How to use sound boxes in Kindergarten

Wondering why and how to use sound boxes in Kindergarten? Sometimes called Elkonin boxes, these visual representations of sound are a great teaching tool. Use them in small groups, intervention, centers, whole group, and send them home for additional practice. Keep reading to learn more and grab a free printable below!

This article goes well with these Simply Kinder resources:

What are sound boxes?

Sound boxes or elkonian boxes are a visual representation to build phonological awareness by segmenting words into sounds. These are perfect to use with emerging readers to support understanding of the phonemes of a word and identify sounds.

The building block of fluent readers is understanding sounds as they relate to letters, phonemes, and whole words. Sound boxes are a tool to help students use manipulatives to break apart words into sounds!

Using sound boxes:

For example:

Bat can be apart into three sounds: /b/ /a/ /t/

Use a sound box to have students write the sounds:

Use a sound box to have students move counters as they say the sound:

Check out this video for teaching tips in action:

Teaching tips

Here are some teaching tips for using sound boxes with your students:

  • Explictly teach that each box represents a sound (not a letter)
  • Teach the starting point of where to read words (left to right)
  • Follow the I do, we do, you do method with modeling first
  • Go back to basics of letter and sounds if students are struggling to identify them in words
  • Use manipulatives like counters to move with the sounds
  • Use dry eraser sleeves so students can write the sounds when they’re ready
  • Color code sounds for students that need extra support as shown below

Teaching multiple letter phonemes

As shown in the picture above, sound boxes represent sounds, not letters. It’s essential that students understand this and already have a strong foundation with letters and sounds. Using a sound wall and explicit instruction with the support of resources like those found in the Phonics and Phonemes bundle can help!

Digraphs such as ch, sh, th make one sound. Thus they should be written in one sound box. Students that have explicit instruction will be able to transfer this skill more easily when they see it in text.

As stated in the Simple View of Reading, decoding multiplied by language comprehension equals reading comprehension. Sound boxes help form the foundation for language and decoding leading to more fluent readers.

Classroom Activities

There are so many fun and interactive activities that students can do with sound boxes.

  • Practice segmenting words with a partner and moving counters
  • Moving cars or trucks to “park” the sound
  • Using different colors to write the different sounds of a word
  • Finding words in books to practice segmenting

Do you have more ideas? Please share in the Simply Kinder Facebook group with other teachers!

Free Sound Box Printables

Get started using this free printable now. Just enter your information below and the Simply Kinder freebie fairy will send that over to your inbox. Already a subscriber? Just unlock your freebie below too!

There are several different options based on the needs of your students.

  • 3, 4, or 5 boxes
  • Green, yellow, red color coded underneath the sound boxes
  • Blank circles students can colors
  • 10-frame for multiple sounds

This post was written by Kate. A certified master’s teacher that loves all things literacy and learning!

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