The post Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Types appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.
]]>This post takes an in-depth look at each of the addition & subtraction word problem types. I also give some helpful links at the bottom that discuss Cognitively Guided Instruction, or CGI problem types. They use slightly different vocabulary than the CCSS but are the same set of skills. An important note- when I talk about teaching the addition & subtraction word problem types explicitly, I don’t mean that they’re only practiced during a specific unit, or that we teach specific keywords for each problem type. Students need to read the problem and understand the context. Recognizing the problem type can support that work, but it’s not focused on keywords. I also do a daily word problem outside of our focused unit work. I firmly believe in spiraling the standards in word problems so students have to focus on context to solve. For more support with problem solving, check out my Why Your Students Struggle with Word Problems, and What You Can Do About It post.
Probably the most common addition and subtraction type in most teachers minds is part part whole. We use number bonds and bar models to model and represent part/whole relationships. We model addition as two sets of objects coming together. We introduce subtraction as separating our total number of objects into smaller parts. And it’s the foundation for future work with fractions and multiplication and division. Part-part-whole is such a critical concept for our students’ mathematical understanding. It’s important that we connect this work to our language in word problems. Many word problems can be thought of as part-part-whole scenarios (even many in the start-change-end types described next).
TOTAL UNKNOWN | PART UNKNOWN | BOTH PARTS UNKNOWN | |
There were 5 bluebirds and 3 cardinals in the tree. How many birds are there in all?
5 + 3 = 8 |
There are 8 birds in the tree. 5 are bluebirds and the rest are cardinals. How many cardinals are there?
8 – 5 = ? |
There are 8 birds in the tree. Some are bluebirds and some are cardinals. How many of each kind of bird could there be? ? + ? = 8 |
Total unknown problems are typical addition problems. There are two sets that come together. Often, these are not the same exact subject. For example, it could be red apples and green apples coming together. Or cats and dogs. When it’s the same object, it’s often, but not always, a start-change-end scenario because the change is those two sets joining. The word problem below demonstrates a total unknown that has the same subject- people.
Part unknown problems are subtraction. We know the total number of items, but we don’t know the number in one of the sets. Through our work with part unknown problems, we reinforce the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. We can write the similar equation 5 + ? = 8 to connect the two operations. It’s important to work with unknowns in any position and part unknown problems are where I like to spend some work on inverse operations and fact families.
Both Parts unknown problems are less common. They are scenarios with multiple solutions. Students know the total number of items and they give a possible arrangement for how those items are broken up. Both parts unknown scenarios are my favorite way to introduce the unknowns to the right of the equal sign 8 = ? + ?. This helps students to know they don’t just solve from left to right and what the equals sign means.
For more information on Part Part Whole, I have an in-depth blog post that shows the hands on strategies I use to introduce and practice part/whole relationships.
While part-part-whole is the most common addition & subtraction problem type in many teacher’s minds, it’s probably not the most common in story problems. In real-world scenarios, addition and subtraction is most often demonstrated through start-change-result. In start change result scenarios, something joins or leaves the others. These are the problem types where someone got more of something, or something broke. If we’re not intentional with our word problems, we tend to default to “result unknown” problems. These problem types often have questions such as “how many are left?” and “how many are there now?”. The action has already happened.
I use the term “end” instead of “result” because “end” is the opposite of “start” and I think think students have a clearer understanding than with result. It’s also the same language I use with elapsed time problems in 3rd grade and I like to keep my language as consistent as possible.
The table below gives examples for each of the 6 start change end problem types. They’re pretty straightforward so I’m not going to explain each one in depth. Whether it’s addition or subtraction, the language indicates the location of the unknown: the subjects at the start, the subjects that changed, or the subjects at the end.
START UNKNOWN | CHANGE UNKNOWN | END UNKNOWN | |
Addition |
Some birds were in the tree. 3 more birds flew on the branch and now there are 8 birds in the tree. How many birds were in the tree to begin?
? + 3 = 8 |
5 birds were in the tree. Some birds flew on the branch and now there are 8 birds in the tree. How many birds had flown onto the branch?
5 + ? = 8 |
5 birds were in the tree. 3 birds flow on the branch. How many birds are on the tree now?
5 + 3 = ? |
Subtraction | Some birds were in the tree. 3 birds flew away and now there are 8 birds in the tree. How many birds were in the tree to begin?
