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Teaching Segmenting with Small Group Games

Teaching segmenting is a topic that can be challenging to cover in the kindergarten classroom. This important phonemic awareness skill will help young students become strong readers, but how do we make this practice fun and engaging? Games to the rescue! Small group games will be a lifesaver as you approach segmenting phonemes in your classroom.

This image says " Teaching Segmenting With Small Group Games" and includes an image of a variety of phonemic awareness activities like "Match and Cover". With each game, students will segment words into sounds using fun materials like a spinner, moveable cards and a fly swat!

What is Segmenting?

First things first, what exactly is segmenting? Segmenting is a key component of phonemic awareness and refers to the ability to identify individual sounds (phonemes) in a word. This includes beginning, middle, and ending sounds. Segmenting is typically practiced aloud orally and without the written word to help emphasize the sounds.

This image shows a segmenting video that can be used to introduce the topic of segmenting words into sounds to your students. In the example, students are segmenting the word "lamp" into its four sounds.

It’s an important skill to master since it teaches children to break apart sounds in words, blend them together, and eventually read the whole word. Children need lots of practice with this skill, which is why I’m always on the lookout for new and engaging ways to make it more fun.

In my classroom, I like to practice this skill in small groups with the use of helpful visuals and fun games. Before we get started with segmenting, I will often use a video like this one to introduce the concept. Once kiddos can see and hear segmenting in action, it’s much easier to begin practicing. And what better way to practice than with games? Here are 5 fun games that I like to use with my kiddos when teaching segmenting in small groups!

1. How Many Sounds?

This first activity is fantastic when you’re just beginning to introduce this concept to students. After watching a video like the one above, or conducting a similar lesson with your group, use some picture cards, category labels, and a pocket chart to practice this skill with your students.

This image shows a teacher standing by a pocket chart segmenting activity. Students will segment words found on the cards and then sort them into the two categories "2 sounds" and "3 sounds".

To begin, place the picture cards in a bucket. Then, pull a card for the bucket and say the word. Model how to segment the word into sounds. You can tap your finger on the table or whiteboard for each sound as you segment for further visual aid. After you’ve determined how many sounds can be heard in the word, place it under the correct category.

This game comes in 3 options, so you can focus on words with 2, 3, or 4 phonemes. After modeling this a few times, call on a student to give it a try. This is one of those games that is great for small group practice, but can also be squeezed in with your whole group during the morning meeting or anytime you find yourself with a few extra minutes to spare.

2. Segmenting Tap, Build & Write

This image shows a tap, build & write activity that will help students work on segmenting words. First, students will say the word pictured on the card, then they will "tap" each sound. Finally, they will build and write the corresponding letters to each sound they heard in the word.

I love this next segmenting activity because it targets multiple skills in one fun game. Not only will students practice segmenting and reading words, but they’ll also get to practice building words and writing them too! To prepare, I like to laminate the included word-building mat as well as the picture cards. Each student gets one building mat.

When ready to begin, the student will choose a card and place it on their mat. They name the picture on the card and tap, or place tokens on the mat for each sound. Then, they use magnetic letters to build the word. Last, they will write the word on the line. This activity is great for your small groups, but once your students get the hang of it, you can also use it as a center activity or independent learning station for continued practice.

3. Sound Talks

Have you ever had a sound talk with your students? This activity is designed to allow children to practice aloud with peers as they practice segmenting skills. It opens up the conversation on this topic, helps foster a sense of community, and best of all presents a fun way to practice segmenting skills.

In this image there is a stack of segmenting task cards on a ring. After the teacher chooses a card and reads the directions, students will complete the segmenting task on the card.

I like to use a set of sound talk cards that I laminate and keep on a binder ring. Then I can store these in my small group cart and pull them out anytime we have a few minutes to practice!

To play, you’ll simply choose a card, read the directions, and then the students will complete the tasks. For example, one card has students practice segmenting a compound word after it’s read aloud by the teacher. Some of the words they will segment include footstep, airport, notebook, and sailboat. You will say one word aloud at a time, and students will segment.

