Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Using Elkonin Boxes With Struggling Readers

Elkonin Boxes | Classroom Strategies | Reading Rockets

I love these strategies for working with struggling readers.  Take a look.

Elkonin Boxes

Why use Elkonin Boxes?

  • They help students build phonological awareness by segmenting words into sounds or syllables.
  • They teach students how to count the number of phonemes in the word (not always the number of letters).
  • They help students better understand the alphabetic principle in decoding and spelling.
How to use:IndividuallyWith small groupsWhole class setting

How to use Elkonin Boxes

  1. Pronounce a target word slowly, stretching it out by sound.
  2. Ask the child to repeat the word.
  3. Draw "boxes" or squares on a piece of paper, chalkboard, or dry erase board with one box for each syllable or phoneme.
  4. Have the child count the number of phonemes in the word, not necessarily the number of letters. For example, wish has three phonemes and will use three boxes. /w/, /i/, /sh/
  5. Direct the child to slide one colored circle, unifix cube, or corresponding letter in each cell of the Elkonin box drawing as he/she repeats the word.
The example below shows an Elkonin Box for the word "sheep," which consists of three phonemes (sounds): /sh/ /ee/ /p/
Elkonin Boxes

Examples and blank templates

This example shows several ways teachers can use Elkonin boxes to teach phonemic awareness. These examples were adapted from Blachman et al. (2000).
Instructions on using Elkonin boxes > (36K PDF)*
This website offers teachers several Elkonin box templates for various target words.
Elkonin box word templates >
Teachers may wish to use the blank templates found on this website to accompany a segmenting task and provide students the opportunity to practice writing. Students can write each sound represented in the target word and then write a short sentence using the word.
Elkonin box and writing template > (12K PDF)*

Children's books to use with this strategy

The books suggested represent a range of difficulty but all should appeal to children from preschool through grade 2 or 3. The palindrome books are suggested for slightly older children.
Go Dog Go
Go Dog Go
Picture book/easy reader
Dogs of all shapes and sizes cavort and play in this lively and now classic book filled with easy (and often repeated) words that are supported by lighthearted illustrations.
Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees
Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees
Poetry/easy reader
Familiar subjects are presented in short poems by a range of writers. These easier-to read works are just right to encourage careful listening.
Hop on Pop
Hop on Pop
Picture book/easy reader
Words of one syllable combine with energetic, slightly offbeat and very funny illustrations just right to engage while allowing sounds to be heard.
Go Dog Go
Mom and Dad Are Palindromes
Picture book/easy reader
When a boy learns about palindromes, he begins to see them everywhere. The humorous tale introduces words and phrases that are the same when spelled - and pronounced - forward or backward. Palindrome riddles are presented in Too Hot to Hoot: Funny Palindrome Riddles by Marvin Terban (Sandpiper). Both books have strong visual clues.
Go Dog Go
Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook
Poetry/easy reader
Silverstein's poetry (created using Spoonerisms; that is, transposing initial sounds of two words) makes it fun to read and requires hearing sounds to "translate".

Differentiated instruction

for Second Language Learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Ideas for using this strategy with Spanish speaking students
  • Have more advanced students write letters in the boxes as you dictate words.
  • Teachers can use this strategy in the following ways to meet each student's individualized reading level:
    • Words with pictures and only two boxes
    • Words with pictures and three boxes
    • Words with no pictures and up to four boxes

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