How To Use Elkonin Boxes For Reading Intervention?

Reading isn’t easy for everyone to pick up, and some students may require more assistance than others. There are various reading strategies out there for you to try. However, reading can be quite difficult for anyone who is dyslexic.

How To Use Elkonin Boxes For Reading Intervention?

A powerful multisensory technique for enhancing and strengthening phonological awareness is the use of elkonin boxes. It’s considered to be among the most effective dyslexia interventions for decoding and phonics that all students can employ.

Thus, this is why this is our go-to reading technique for assisting struggling readers with segmenting and blending. In this article, we will talk in more detail about elkonin boxes and how you can use them.

What Are Elkonin Boxes?

Elkonin boxes are another term for sound boxes that divide words into their component sounds. As students move from one box towards the next, they fill in the box with something to symbolize the sound in the word.

Why Are Elkonin Boxes Effective?

Elkonin boxes are a strong, interesting, and useful tool! One benefit of this is that it develops pupils’ phonological awareness because they must break down words into sounds or phonemes(see also: The Complete Guide To Phonics, Phonemic Awareness, And Phonological Awareness).

Second, these boxes show children how to count the phonemes, which are not necessarily the same as the letters in a word.

Finally, they assist children in comprehending the alphabetic principle—the notion that letters stand in for sounds, which ultimately form words—in decoding and spelling.

Thus, this is definitely a technique you may wish to consider using if your students need more help when it comes to learning to read and sounding out words.

Who Are Elkonin Boxes Aimed At?

Students are normally gaining their phonological knowledge by the time they are six years old. We all know that not all children learn at the exact same pace, so you might find elkonin boxes to be a helpful intervention for a student who is having trouble.

In addition to any students who need more practice to become proficient. Any learner who reads at levels A through G can use sound boxes, according to Jan Richardson’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.

In addition to helping to teach initial and final blends, and digraphs, they can be used to learn CV and CVC words.

If you are thinking about using elkonin boxes, they work best when you are working in small grips or with individual students. It can be difficult to use this strategy effectively with the whole class.

Using Elkonin Boxes

Many pupils struggle with the ability to segment and blend words. Usually, they can sound out every letter, but they fail to combine the sounds to form words.

Students can blend words without halting between letters and deconstruct words down into phonemes using the excellent visual framework that elkonin boxes offer. It helps kids visualize sounds and develops their phonological and phonemic awareness.

Instead of concentrating on the letters, students must divide the word into its constituent sounds. This enables kids to understand that many sounds are created using many letters.

They can then combine these fragmented sounds to create words and practice blending. You may start with visual boxes and then as your students become more comfortable, you can keep the boxes but remove the visual aid as well.

Making Your Own Elkonin Boxes

While there are many printable elkonin box worksheets and examples to obtain, you can easily create your own as well. Start off by sounding out the target word really slowly. Then you could ask your pupils to repeat this word back to you.

Now, on a piece of paper or on a white board/chalkboard, you need to create a couple of squares or boxes. Above these boxes, you could have an image of the word you are trying to spell out.

For instance, if your target word is sheep, then there could be a simple image of a sheep above the boxes. With this all set up, you then ask your students to count out the amount of sounds that the target word consists of.

We aren’t looking for how many letters make up this word, but the amount of sounds it has. For example, the word ‘wish’ only consists of three sounds, w-i-sh. If you are making your own elkonin boxes, you want to try to make them as colorful as possible.

This could include each box being its own color. This way, students can visually see each sound as a different color, which may then help them to blend the word together better.

Once your students are comfortable with elkonin boxes, you may wish to get rid of the visual aid and increase the amount of boxes by using longer target words.

The Three Stages Of Elkonin Boxes

How To Use Elkonin Boxes For Reading Intervention?

To make everything fully clear, elkonin boxes can be broken down into three stages. It is important that your students are comfortable segmenting and blending first. The three stages of elkonin boxes are segmenting, blending and spelling.