I like to mix it up when using these cards. Sometimes I have kids say the answer all together, and other times I will call on individual students to answer. This is a great activity to keep in your back pocket for quick practice. Try using it as a “ticket” to line up or put on your backpack too!

4. Sound Towers

This image shows a sound towers game that is perfect for practicing segmenting words in small groups or centers. Students will use plastic math cubes to build a corresponding tower after counting how many sounds are in words on the activity mat.

Do your students like to use manipulatives? Mine too! As a primary teacher, snap cubes and building blocks of any kind come in really handy in my classroom. And while you might associate these items with math, they’re actually great for phonemic awareness skills such as segmenting. One of the games we play to practice this skill is called Sound Towers. It’s an easy prep option that students can be fairly independent with once they get the hang of it.

To play, you’ll give each child a sound mat and some snap cubes or other stacking manipulatives of some kind. Students will look at a picture on the mat and say the word aloud. Then, they count the sounds in the word and make a snap cube tower to show how many sounds. Finally, they place the tower on top of that picture and repeat the process until the mat is full. You can introduce this game with one mat for the whole group first. Simply call on kiddos to complete one word each until it’s full. Allowing students the opportunity to see and listen to peers is a great learning opportunity!

5. Segmenting Slide

Another way to visually represent the sound segment of each word is to slide objects up on a table. I like to use fun visual mats like these to practice with my students. Since all children learn differently, this is just another tool in the toolbox to help them have their “lightbulb moment” with this skill.

In this segmenting activity, a student is sliding a car manipulative onto a road activity mat. This is a fun way to practice segmenting words as a student slides one card as they say one sound within a given word.

To prepare, laminate the boards and markers included with the resource. Then provide each child with a mat and the matching markers. The ones I’ve included are a street with cars, a train track and train cars, and a slide with kids.

To play, say a word aloud. Students will break apart the word into segments and slide a marker up on their board for each one. Then, they will count to see how many phonemes the word has. I like to play with my small group all at once. Each kid works on sliding the markers up on his or her board. This is a great activity to warm up with before moving on to other segmenting games! You can also use this game as a teaching tool when introducing new words with more phonemes. The visual aid really helps students to understand how the word is broken apart into segments.

More Segmenting Games

These are just a few of the fun games inside my Segmenting Small Group Games Resource. Inside you’ll find a total of 12, fun games that are perfect for small groups. Many of the games can also be repurposed in your morning tubs, or center activities for continued practice! And there’s plenty of room for differentiation too! Each game comes in 3 versions – 2, 3, and 4 phonemes. This allows you to ensure everyone is practicing at a level that challenges them in just the right way! Included in this resource you’ll find all of the fun games mentioned here as well as:

This image shows small group segmenting activity. First, students will segment the word on the provided cards. Then, they will "feed the monkey" the card.
  • Sound Boxes
  • Spin and Write
  • Match and Cover
  • Feed Me
  • Mystery Bag
  • SWAT

These games will simplify your planning and ensure that your students get the practice they need to master segmenting. And best of all, you won’t have to worry about boredom creeping in either! These games were designed to snag student attention and keep it through the whole lesson. Speaking of simplifying your planning, you can also find this resource inside my Phonemic Awareness Games Growing Bundle!

All of the reading games in this huge bundle are aligned with the Science of Reading and will help your students become strong and confident readers. You’ll find the games to practice segmenting as well as other skills such as beginning sounds, letter identification, rhyming, and more. This bundle takes the guesswork out of small-group phonics lessons and makes learning fun!

Looking for More Phonics Games?

Check out these posts if you want to learn more about teaching phonics in small-group settings.

Save These Segmenting Tips

This post is packed with my favorite tips for making segmenting more fun to teach! Pin this post on Pinterest so you can come back to it when you’re ready to plan!

Teaching segmenting doesn't have to be difficult if you use small group segmenting games! These activities are perfect for small reading groups and literacy centers and will help students focus on segmenting words into sounds. It is a great way to improve their reading and build phonemic awareness skills!

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Hi, I’m Julie!

If you are looking for hands-on, engaging kindergarten activities, you came to the right place!

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