If your student is a beginning or struggling spelling, one of the most important things you can do is teach him how to segment words. Knowing how to segment opens up a whole world of literacy. In fact, it’s surprising that this skill isn’t taught more widely, especially given how easy it is to teach.
This blog post explains what segmenting is, how to teach it, and how to apply it to your spelling lessons. And be sure to grab the free printable so you can start teaching segmenting right away!
Segmenting is the ability to hear the individual sounds in words. It improves phonological awareness and long-term spelling ability.
Think of segmenting as the opposite of blending. When we speak, we blend sounds together to make a word. In segmenting, we take the individual sounds apart. For example, say the word ham aloud and listen for the three separate sounds:
In the word shrimp, there are five separate speech sounds. Even though there are six letters, the SH phonogram represents the single sound of /sh/.
A great way to start is with this “Breaking Words Apart” activity.
In this segmenting activity, your child will learn how to hear the sounds in short words. He’ll break apart two-sound words and three-sound words so that later he will be able to represent each sound with a written phonogram.
Segmenting can also be taught using tokens, coins, or squares of paper. You can see a demonstration in the video below.
After your child is able to segment words into speech sounds using tokens, move on to segmenting words using letter tiles or the letter tiles app. It is a simple transition: the student still segments the word aloud, but instead of pulling down a token, he pulls down a letter tile for each sound.
There are three basic steps.
1. Dictate the word, and then point to the tiles to indicate to the student that it is his turn to use the tiles.
2. The student segments the word aloud, pulling down a tile for each sound.
3. The student reads the word he just spelled. Reading the word enables the student to self-correct if he has made a mistake.
After segmenting words with the letter tiles, the student is ready to move on to spelling with paper and pencil. The student can eventually go straight from hearing a dictated word to writing on paper, segmenting the word in his head if necessary.
Find more great tips for teaching spelling in my free report, “20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling.”
This report gives you a glimpse into the proven strategies we’ve used to help over 150,000 amazing children (and adults) learn to read and spell.