The pupil is shown a picture or given a word to hear. The pupil splits the sounds up and repeats the word. It could be beneficial to ask your students to lengthen the word.

As they sound out the word, the student places a tile or letter in each box for each phoneme. This is a fantastic intervention for a group of students or one person.

For the word “toad,” for instance, the student would put three sounds or letters in the boxes for the three sounds: “t,” “o,” and “d.”


After your students have segmented the target word up, they can start blending the sounds together. Write or arrange phonemes in each box, then instruct the student to mix the sounds together by pronouncing every sound aloud with their fingers.

Starting on the left, they may move their finger under the boxes as they utter the word by blending each syllable into the one before it. This can be completed as either a group or individual activity.

However, groups should work on one word at a time to avoid confusion. It could become overwhelming if everyone has a different target word.


Now that the students know how to blend the word together, they are able to spell it. Underneath the target word and below the elkonin boxes, the students can spell the word out.

The Alternative Way To Use Elkonin Boxes

While the way we have outlined above is the most common way in which you may use this strategy, there is another way. You still create the boxes as normal and possibly provide a visual aid.

However, instead of your students writing in the sounds of that word, they place a colored block or coin into the box. Overall, this is a much more basic way to use this reading technique and is commonly used for group work.

Thus, when the students are sounding the word out, they will push a block or coin into each box as they make that sound. Then at the end, you could ask your students to write the word they have been sounding out.

Tips To Remember When Using Elkonin Boxes

Using elkonin boxes is quite self-explanatory, but we have provided you with a couple of tips to keep in mind. This will help to ensure you are using these boxes correctly and that your students are getting the most out of them as well.

  • Frequency – It is important to remember that this is a supportive tool, thus you should use it in support of your lessons on phonics. Thus, it doesn’t need to be used for every lesson. It may be used a lot more at the start, and then it could be used less frequently once your students are more confident.
  • Use Color – You want to keep this activity fun. This is why it is vital to add color when you can. This could be by using colorful markers for each box, or colorful blocks. Then your students may associate the beginning sounds of a word with a particular color, and the middle sounds with another color, and so on.
  • Images – Younger children are really visually learners. As a result, ensure there are pictures for your student to look at. This will help them to visualize the word they are attempting to read out. Only when they are confident should you consider getting rid of the visual aids. Yet, the visual aid can always be brought back if a particular student is struggling with a certain word.
  • Lengthen The Word – For each new target word that you introduce, you must make sure that you lengthen the word as you are saying it. Then ask your students to repeat this back to you. Since, this will help the students to listen out for the different sounds that make up that word. They will then be able to segment the word a lot more easily.


Elkonin boxes are a really helpful strategy that can help students that are learning how to read words. It is quite simple to use but really effective as it forces students to figure out the sounds in each word and not just look at the letters.

Hence, longer and more complicated words are much easier to recognize and understand. We hope this article has been helpful. Hopefully, you now have a better idea on how to use elkonin boxes when it comes to reading inventions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Letters Can Go In One Box In Elkonin Boxes?

The aim of elkonin boxes is to look at the sounds and not the letters. Thus, you can have more than one letter in each box. For example, when looking at the word ‘sheep’, you would split it into sh-ee-p.

Thus, the ‘sh’ would go into one box together and the ‘ee’ would go in their own box together.

Why Should You Use Elkonin Boxes?

Elkonin boxes are a really handy tool to use, as it helps students to build up their awareness of phonics by segmenting words into sounds and then blending them together.

How Frequently Should You Use Elkonin Boxes?

To get the most out of this activity, it is recommended you try to use it 3 times a week for 10 to 15 minutes. This is to help guide your students as they first start to get their head around constructing words and sounding them out.

Gradually, you can remove this frequency once your students become more confident. Yet, you can always bring it back for longer or more difficult words. 

Suzy Anderson
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