Syllable and phoneme segmentation
Syllable and phoneme segmentation refers to the ability toidentify the components of a word, phrase, or sentence.
...phoneme segmentation, or identifying how many sounds are in asyllable or word. The simpler the word is phonemically, the easier it will befor the child to master this task. In English, there are words that have justone sound such as a, oh, and I. These are referred to as having aV (for vowel) shape; words like too, so, bee, and pie havea CV (consonant-vowel) shape. Stew and fly are CCV, pitand take are CVC, and stop is CCVC. Remember that we're going by sounds,not letters, so the silent E in take and the W in stew do notcount for the purpose of phoneme segmentation.
Here are a few speech therapy activities you can use forexercising syllable and phoneme segmentation.
1. Read aloud to your child. I mentioned on the Alliteration and Rhyme page that a lot of children's books make use of poetry, and that rhymeis a common component of poetry. So is rhythm. Rhythm is valuable for developingsegmentation skills at the syllable level because it highlights syllablestructure and stress patterns.
I expecially appreciate authors like Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein,A.A. Milne, and Ogden Nash, because they are such talented wordsmiths andobviously enjoy messing around with words. Words are to them what mud is to achild making mud pies--it's not about the pies, it's about the feel of thesticky, squishy mud between your fingers, and then feeling it drying, caking,and cracking on your fingers as you wiggle them. Their playful approach totheir craft often results in turns of phrase that draw the reader's (orlistener's) attention to form and structure, not just meaning. This istremendously beneficial for phonological awareness at just about every level,not just rhyming and syllable or phoneme segmentation. In fact, you'll noticethat I've listed reading as a recommendation for every level of phonologicalawareness.
2. Sing with your child. Everything I just saidabout reading to your child also applies to singing. After all, a great deal ofsinging is poetry set to music, so you've got rhythm and rhyme, plus melody. Afew paragraphs up I described how I might use a "sing-song" voice tohelp a child understand the concept of a syllable.
Singing is a very effective way of becoming more aware of syllableand sound sequences. This is especially true of songs that involve marching,dancing, and hand movements. The rhythm highlights syllable structures andstress patterns, and singing words on notes of varying length forces the singerto think about sound sequences.
3. Jump to me. Words-in-phrases level: Stand facingyour child, about ten paces apart. Read a short phrase (five words or less) andhave your child take a jump (or hop, or step--whatever you agree on) towardyou. When your child reaches you s/he gets a reward of some sort (a hug, achocolate chip, a piece of apple, a sticker, or whatever motivates your child).
Syllables-in-words level: After your child mastersthe words-in-phrases level, read single words of 1-3 syllables and have yourchild jump according to the number of syllables in the word. You can make itmore challenging if you want by adding words with more syllables.
Sounds-in-words level: The final step is to readsingle words and have your child jump according to the number of sounds in theword. Remember that the number of sounds is not always the same as the numberof letters! There are five letters in dough, but only two sounds: /d/and /o/.
4. Mail the postcards. For this activity, youwill need an assortment of picture cards that vary according to the number ofsyllables and/or sounds in the words represented. These can be cards you've made yourself, or youcan purchase articulation cards from Linguisystems, Super-Duper, or other suppliers of speech therapy materials.
Find two containers to use as "mailboxes". You can usesmall paper bags or plastic food storage boxes for this; or, if you are reallyambitious, you can create and decorate mailboxes together out of card stock orconstruction paper, complete with "mailing slots" appropriately sizedfor the "postcards" you are using. Just be sure and make them so thatthey can be easily opened to retrieve your "postcards"!
Choose a number of syllables (or sounds), and explain to the childthat all the cards with that number of syllables (or sounds) go in the firstmailbox and all the rest go in the other. Pick up one card at a time andpronounce the word represented by the picture on the card. Then have the childput the card into the appropriate mailbox.
An alternative way to play is to say that all cards portrayingwords with up to three syllables (or sounds) go in one mailbox and those withmore go in the other.
5. Block Tower. As with the Jump to meactivity (#3, above), this is a flexible activity that can be used for word,syllable, or phoneme segmentation practice. You'll need to decide what levelyou want to target: words-in-phrases, syllables-in-words, or sounds-in-words.Have your child build a block tower, adding a block to the tower for every word(or syllable, or sound) you say, until the tower falls. Then start over. Beginwith simpler items, and increase the length and complexity gradually. If yourchild needs extra motivation, you can award a point for every phrase or wordcompleted without the tower falling down. Ten points earns your child a smallreward of some sort (an M&M, a Skittle, a star sticker, some coloring time,or whatever works for you and your child).