? – 3 = 8 |
11 birds were in the tree. Some birds flew away and now there are 8 birds in the tree. How many birds flew away?
11 – ? = 8 |
11 birds were in the tree. 3 birds flew away. How many birds are on the tree now? 11 – 3 = ? |
It’s important that we give students practice with unknowns in all positions. It is through these start-change-end problem types that students see that they can be asked to identify how many of something there was in the beginning. Or, what the change/action was. With start-change-end problems students get to build their understanding of unknowns being in all positions, and build their competence with addition and subtraction being inverse operations. Through unknowns in any location, students model and solve using the inverse operation.
If start-change-end is a new concept for you, I give you tools and strategies in an in-depth post on teaching Start Change End.
Comparisons are the most complex word problems for students. They aren’t naturally what we think of when we think of the operations. For this reason, we need to teach them and practice them. A lot!
DIFFERENCE UNKNOWN | BIGGER UNKNOWN | SMALLER UNKNOWN | |
Compare | How many more?
Sara has 3 birds. Raina has 5 birds. How many more birds does Raina have than Sara? How many fewer? Sara has 3 birds. Raina has 5 birds. How many fewer birds does Sara have than Raina? 5 – 3 = ? 3 + ? = 5 |
More
Sara has 3 birds. Raina has 2 more birds than Sara. How many birds does Raina have? Fewer Sara has 3 birds. She has 2 fewer birds than Raina. How many birds does Raina have? 3 + 2 = ? ? – 2 = 3 |
More Raina has 5 birds. She has 2 more birds than Sara. How many birds does Sara have? Fewer Raina has 5 birds. Sara has 2 fewer birds than Raina. How many birds does Sara have? 5 – 2 = ? 2 + ? = 5 |
Difference Unknown problems are typically solved with subtraction. Regardless of the question being how many more or how many fewer, the question wants to know the amount between them. The word “more” can throw students off here because they want to add. You can use the addition equation to demonstrate it as presented, but ultimately subtraction is the easiest way to solve it. My favorite way to model these problems is on a number line because I can demonstrate both question types by counting forwards or backwards.
The Bigger Unknown and Smaller Unknown questions are where things get a bit more complicated. For me, as with any problem, I ask students to start by focusing on the unknown in the question. With these problems, I think it’s best to work on them together because they can be easily confused.
In my Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Type Posters I combine by known information. In both situations above, we’re told that someone has more and they both have the same question. By focusing on what “more” indicates, we’re showing students the differences in question types, and the subtly between the two.
Bigger Unknown problems in the table both have the question, “How many birds does Raina have?”. Due to the table placement, we understand that Raina has more birds than Sara. But let’s take a closer look at the problems.
Sara has 3 birds. Raina has 2 more birds than Sara. How many birds does Raina have?
In this problem, it tells us that Raina has more than Sara. This is a pretty easy addition problem adding Sara’s number plus the number more- the comparison- to find Raina’s total.
Sara has 3 birds. She has 2 fewer birds than Raina. How many birds does Raina have?
This problem is not as straightforward. It tells us that Raina has more by telling us that Sara’s 3 is 2 fewer than Raina’s. When students see “fewer” they want to subtract but the bigger number is unknown. We can model that subtraction equation as the unknown – 2 gives us Sara’s 3.
Smaller Unknown problems both ask how many Sara has in the table since Sara has the smaller amount. Again, let’s take a closer look at the problems.
Raina has 5 birds. She has 2 more birds than Sara. How many birds does Sara have?
In this problem, the word “more” can make students feel like they need to add. But subtraction is the better operation. If Raina has 2 more than Sara, we can subtract 2 from Sara’s to Raina’s. Or, as addition, Sara’s + 2 = Raina’s 5.
Raina has 5 birds. Sara has 2 fewer than Raina. How many birds does Sara have?
This problem is more straightforward than the last. Sara has 2 less than Raina so students will naturally subtract.
For these scenarios, I find it most helpful to start with the question. The unknown. If I need to know how many birds Sara has, I keep that in mind as I go back to the word problem a second time and restate it. Raina’s 5 is 2 more than Sara’s. Sara has 2 less than Raina’s 5. By starting with the unknown I’m solving for, I can better understand what the question is asking me to do by connecting it to the known.
