Pulling apart words into different sounds is what we call sound segmentation.  For example the word bat has three sounds – /b/, /a/, /t/.  The word ship also has three sounds – /sh/, /i/, /p/.  The awareness of the separate sounds in a word is what we refer to as phonemic awareness. This is the most crucial step in learning to read. In today’s post, I am going to help you with teaching sound segmentation in reading and phonics to your child.


Compare and Match Sounds in Different Words

You can begin teaching sound segmentation by asking your child to match the very first sounds in words and then the final sounds. It is helpful to have a set of cards with pictures of everyday objects (man, boy, girl, cat, dog, house, book, etc.). You can also cut out pictures from magazines and use those.

Begin by asking your child to identify the first sound in a word such as man. Show your child the picture and say, “say man. Good. What is the first sound you hear in the word man. Yes, you hear the mmmm sound.”  Then lay out five or six pictures and ask your child to say the names of each of the pictures and then to group together all the objects that begin with the mmmm sound. 

You can also lay down 3 pictures and ask your child to name each picture. Then ask, “Can you show me which one of these pictures begins with the mmmm sound?” You can also go outside on a nature walk and look for as many things as possible that have the mmmm sound.  

Once your child is successful at matching beginning sounds, work on ending sounds.  

“Say the word bat.  What is the last sound you hear in the word bat?”


Pulling the Words Apart

Your next step in teaching sound segmentation is to help your child pull individual words apart. You can ask your child to clap for the number of sounds he or she hears in a word. For example, “say the word pat. Clap for each sound you hear in the word pat.” Your child can also tap on the desk for each sound or stomp their fists. I like to use sound tokens. The child listens to a word and then moves the sound token into a box for each sound in the word.  

You will want to go slowly with this activity and have your child pull apart relatively simple two and three sound words such as shy, cat or mop. Here are some you can try out…

Two – sound words:

Is, to, do, sew, shoe, tie, day, it, my, knee, shy, zoo, chew, row, mow, key, see, tow, be, hay


Three-sound words:

Cat, bat, cab, sheep, pan, map, can, jeep, cub, mice, fish, book, feet, man, dog, nap, jet, tag


Add, Substitute and Change the Sounds

When you are teaching sound segmentation to your child you can also add and change sounds in words.  Here are some examples:

“Say hop.  How many sounds do you hear in the word hop?”

“What is the first sound you hear in hop?”

“What is the second sound that you hear in hop?”

“What is the last sound you hear in the word hop?”

“In the word hop, what sound does the h make?”

“In the word hop, what sound does the o make?”

“In the word hop, what sound does the p make?”

“In the word hop, can you change the p to t?” (hot)


Teaching sound segmentation in reading can be tricky. The best advice I can give you is to designate a short time every day with your child to work on this important phonemic awareness skill.


If you are looking for an Orton-Gillingham reading program that is heavily scripted out, easy to use and very affordable – use the PRIDE Reading Program.  Many speech therapists, teachers, tutors and homeschooling parents have used this program with great success.  Find out more HERE. 

Thank you so much for reading my post today!

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com

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