: moon. Put one chip down for each sound in moon and say the word slowly as you put chips down. Ready? Students: mmmooonnn. Perfect. Now let’s see if I can trick you. Point to the chip that stands for the /oo/ sound in moon. Provide further support and modeling as needed.
  7. Continue with other three-phoneme words. Watch for struggling students and give them an individual turn.
  8. Once students have mastered three-phoneme words, give them four and then five chips and practice with longer words such as elbow (four phonemes: e-l-b-ow) and zebra (five phonemes: z-e-b-r-a).
  9. Make a note in an Activity Log for students who continue to have difficulties.

About this activity

This activity is based on a procedure pioneered by Daniel Elkonin (see reference). The activity is sometimes performed with boxes drawn on paper into which students push chips. Here, we just use chips so that students come to associate them with sounds and will find it easier to make the transition to chips with letters printed on them.

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