Sound boxes are a great way to build phonemic awareness with new readers because they encourage children to focus on one sound at a time and then blend those sounds together to make a word.

Snag your sound boxes below and then grab our Phonological Awareness Warm Ups so you have everything you need to build students’ rock solid reading foundation in one quick and simple download.

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness means HEARING the sounds in words and moving those sounds around. For instance, in the word “rain,” we want to teach children to hear THREE different sounds: R-AI-N.

Notice that there are FOUR letters in the spelling but only THREE sounds (called phonemes).

Building students’ phonemic awareness is extremely important because it prepares them to read and spell later.

Have you ever had a student sound out all of the letters in a word correctly, but when it came time to blend those sounds together, she said something completely different like “S-U-N … step”?

It may be tempting to have her go back and work on letter sounds but what she ACTUALLY is struggling with is phonemic awareness.

The great news is that these handy little cards called sound boxes are one of my FAVORITE ways to build it!

Getting Ready

Prepping the sound boxes was as fast as it comes!

I printed the pages on card stock and laminated them for extra durability. Then, I cut along the lines to separate the pieces and grabbed our stash of mini erasers.

(NOTE: If you don’t have mini erasers on hand, you can use Matchbox cars, clothespins, LEGOS – so many other manipulatives!)

Sound Boxes for Phonemic Awareness

After we finished a painting project (hence the brown fingers), I invited my daughter to join me.

I pulled out a three-sound box and walked her through the activity step-by-step.

First, she named the word: “Dog”.

Then, she slowly stretched out the sounds, “D-o-g.” The word had three parts.

She pointed to the first box (I marked it GREEN to help her remember that we GO to the left box first) and said the first sound in the word: “/d/.” My daughter slide a mini eraser into the box.

Then she moved her finger to the next box and said “/o/” as she placed another mini eraser inside it.

Finally, she tapped the last box and said “/g/” before adding eraser #3 and sliding her finger along the arrow at the bottom to blend those sounds together: “Dog.”

The sound boxes were such a simple way to practice building phonemic awareness!  My daughter worked on breaking the word into parts, strengthening letter sound knowledge AND learning to read left to right.

There was so much packed into each card!

Focus on Sounds NOT Letters

Sound boxes can be confusing the first time around so it’s worth repeating…

The cards are focusing on SOUNDS, not letters. So in the word “hay”, for example, there are two sounds: H and AY.

The word “bee” has two sounds too: B and EE.

But the word “rain” has three sounds: R – AI – N.

Although it may feel like focusing on sounds instead of letters is a step backwards, the activity is actually training students’ brains to hear the individual parts in words which is a skill they absolutely must have in order to be strong readers and spellers.

Extension Ideas

Although I used the cards with erasers, they are GREAT to use with other manipulatives, too! For instance, you can:

  • place a ball of playdough in each box and have kids squish one ball each time they hear a sound.
  • drive Matchbox cars into the “parking spaces.”
  • slide an alphabet magnet into the squares.
  • clip the boxes with clothespins.
  • or even place LEGOS in each box!

There are SO MANY hands-on and fun possibilities!

Download Your Set

Click the blue download button below and then hop over and grab our Phonological Awareness Warm Ups so you have everything you need to build students’ rock solid reading foundation in one quick and simple download.

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    1. We’re thrilled you’re going to try them out, Janelle! We hope you and your students love the sound boxes!
      Sarah // Playdough to Plato Team

  1. The download blue box is not working for me.
    I would like to get these.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      When you click the blue “Download Here” button, a pop-up should open. You can try checking to make sure your browser isn’t blocking pop-ups from the site or try using a different browser. If you happen to be attempting the download at school, your district’s web filter may be blocking the pop-up. Let me know if you’re not able to get the sound boxes!
      Sarah // Playdough to Plato Team

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