Fun learning with Elkonin Boxes

Here is the science of why beginner readers need to use Elkonin boxes!

Phonics vs Phonological Awareness

Phonics: is the awareness of the relationship between oral sounds and the written letter symbols.

Phonological awareness: is an awareness of sound in the spoken word.

It is really, really important that children have a good understanding of phonological awareness before we start to instruct them in phonics. If your child is starting school this September why not print out my next activity and give them a great start!

Elkonin boxes are used to:

  • break words into sounds.
  • teach children to count the number of phonemes (sounds) in words rather than the number of letters.
  • helps children to see the connection between letters (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes)

Generally the boxes are so plain and boring that I find it hard to motivate myself to use them, let alone my class.

I decided to shake them up and have create some cute ones for you to use. I can’t wait to try them out with my class.  Here are just two examples of my creations. I am so excited by them! Oops, did I say that already!

                                                                             and this                                                                                  What  do you think?!   I bet that you want to know how to play now, right? Click here to download 🙂 

How to play ” Say it-Move it”:            

 Give your child 3 counters  ( novelty erasers, lego, bottle tops…).

Slowly say a small 3 letter word eg. c/a/t. Ask your child to put one counter into each box for each sound ( phoneme) that he/she hears.  Each box in an Elkonin box card represents one phoneme, or sound. Cat has 3 sounds so your child should have 3 counters on his/her board.    

 Ask your child to  say the word again, sliding his/her finger below the boxes from left to right: cat.


  • Encourage  your child to place the counters going from left to right. This will help to prepare for reading at a later date.
  • Remember that it is the number of sounds that can hear heard and not the number of letters in a word. Let’s look at the word ” fish”. Fish has  4 letters but 3 phonemes f/i/sh.

Other ways to play:

Use Elkonin Boxes to locate a specific sound in a word eg. “sh” in shop and then the “sh” in dish. Ask your child to put a counter on their board to show where the sound is in the word. For shop the counter goes in the first box and it would go in the last box for dish. This will help your child to learn about initial, final and medial sounds ( beginning, middle and end sounds.)

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