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Listening for Sounds

stretching out sounds like a rubber band

Elkonin boxes.  Sound boxes.  What ever you happen to call them, they are a great tool to use for phonemic awareness and hearing sounds.  

This little girl (in the above picture) is doing the rubber band.  We say the word, then ssttrreettcchh it out like a rubber band to hear all of the sounds.  Then we slide objects into the boxes for each sound heard.  You may have seen it look like this:

sound boxes

I make different numbers of boxes and place them in plastic sleeves.  Then the boxes can be used over and over without having to make more copies.

Sound boxes in plastic sleeves to use over and over

After students can hear sounds and associate the letter with the sound, we move to writing the letters down for the sounds.  I have them push in for each sound heard, then say the whole word.  Then they pull out the first pompom and write the letter for the sound they heard.  Last they write the whole word on the line.  It is important that the students see the word written as a whole unit.

Pushing in pompoms into sound boxes in plastic sleeves

 I like to mix it up a bit too and use other items besides boxes for this activity . So in the first picture you see the cups and the pompoms.  I like the pompoms being dropped in the cups for each sound.  When I change it up to the cups, I feel like the students are not just sliding into the boxes.  Sometimes I think they get comfortable with the boxes and just slide without really listening to the sounds.  By changing up the activity a bit,  it brings them back to what they are to be listening for.  Just makes it interesting again!

Pompoms and plastic cups being used for Elkonin Sound Boxes

Another idea for sounds boxes or cups is to have students listen for beginning or ending sounds.  Give them 2 cups and the magnetic letter that they are listening for- some will need this visual reminder.  Say a word and they can drop an object in the cup.  Here we were listening for ending sounds of /g/ and  /m/.  

Ending sounds in plastic cups for Elkonin Sound Boxes
You can have students listen for a particular sound in words and drop into the 1st cup for beginning of the word, 2nd cup for middle of the word or 3rd cup for the end of the word.  There are just so many activities that can be done!  What variations do you do?


  1. Lori,

    So glad I found your site! I love your idea of using cups for segmenting...I'm always looking for new strategies.


  2. I love the suggestions that you give for guided reading groups!! Thanks for sharing! Just curious, do you have a whiteboard surface for your reading table? If so, how did you make it that way or was it like that to begin with? I would love to do something like that to my guided reading table.
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  3. I learned about elkonin boxes in my Reading Recovery training. Do you use a dotted line for digraphs and an incomplete box for silent e at the end of a word too?
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  4. Those are great ideas, Lori! I've pinned them for easy reference.
    Thank you.

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

  5. These are great ideas!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  6. I like the cups and poms for elkonin boxes. They seem a bit more kinesthetic. Thank you for sharing this idea.

    Sprinkles to Kindergarten

  7. Thank you, Katie! So glad you came by!

  8. Lisa, the table comes that way. You can find it at and search for markerboard activity table. Hope you can get one- they are great!!

  9. Tammy, I have not used the dotted line or incomplete box before. I like slightly bigger boxes for the diagraphs (with a conversation about how it is bigger because it took two letters to make that sound). I also have the students place silent e outside the last box to show that it is there but makes no sound.

  10. Thanks Barbara! I so appreciate you always coming by and I love that you pinned it!

  11. Thanks Kelley! I'm so glad you came by!

  12. I like the cups and pompoms too, Erica! Just seems like sometimes the kids get in the habit of just sliding into the boxes and not always listening. Thank you for commenting! I appreciate it!

  13. This was a great Post thanks for sharing this!

  14. I love you ideas! Simple and effective.

  15. Thank you Christie! I appreciate your comment!

  16. Thanks Carol! Glad you came by and that you commented!

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