I teach my students to read each word problem twice. The first time is to get a general understanding and focus on the question. The second time is to take the information that’s given and connect it to the question. I call it “Being a Problem Solving Ninja”. I explain each of the steps in my problem solving process in my Teach Students to be Problem Solving Ninjas post. I also have free posters you can use to teach students these steps focused on understanding the context.
I have posters for each of the addition & subtraction word problem types. You can use these as part of an anchor chart as you write your own word problems together for each problem type. You can display them as you introduce them. You can print several to a page and give students their own individual ones as reference.
I also have a Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Types Reference Sheet for you. This one-page printable is a nice reference sheet for you to keep at your side. Or, students can keep a copy in their math reference folder if you have one. The word problems included are the same as what’s on this site, and not the ones on the posters linked above.
I also have Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Types Digital Task Cards. They are organized by word problem type and practice addition and subtraction within 20. The Part-Part-Whole and Start-Change-End sets both have specific practice differentiating between them where students match the unknown and given equation to the given scenarios.
Each of the sets give students specific practice on each of the addition & subtraction word problem types. Students use the built-in tools to write equations with variables or symbols for the unknowns. After writing the equation, students use the manipulatives to model the problem on a number line and tens frames. The format allows students to practice several of the Standards for Mathematical Practice as they model and solve the problem, and check their work.
In addition to part-part-whole, start-change-end, and comparison problem types, there’s also an Adding 3 Numbers Word Problems set. This set is presented in part/whole, or part-part-part-whole scenarios. The set is free and can be downloaded from my TpT store by clicking the cover below.
I hope this post has given you ideas and resources for teaching each addition & subtraction word problem type with your students. The more practice and exposure students get, the more successful they will be.
For more reading on CGI Word Problem Types, this post from Langford Math is quite detailed and this wiki has a bunch of sample word problems.
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]]>Keywords are such a popular strategy. Especially for kids that struggle with word problems. One Google or Pinterest search will give you a TON of blog posts, articles, and for purchase products focused on word problem keywords. And in theory, it seems like a great strategy. As a first grade teacher, if I teach my students that the question “How many are there in all?” means they’re adding, then they are more successful on their assessments (if they can remember all of the keywords when it’s time to use them). Here’s an example:
There are 6 birds on the pine tree and 4 birds on the maple tree. How many birds are there in all?
But, I will tell you as a third grade teacher, you’ve made my job so much harder! I then have to teach my students that “How many in all?” does NOT, in fact, mean the problem is asking them to add. It might be. But it might also be asking them to multiply. Or, they might be doing several different operations in the word problem.
There are 6 birds on each of the 4 trees at the park. How many birds are there in all?
In this example, students are multiplying instead of adding.
There are 6 birds on each of the three pine trees and 4 birds on the maple tree. How many birds are there in all?
In this example, students are multiplying AND adding. In theory, they could just add, but they need to add 6 + 6 + 6 + 4, and not 6 + 3 + 4 as they might think if they’re only focused on the keywords.
By teaching word problems through the lens of keywords, we’re trying to have students memorize instead of understand. We want to give them something to use to help them get through all of the words (especially if they’re young and/or poor readers). It’s a common practice. But ultimately, using keywords can inhibit students’ word problem performance, especially as they enter the intermediate grades. It’s part of the reason kids struggle with word problems. It’s through understanding that students will be successful problem solvers- year after year after year. For more reading on why keywords are not an effective problem solving strategy, check out The Case Against Keywords, Making Sense and When Tricks Should Not Be for Kids
If we want students to be successful with word problems then we need to teach them to understand the operations. Understanding the four mathematical operations goes all the way back to part-whole relationships. Who knew students’ success in word problems in 4th grade went back to their math work in 1st? But, it’s true. Students have to understand the connections between parts and totals in the operations to understand how they’re presented in word problems. Here’s where I start:
Addition: Parts coming together; total unknown
Subtraction: Total is known; unknown part related to total
Multiplication: Total is unknown but equal groups are present; number of groups and number in each group are known
Division: Total is known and equal groups are present; unknown is either the number of groups or the number in each group
Each of the operations is more than part-whole so this minimizes a bit. All the types of word problems are detailed in the Common Core Standards for math. But even within the different word problem scenario types, you can connect to parts and totals even when it’s not ideal. You can read more specifically on the Addition & Subtraction Word Problem Types at my detailed post. Multiplication & Division is coming soon!
