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Segmenting: A Critical Skill for Spelling

segmenting featured graphic

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 important spelling 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!

What Is Segmenting?

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:

Segmenting the word "ham"

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/.

Segmenting the word "shrimp"

How Do You Teach Segmenting?

A great way to start is with this “Breaking Words Apart” activity.

download graphic for a segmenting 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.

Moving from Segmenting to Spelling

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. Segmenting - dictate the word "had"
  3. The student segments the word aloud, pulling down a tile for each sound.
  4. Segmenting - student spells with letter tiles
  5. The student reads the word he just spelled. Reading the word enables the student to self-correct if he has made a mistake.
Segmenting - student reads the word he just spelled

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.

For More Help with Teaching Spelling

Segmenting - 20 Best Tips for teaching Reading and Spelling

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.

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Swathi

says:

Can you please segment word glad .

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Swathi,
Sure. Glad has four sounds: /g/-/l/-/a/-/d/.

Does this help? Please let me know if you have further questions.

Khushbu

says:

Very nice 👍

Erin

says:

This is really helpful

Angel Joshua

says:

Great work. Thank you for helping me e understand phonograms and the segmenting of sounds.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Angel! I’m glad this was helpful for you.

Olymtmom

says:

My 9 year old son, currently in AAS1 and AAR2, doesn’t like doing the segmenting. He thinks it’s for much younger students, not himself. However, I feel that the exercise is beneficial as he skips over letters or puts them in the wrong order when spelling a word by trying to spell it out in his head, silently. He also wants to use his left index finger instead of his right to pull down letters when spelling, mostly for letters that are on the left side of the board. He is right handed and we have struggled with writing so I really want to encourage him to use his dominate hand as practice for writing. I’m trying to be flexible but still want to follow the process as he really has learned a lot from this program and I’m proud of the progress he has made, but he is the first one to find a shortcut or jump ahead without fully grasping a concept and I don’t want him to pick up bad habits. Any tips or advice on encouraging proper procedures and on the use of segmenting or using the correct finger for using the tiles?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, I understand this, Olymtmom. My youngest child is much the same.

What I have done is compromise. If she gets words correctly her way, then fine. I say nothing. But if she misspells a word, or even hesitates and struggles to spell it, then she has to segment the word, use her dominant hand, the whole nine yards. The argument is minimized this way. I let her try her way but obviously her way didn’t work and now she needs to do it the All About Spelling way.

I don’t know about your son, but my daughter is rather strong-willed and can become unpleasant when things don’t go her way. If she is unpleasant like that, then she must use All About Spelling’s way for every word whether she can spell it correctly or not. She must be pleasant in our compromise or she doesn’t get her way at all.

Note, if she mispells a word at any time that she has been taught in AAS and should have mastered, then she must go through the word AAS’s way at the beginning of the next spelling lesson time. I make a note. So, when she meant to write “poppy seeds” on the shopping list for a recipe she wanted to make but wrote “popie seeds” instead, we worked on poppy and similar words with doubled consonants and the long E sound spelled with an E. But any word she misspells that she hasn’t been taught in AAS yet I just give her the correct spelling and let her know she’ll learn about that later. Our blog post How to Handle Spelling Mistakes discusses this in detail.

Also let him know that segmenting is useful even as an adult. I don’t know about you, but when I’m trying to spell a difficult word or one that is a troublemaker for me, I still segment to ensure I hear each sound. For example, the word ingredient is a troublemaker for me. For some reason I want to use a C instead of a G. But by segmenting that second syllable, I can hear that /g/ is the correct sound.

I hope this helps, but let me know if you need more ideas or run into more issues.

Chelsea Boppre

says:

My kids really have benefited from this learning style.

Angela

says:

This looks like all 4 of my kids could benefit from the levels at the same time.

LeAnn Harbert

says:

This sounds like a great concept to help with spelling.

Brittany

says:

I love how you guys offer so many freebies. They are just so fun to add on as something new and fun to learn. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you enjoy this, Brittany! You’re very welcome.

Maria Gutierrez

says:

Thanks for these tips! I am planning on purchasing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Maria. Let me know if you have any questions about placement or anything else.

Kristi

says:

I am just learning about this program. I plan to purchase it for my children. This blog post is especially helpful for my child (struggles with Apraxia). I love the materials! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kristi! Let me know if you have questions about placement or anything else.

Nataliia

says:

Thanks for your tips. They really work and make fun in learning.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Natalia! 😊

Marina

says:

I used AAR and AASto teach my kids and they all are great at reading and spelling!

Brittni

says:

We love using the tokens in AAS. So helpful!

Akakes

says:

I LOVE your programs, I feel like it’s like breathing for my children, they just get it 😍

Mandie Rodriguez

says:

This is very helpful! I will be trying these tips. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Mandie!

Grace

says:

We just started using all about spelling with our 5th and I wish I had found it years ago! The segmenting is really helping her already!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s wonderful that segmenting is helping already, Grace! It is such a useful skill. 😊

Jody Stolp

says:

I am interested in utilizing AAR and AAS for my youngest child.

Stephanie

says:

My child really enjoys this spelling program and we will continue to use it.

Erin A.

says:

We’re on level 2 of All About Spelling and segmenting really helps.

Cassandra D

says:

Thank you for the information.

Tara G

says:

Thank you for the tips!

Jennifer

says:

Can’t wait to start AAS on Monday!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Exciting, Jennifer! I’d love to hear how your first day goes. 😊

Amanda

says:

This will be very helpful for my child!

Jamie

says:

Very helpful. My son has done amazingly well using AAS.

Rebecca

says:

I find the systematic and cumulative approach of All About Spelling is helping my students to progress on spelling – and it is having a great effect on their reading as well!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rebecca,
It’s great to hear that All About Spelling is working well for you. I found it a great support for reading for my children too.

Bethany

says:

We are working through Level 2 and I am so impressed with my student’s progress!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Bethany! 😊

Laura

says:

Really enjoying AAS level 1!

Lesley

says:

So anxious to two AAS!!!

Megan Hoffman

says:

This is awesome thank you

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