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Why Phoneme Manipulation Is Essential For Students

Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words and it helps to build phonemic awareness skills.
Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words and it helps to build phonemic awareness skills.

Recently I’ve been talking about segmenting and blending. Both build on phoneme isolation. Phoneme manipulation is a reading skill that builds on those skills. Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words. Phoneme manipulation builds phonemic awareness, helps students learn words they don’t know, and ultimately helps with both reading and spelling. 

Let’s take a closer look at phoneme manipulation. As I mentioned, phoneme manipulation includes inserting, deleting or substituting sounds. Here’s what that looks like: 

  • Phoneme Addition. Add p to ant and you have pant or start with bell, add t, and get belt. 
  • Phoneme Subtraction. Subtract the t from cart and you have car. Or take build, subtract the d, and you get bill. 
  • Phoneme Substitute. Substitute a for o in mop and get map. Or substitute b for s in sun and get bun. 

Practicing phoneme manipulation is as important as blending and segmenting. Fortunately, there are lots of fun ways to practice phonemic manipulation. 

Simple ways to practice phoneme manipulation

Demonstrate the different types of phoneme manipulation and do some simple practice of all of the skills. 

  1. Add sounds. Give students a word and a specific sound to add to the beginning or end. 
  2. Subtract sounds. Start by deleting initial sounds. For example, say mat without the m or scamp without the s. Once students feel confident with this, try deleting end sounds: say skimp without the p. Or take out a sound from the middle of the word: prick without the r. 
  3. Substitute sounds. Practice saying and writing words as you substitute sounds. For example, ask students to change ‘rat’ into ‘sat’ or ‘sap’ into ‘sip.’ 

Games to practice phoneme manipulation

Students can also practice phoneme manipulation with a number of games. 

Silly sound games

I use this one with younger students. Start by picking a category, such as animals, names or colors. Pick one thing from the category, such as the color blue. Then ask your students to change the first sound in blue to make new silly words. It could go something like: blue, clue, glue, plue, slue, alue … Students can use real or made up words. 

Change the sounds

Students change the sounds in a word chain. This is a great game when you have a few minutes. Choose how many sounds your words will have based on the age/skill level of your students. This example uses 4-sound (CCVC) words.

  1. Write the first word on the board. 
  2. Then circle or underline one of the sounds in the word.
  3. Have one student change the circled or underlined sound to a new one to make a new word, then write that word down.
  4. Circle/underline one sound in the new word that is to be changed.
  5. Choose another student to change that sound.
  6. Continue circling a sound that needs changing in the word until all of your students get a turn.

Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words and it helps to build phonemic awareness skills.

Note that as in Silly Sounds, students can use nonsense words to keep the chain going, as long as the spelling combination is plausible and something we would see in English. 

Adjust this for an individual activity by having students see how long a chain they can make by changing a sound in a word and then the next and then the next. 

More phoneme manipulation games

If you want more games to develop the skill of phoneme manipulation, the Spelling Game Challenge gives you FIVE games to help students with phoneme manipulation and other skills that help students with spelling.

Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words and it helps to build phonemic awareness skills.

Try the Spelling Game Challenge

Want even more teaching tools and games? The Top Notch Teaching Membership puts it all in one place. Find out more and join before the price goes up.

Phoneme manipulation is the practice of inserting, deleting, or substituting sounds in words and it helps to build phonemic awareness skills.

 

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