When I taught 1st and 2nd grades, we spent significant amounts of time talking about Part-Part-Whole and Start-Change-End problem types. The CCSS refers to Start-Change-End as Start-Change-Result but it has always been easier for my students to connect start and end. By spending all of our time talking about both of these problem types, students felt comfortable analyzing word problems to identify the given scenarios. You can click the images below to read more on each of those detailed blog posts. They give resources for addition and subtraction and reinforce both types of scenarios for addition and subtraction.
My introduction to multiplication and my introduction to division both focus on part, whole, and equal groups. Our hands on exploration sets the groundwork for the rest of our unit. My students always build a strong understanding of the operations right from the start thanks to our hands on work. Click the images below to read more on each of those detailed blog posts.
When students read through a word problem, they need to look for and identify the known and the unknown in the given scenario, part-whole relationships, and equal groupings (if they’re in 3rd grade or above). The best strategies will only be successful when students are identifying what’s presented in the word problem and what they’re solving for. Our questions around the word problem should focus on understanding based on the context. Instead of “How do you know?” responses focusing on the keywords in the problem, they should focus on what the keywords tell us. “How many are there in all?” means the total is unknown. The slight shift from relating it to addition (or multiplication) to relating it to the total being unknown, helps students reinforce their understanding of the operation, to help them identify it in the future.
I create this anchor chart with my 3rd grade students each year after we’ve spent a bit of time in our multiplication and division unit (it’s the first one in our curriculum). We talk about what we know about each of the operations as we identify the operations in each section. Students do use this to refer back to, but since we continue to reinforce those components of each operation, the anchor chart doesn’t become a crutch.
Using an explicit problem solving strategy gives kids a roadmap for solving- and understanding! When I looped with my kids from 1st-3rd, it was the same steps. The steps we follow aren’t dependent on grade level or problem type. They’re steps focused on making sense of the problem. We start by reading the problem through once to help us understand it. Then, once we’ve read it through and thought about it, we go through it again to identify the information we need to know. Many problem solving strategies continue to focus on keywords so the most popular ones never worked for me. I refer to mine as being a “Problem Solving Ninja” with my kids. The steps are our plan to prepare for battle. My kids have always enjoyed that bit of fun with it so it’s stuck over the years. Click the image below to read more on my steps for being a Problem Solving Ninja!
A strategy that can help students make sense of word problems is numberless word problems. Sometimes, students see the numbers and make judgements about the operations based on what what they see. Sometimes, the numbers themselves can overwhelm students. By practicing with numberless word problems, the focus is on the context that’s presented and developing an understanding based on the context. Numberless word problems are also a great tool for using variables and writing expressions or equations.
Don’t feel like you need to find or specifically use numberless word problems. Just use the existing problems you have and cover up the numbers. Or rewrite them without. You can also write numberless word problems that present mathematical concepts but without numbers. For example, give one number, but saying more or fewer for the second. Then, ask students what potential answers might be. The conversation around the possibilities helps push students thinking on the operations. This is a great post on Numberless Word Problems and how they can be used.
Hear me out. Your curriculum is likely written to the rigor of the standards. Your math curriculum has research to support it and coincides with your instruction and strategies. I’m not saying your curriculum is bad. I’m saying your curriculum isn’t perfect.
Far too often problem solving in math curriculums is unit based. As a primary grades teacher, do your students only work on addition during that unit? Then subtraction during that unit? Or as an intermediate teacher, do addition and subtraction word problems only exist during that unit so it takes months to circle back to them? Students that struggle with word problems often just choose the operation of the week to solve. They don’t try to make sense of it. They are doing the math that is current. Or, do word problems only exist at the end of the skill of the week? So practice is much less frequent? Or, if your curriculum is spiral based, it likely works on the computational skills in an ongoing way without always approaching complex tasks.
