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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.

segmenting spelling skill pinterest graphic
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Leave a Comment

Myra

says:

This makes so much sense! Thanks for creating a great program!

Kacie

says:

I couldn’t find my tokens, so I grabbed a few race cars for my son to pull toward him for each sound. One of them was the kind that when you pull it back, it then launches forward upon release. Whoops! Launching sounds across the floor. Funny, but it worked.

I’m slow to catch on, so to clarify — if it exists as an individual AAS tile or individual representation on the app, it represents one sound, yes? So, “sh” is one sound, and “ough” is one sound. “Mp,” though one syllable and smushed together, is not a phonogram, so it would represent 2 tokens.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kacie,
First, I could see a LOT of fun going on with that pull motor car. I’d place it to be used with the last sound of each word, so that it would launch as each word is finished. Too fun!

You are correct. The tiles represent 1 sound, even if they have multiple letters. So, a word with 4 letters can have just two tokens, such as show (sounds /sh/ and long /o/), while other 4 letter words will have 4 sounds, such a pump (sounds /p/, /u/, /m/, /p/). Note, OUGH is tricky, as it’s /uff/ and /off/ sounds can be heard as two sounds (/u/ and /f/, for example), so we would not use it with early segmenting. In fact, we don’t even introduce OUGH until AAS 5.

I hope this clears everything up for you, but let me know if I should explain further.

Kacie

says:

Yes, that’s exactly what I did with the car — I put it toward the end :D

Thank you for clarifying for me. I don’t know why “ough” was my second example. I think that Lucy and Desi bit that has been making the rounds on the internet lately was at the back of my mind.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

I literally laughed out loud about that I Love Lucy video!

CAtherine

says:

Thanks for the good explanation– I’m curious to learn more about phonograms as well.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Catherine,
Here is our blog post on How to Teach Phonograms.

Kimberly

says:

What level would you start an older child that still struggles with sounding out words?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kimberly,
I’m not sure if you asking for which level to start in All About Reading or in All About Spelling. However, a student that is struggling to sound out words would need the focused work on fluency and decoding that All About Reading has.

We have placement tests for All About Reading to help you decide which level would be best. Also, we recommend having your student read the sample stories from the previous level online as a further confirmation. You want your student to be reading fluently with good comprehension before going to a higher level.

Level 1 sample story
Level 2 sample story
Level 3 sample story
Level 4 sample story

Evaluate (without correcting your student) for the following…

Your student’s ability to decode the words in the story.
Your student’s ability to comprehend the story.
Could your student fluently read the story with expression?
Did your student understand the words from a vocabulary standpoint?

If your student places into All About Reading 1, you may wish to focus mostly on the fluency sheets and letter tile exercises, as the activity sheets may seem young to an older student. However, as you move up the levels they may be more age-appropriate; you can evaluate as you go. The activities are there to provide fun review activities for those that would need and enjoy them. As we state in the Teacher’s Manual, the activity sheets aren’t necessary for older learners; however, the fluency pages in the activity book will be very helpful for a student struggling to read fluently and smoothly.

I hope this helps. Please me know if you have further questions.

Karilyn

says:

I am looking forward to start teaching both AAR snd AAS programs to my children!!!!

P

says:

I am looking for something for my 12 yr. old.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

P,
We recommend that most students start with level 1 to build a strong foundation in spelling.

All About Spelling is a building block program with each level building upon the previous one. The rules and concepts learned in Level 1 are applied in Level 2, and then those are applied in Level 3, and so on. Placement for spelling is based on the student’s knowledge of spelling rules and concepts rather than grade level, reading level, or the words a student has memorized.

For example, we find that many students simply memorize easy words like “cat” and “kid” but have no idea why one uses a C and the other uses a K, or that the same rules that apply to these words also apply to higher level words such as “concentrate.” Other students switch letters or leave out letters entirely. This usually occurs because they don’t know how to hear each sound in the word. Level 1 has specific techniques to solve these problems.

