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Updated: Sep 25, 2023

I recently shared a word-building sketch note, and many questions about segmenting and blending followed. How do you take the first steps in word building? Read on to learn more and download the free movable alphabet and Elkonin sound boxes from my shop.

Learning to read and spell starts with the sounds. Linking initial sounds to the letters on the page and teaching how to blend to read is the most effective start.

Try word building as a playful, explicit learning activity in your home.

I use the movable alphabet as a scaffold to ease the load. It's hard to write, spell and read in the early days. The movable alphabet is a free download available in my store.

Isolating sounds is hard work for most children.

In the beginning, short words that only use the basic code A-Z work best. These words are easier to manipulate, pull apart and blend to read. Segmenting words into individual sounds can be tricky.

The visual of a movable alphabet is a great scaffold.

A movable alphabet is the perfect multisensory resource for word building, and a free basic code one is available here.

Always get your child or student to say each sound as they move each grapheme tile. Blending can be a challenge. Words that start with sounds that can be stretched work so well for children who struggle to blend. To read more about blending, go here.

Point to each letter as you say the sound to develop the sound-symbol correspondence. Blend to read the word.

mmmmm a p

map contains 3 letters and 3 sounds /m/ /a/ /p/

mmmm a p

Blending takes time. Play with words and manipulate the sounds.

Let's blend the sounds to build the word. Push the letter tiles together and show your child or student how to blend the sounds to read the word.

Have fun with words

Isolating sounds within words takes time. Lots of playful repetition is a must. Be active and play with letters and sounds when building words. Take away letters and read what's left. Add in the missing letter.

Create a word chain — map, sap, sip, sit.

One word, lots of playful learning in 10 minutes

To make meaning, always discuss the words and pictures you are using. Use in sentences. Define what the word means. Does the word have one meaning or a few? These incidental conversations are vital for vocabulary development.

What about writing?

I often start sessions with a movable alphabet before moving on to write letters, words and sentences. Reluctant readers are often reluctant writers, so a movable alphabet can work wonders for confidence. Build it, then write it. To read more about encouraging first writing, go here.

If you have a student who struggles with engagement, switch up your instruction and change the tiles for a resource that they choose. We often use Lego instead of tiles. My younger students also love stones and shells. If a resource helps keep them on track and they are motivated and engaged — that is good enough for me.

The Lego blocks are also a brilliant home resource that will engage Lego lovers.

We always use a Posca pen to write on blocks, as this easily comes off with a wet cloth.

The first book teaches the letter sounds SATPIN and the skills of blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation in a systematic way.

A set of 6 books that develop the knowledge and skills of the basic code through word building. The books are perfect for repeated practice after explicit instruction.


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