Spiraling word problems gives students practice and exposure with an array of problem types. When students are working on different skills from one day to the next, they truly rely on the context and their problem solving skills instead of just doing the operation of the week. One of the best routines I’ve ever implemented in my classroom has been our Problem of the Day. Every day we do a word problem. Typically, it’s the beginning of our math block. We spend 10-15 minutes on the problem most days. Students complete the word problem independently. Then we discuss and compare strategies. We talk about the context in the problem and what the students used to help them find their answers. We spend time talking about mistakes. By finding patterns in students’ work, I am better able to clear up misconceptions. These are rigorous and I do not grade them. I want the kids to feel comfortable trying strategies and making mistakes. Our focus is on understanding the word problem and what is asks us to do, and the strategies we use to solve them.
I use my Word Problem of the Day units nearly every single day of the year. I’ve used them in every single grade I’ve taught. I have year-long bundles of story problems for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. I have nearly the entire year completed for 4th grade. Completing a story problem every day has been a huge component to my students’ math success. You can take a closer look at each of the grade level word problem bundles by clicking the images below.
Or, try out the free Back to School set of word problems for each grade level. Each of these word problem sets gives students practice with a variety of scenarios reinforcing the previous year’s standards. I start our daily word problem routine after the first few days of school.
1st Grade Word Problems of the Day: Back to School
2nd Grade Word Problems of the Day: Back to School
3rd Grade Word Problems of the Day: Back to School
4th Grade Word Problems of the Day: Back to School
One of the strategies that has helped my students the most with word problems is writing them themselves. Students that struggle with word problems struggle to identify knowns and unknowns and the operation components. By writing them together and talking about the word problems need to be complete, helps students better understand the components to apply while solving later. I’ve used students’ word problems to practice solving with. We’ve done them together as class, or students have done them independently and with partners. The first few times it will take some work to support students through writing them. After practice, students will become quicker and better at writing word problems, and they’ll continue to strengthen their skills in solving them.
You don’t have to accept that students will always struggle with word problems. It takes time and there’s no quick fix. But, your students CAN and WILL feel success with word problems!
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]]>This post looks at strategies and resources for continuing to build phonemic awareness through phonics instruction and practice. Each of the included activities connects the spelling of the letters (graphemes) with the sounds in words (phonemes). I have a separate post dedicated to Phonemic Awareness Activities that are not tied to letters.
It is important to me that my classroom phonics work only uses high-quality resources that align with my instruction. Too often, resources I would vet or purchase would teach something incorrectly, i.e. “x” as one sound (it’s two). This has led me to developing so many phonics-based resources myself over the years.
The activities below are organized by type instead of phonics skill. This way, you can see the difference between each activity and the phonemic awareness support it provides. Each of the activities includes a phonemic awareness component that connects the word’s phonemes and graphemes. By including phonemic awareness supports, students are learning the word through the phonemes they hear. Over time, the words become “mapped” in students’ minds and they no longer need to focus sound by sound. The same occurs with rimes. But while students are building their word recognition, the reinforcement with phonemic-grapheme activities reinforces sound-spelling skills. You can read more about sound-letter mapping here.
Swap it Out is a printable & digital phoneme manipulation and phonics activity. Pictures are given for word pairs with one sound different. Students look at the picture, say the sounds in the word, and type the letters into each sound box. Students compare the different sounds in the words by comparing the spelling between words. Swap it Out can be printed in full color and laminated, or used as a digital word work activity in Google Slides or SeeSaw.
See It, Tap It, Type It is a digital phoneme segmentation and blending activity built in Google Slides and SeeSaw. Students look at the picture, tap out the sounds in the words using the given manipulative, and then spell the word using the given text box. The built in Elkonin boxes and sound chip support students that struggle with segmenting- especially working with blends. The SeeSaw version include directions for students to say the sounds in the word using the microphone. This allows you to check in on students’ independent practice with segmentation to provide additional instruction or intervention. Click on each fo the covers below to take a closer look.
Build a Word is a digital phoneme-grapheme mapping activity built into Google Slides and SeeSaw. Students look at the pictures and drag a grapheme tile into a sound box to build the word. In SeeSaw, you can also have students record their oral segmentation of the word before building. The given digital grapheme tiles help give students support as they build their phonics and letter sound knowledge. Each of the Build a Word activities includes specific practice with often confused components (isolating /e/ and /i/ for example, or sh and ch differentiation). Click on each of the covers below to take a closer look. The Build a Word Digraphs version is offered for free in my TpT store.