The article Should We Start in Level 1 or Level 2? has more information on the concepts taught in level 1 and will help you decide the appropriate starting level.

Level 2 of AAS focuses on learning the syllable types, when they are used and how they affect spelling. This information is foundational for higher levels of spelling. Three syllable rules are introduced in Level 2, and then more in Level 3 and up. For this reason, we don’t recommend starting higher than level 2.

We encourage parents and teachers to “fast track” if the student knows how to spell most of the words but does not understand the underlying basic spelling concepts. In this case, very quickly skim the parts that your student already knows and slow down on the parts that he needs to learn. Pull out several words as examples. Make sure he understands the concept being taught, and then move on. This blog article has a good example of how you might fast track.

Ashley

says:

We have loved using all about reading with our son!

Shannon

says:

My 6 year old is four lessons away from completing his first level of reading. We will begin the first level of spelling and second level of reading next school year. I am so impressed with this program and have seen great progress in my son’s reading skills.

Olga

says:

I would recommend AAS to anyone. It is a very good foundation and very easy to teach! Love it!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

What a great recommendation, Olga! Thank you.

Britani

says:

A-men!

Phyllis Cook

says:

I wish they taught this way when I was in school. Maybe I would have loved reading and writing more. Oh well, I will try to teach my son this way….. Wish me luck.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Good luck, Phyllis!

But more than luck, good materials!

Jackie

says:

I appreciate the free resources that you supply for teachers and tutors to use with their students!

Michelle

says:

Just started using AAR Level 4 with my 7yo, and she loves it! Planning on using AAR Level 1 with my 4yo and AAS Level 7 with my 9yo and 12yo. I enjoy how everything is laid out for me. We formerly used Phonics Pathways, but this program makes more sense and is FUN!

Jackie

says:

I’ve used AAS level 1 with my second grader and we’re about to finish AAS level 2 and I’d like to start my kindergartener on AAR level 1 in the fall.

Rebecca

says:

I have just started using AAR/AAS in the last few months. I like that the AAR Pre-reading level includes simple phonological awareness activities to expose kids to reading/spelling concepts like segmenting early on!

Juli Thornton

says:

Would love this for my struggling readers 10 & 7. Just don’t want to buy one more thing that doesn’t work! I have heard so many great things about AAR and I am itching to give it a try.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Juli,
I just wanted to let you know that we have an excellent one-year guarantee policy. If the program does not meet your needs, return it at any time within one year of purchase for a full refund of your purchase price.

J Wellham

says:

I am thinking about starting AAS with my 9 yr old boys. I’ve heard positive things about it. I want to make certain I give them a strong foundation for learning.

Anne

says:

This program has been great with my 6 yr old suspected dyslexic. She is doing really well!

Karyn

says:

Segmenting is so critical for dyslexic learners…so happy to see it highlighted with a video.

Heather Rodriguez

says:

I’ve been doing this and didn’t even realize it was important! Glad to know I’m on the right track!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

It sounds like you are a natural! Great work, Heather.

Marilyn Holloway

says:

Can’t wait to try this with my first grader!

Chantel

says:

Just starting this with my little one! Gonna start AAR soon!

Sonja

says:

I have struggled with spelling my whole life. All About Spelling is helping our entire family. Thank you!!

Heidi

says:

Great ideas!

Michele

says:

I have been so thankful to find AAR and AAS for my struggling reader and my beginning reader. They are actually excited to read the great stories. I am happy, because they are phonetically correct , thus my kids can pronounce with confidence.

Colleen Broach

says:

I am so excited, we just received a set, my 8 year old is not a natural speller and I am, so I am looking forward to using this program to better help us!!!

Annie Bleuer

says:

I LOVE All About Reading!

Louise

says:

Interesting. Looks great…

Louise

says:

Looking for a great spelling program…

Vanessa

says:

We love AAR!

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