A Few Key Points from:

  • Phonemic awareness helps beginning readers break the code. Pricilla L.Griffith and Mary W.Olson. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 45, No. 7. p.516
  • Word Boxes Help Children Identify and Spell Words. Laurice M. Joseph. The Reading Teacher Vol. 52  No. 4, p.348.
  • Using Sound Boxes Systematically to Develop Phonemic Awareness. Patricia A. McCarthy. The Reading Teacher Vol. 62, No. 4. p.346 

“..phonemes can be the most difficult for children to learn to detect and manipulate; however, phonemic awareness, along with letter knowledge, is needed for beginners to move on to reading and spelling (McCarthy).”
Reading intervention programs frequently use word boxes (also known as sound boxes or Elkonin boxes) to help K to Grade 1 students who have difficulty segmenting individual sounds in words.

Word boxes help learners:

  • become aware of the sounds in spoken language
  • become aware of the order of the sounds in words
  • match the sound to the print symbol
  • improve encoding of sounds and spelling ability

 word box is a drawn rectangle that is divided into sections corresponding to sounds heard in words. A pictorial representation of a word is sometimes placed above the drawn rectangle. Counters are placed below the divided sections of the rectangle.


Word boxes employ a scaffolding approach for developing phonemic awareness, word identification, and spelling skills.

 The teacher:

  • explains each task
  • models the tasks
  • guides a child toward completing the tasks independently
  • provides corrective feedback

The divided box itself serves as a scaffold in addition to the modeling and feedback provided by the teacher. The box sections  help children segment each sound heard in words and to help them sequence letter patterns.

  1.  First the teacher models the activity. As the teacher articulates each sound in a word slowly, s/he simultaneously pushes the counters into their respective sections of the box.
  2. The learner is then encouraged to participate. As the teacher pushes the counters into the box, the learner articulates each sound.
  3. Finally, the learner acts independently and articulates each sound as s/he simultaneously pushes the counters and then magnetic letters into their respective sections of the box.


Asound box


When appropriate, magnetic letters  replace the counters, and the child moves magnetic letters into a word box.

 Asound box2


Eventually, as the child articulates the sound, s/he writes the sounds in each box.


If you are TDSB staff you can request  the full text of these 3 articles from the Tippett Professional Library:


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