Phoneme Segmentation


What are phoneme segmentation skills?

Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break words down into individual sounds.

  • For example, the learner breaks the word run into its component sounds – r, u, and n.

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Why are phoneme segmentation skills important?

Phoneme segmentation is essential in developing writing skills.

  • In order to write or type words, students must
    • break the word down into its component sounds
    • select the letters that represent these sounds.

Phoneme segmentation is an example of a phonological awareness skill.

Instruction in phonological awareness skills supports the acquisition of literacy skills.

Students who have strong phonological awareness skills demonstrate better literacy skills.

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Sample goal for phoneme segmentation skills

The learner will

  • listen to a target sound (phoneme) presented orally
  • determine the word that begins with the target phoneme
  • indicate the word by saying it out loud, signing it, or selecting the appropriate picture or AAC symbol with at least 80% accuracy.

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Instructional Task

Here is an example of instruction to teach phoneme segmentation skills

  • The instructor says the sound m (not the letter name, only the sound)
  • The learner
    • listens to the sound
    • looks at each of the pictures or symbols provided as response options
      • For example, pictures or symbols for up, mom, pot, and bat
    • segments the initial sound (phoneme) of the words represented by these symbols
      • For example, segments the m sound from the beginning of the word, mom
    • determines the word that starts with the target sound
      • In this case, the word mom
    • says the word out loud, signs it, or selects the correct picture or AAC symbol from the response options provided.

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Instructional Materials

Here is an example of a response plate for instruction in phoneme segmentation. The response options are up, mom, pot, and bat.

Response plate for phoneme segmentation:  up, mom, pot, bat.

This response plate is from the Accessible Literacy Learning (ALL) curriculum from DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, Inc.  Picture Communication Symbols (c) 1981-2009 DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, Inc. are used with permission. All rights reserved.

Using this response plate, the learner must

  • listen to the target sound - m
  • look at the pictures or symbols provided as response options - up, mom, pot, bat
  • segment the initial sound of the words represented by these symbols
  • determine the word that starts with the target sound - mom
  • say the word out loud, sign it, or select the correct picture or AAC symbol from the 4 choices provided.

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Instructional Procedure

The instructor teaches phoneme segmentation skills as follows

  • Model
    • The instructor demonstrates how to segment initial sounds for the learner.
  • Guided practice
    • The instructor provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the learner segment initial sounds successfully.
    • Starts by saying the word with the initial sound elongated and stressed – “mmmmom”.
    • Then says the word with the initial sound elongated and stressed less – “mmom”.
    • The instructor gradually fades this support as the learner develops competence.
  • Independent practice
    • The learner listens to the target sound and segments the initial sounds of the words provided as response options independently.
    • The instructor monitors the learner’s responses and provides appropriate feedback.

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Student Example

Gareth is 3 years, 2 months old in this video.

  • Gareth has cerebral palsy. He has a tracheostomy.
  • When he was 2 years old, Gareth started to use a computer with speech output to communicate (specifically, a Mercury with Speaking Dynamically Pro software). He also uses a communication book with Mayer Johnson Picture Communication Symbols (PCS).
  • We started to work with Gareth and his parents to teach him literacy skills when he turned 3 years old.
  • Gareth loves books and was very motivated to learn to read.
  • This video was taken after approximately 4 weeks of instruction.
  • Gareth is learning to segment the initial sounds in words.
    • Janice
      • shows him the target letter and says its sound – b
      • reviews the 4 symbol choices with him to make sure he knows them – map, light, bag, nap
      • shows him the target letter and says its sound – b
      • instructs him to find the picture that starts with this sound
    • Gareth
      • looks at the letter and listens to the target sound
      • looks at each of the picture symbols
      • segments the initial sound of the words represented by these pictures
      • points to the PCS for the target word that begins with the sound - bag
  • After 4 weeks (approximately 4 hours) of instruction, Gareth has successfully learned to segment initial sounds from words. This skill will help him learn to type words to write stories.
  • At this time, he is also learning sound blending skills and letter-sound correspondences. He is starting to learn to decode words.
  • Gareth is rapidly developing the phonological awareness skills that will support his development of literacy skills.

Click to learn more about Gareth’s success learning literacy skills.

Unauthorized copying, transmittal, or exhibition of this video outside of this website is prohibited.

 

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Pointers

It is easier to segment the first sounds of words since these tend to be more obvious. Start by teaching learners to segment the initial sounds of words:

  • Initially choose response options where the initial sounds are distinct.
    • For example, the target sound is m, the response options are cat, mop, bat, and dog
  • Later introduce response options that require finer discriminations.

Once learners develop competence segmenting initial phonemes,

  • target final sounds in words
  • then target middle sounds, as required

Some students may benefit from visual supports when learning to segment phonemes.

  • Provide the student with a group of letter cards or a keyboard
  • Say a word (and show a picture /symbol)
  • Ask the student to select the initial letter sound from the letter cards or keyboard

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Last Updated: August 31, 2012