Word Sorts & Sound Boxes– I used these with my basal spelling program in 1st grade. My basal left a lot to be desired with word work. It was phonics focused but the given practice did not teach sound-spelling correspondence and students merely wrote the words based on their meaning. I supplemented my weekly practice with these pages. On the first day I introduced the phonics pattern. After generating words that fit the desired sound-spelling pattern, we would practice the week’s spelling words. Beginning with saying the sounds in the word, we would then spell the word using dry erase markers. We used the same sheet week after week until we reached more complex words. Later in the week, we used the given words to sort by rime or specific phonics skill. You can download these pages for free here.
Letters, Onsets, & Rime Tiles– These letter tiles can be used for so much! I originally made these when I didn’t have magnetic letters available to me and couldn’t afford to buy some. I made a bunch of copies on colored paper, laminated them, and then had letters ready to go for our phonics-based intervention. I’ve included common onsets (digraphs and blends) and rimes so that the tiles can be used in a variety of ways. You can download the tiles for free by clicking on the image below.
It can be difficult to find online programs that teach phonics skills through phonemic awareness reinforcement. These free programs are high-quality. I’ve yet to find any phonics taught through incorrect methods or misleading key words. These are great for ongoing, adaptive practice for students when they’re not doing intentional skill practice.
Teach Your Monster to Read is developed by the Usborne Foundation. The website program is free to use, but the app is not. With that said, it is free several times throughout the year. Teach Your Monster to Read has 3 different levels: First Steps (letters, floss letters, segmenting and blending CVC words); Fun with Words (digraphs, vowels combinations, work with blends, high-frequency words); and Champion Reader (most common graphemes, alternative spellings, high-frequency words). I used Teach Your Monster to Read in 1st grade and my students loved it. I love that I was able to place my students in the level most appropriate for their needs. One note- because the program is developed in the UK there is a slight accent in pronunciations.
Starfall has good phonics resources and decodables. It doesn’t allow you to set up student accounts and have them work through the program independently like the others. But, it has specific practice with specific phonics skills. Each phonics skill includes two games and a decodable text. Some also include an additional instructional movie.
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]]>My Building Phonemic Awareness through Phonics post explores how you continue to build and reinforce phonemic awareness through your phonics and word work. Phoneme manipulation tasks are most often done with letters as students build their understanding of how changing out one specific grapheme changes the word. With that said, in my experience as an interventionist, I often worked with students that had weak phonemic awareness skills. It was critical that we reinforce those skills without attaching them to print- in addition to our phonics work. For students that are struggling with phonemic awareness, I recommend continuing practice without print in short time frames, always using something concrete. Also, reinforce phonemic segmenting and blending while sounding out words for decoding and encoding.
These activities are presented from the least complex phonemic awareness skill and build to more complex activities. There’s a variety of materials presented: online games, printable centers, and digital practice. My go-to resource for printable practice is the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). For phonics and phonemic awareness skills, their resources are pretty much ready to print with very little extra work. Their phonemic awareness activities include phoneme matching, isolating, segmenting, blending, and manipulating. All of the resources are research based and are high-quality. I have linked a few activities below, but spend some time looking at all they have to offer.
Funbrain Jr. is a great app that offers different games and activities that build phonemic awareness skills amongst others. If your students have tablets, this would be a good app to add to their collections.
Some of the linked digital activities showcased below come from Education.com. It allows restricted access on the free version. So it’s a nice resource to practice specific skills, but won’t be able to be used regularly without a subscription. The same is true for the activities on TinyTap.
Odd One Out is an initial sounds matching game. Students identify the pictures and identify the one picture that starts with a different initial sound than the rest.
This activity is called Beginning Sounds and is on Tiny Tap. Students identify which picture does not begin with the same initial sound.
Word Gobble on Funbrain Jr. gives students practice matching medial short vowel sounds. The printed word is displayed but the letters are not a strong component in the game.
Hopper is a series of online activities from Education.com that has students clicking the image to match a short vowel sound. The sound, such as /e/, is given in each activity. Several different short vowel versions are included.
There is also a Ending Sounds Hopper activity from Education.com. Like the other Hopper activities, students click the image to match the given final sound.
Final Phoneme Find is a great, ready to print activity from FCRR.
This final sounds activity from IXL has students identify the two words with the same ending soZund. Pictures are given and can be given orally.
These activities have students isolate sounds in all locations in words. This mixed location review helps build the skills necessary for later work with segmentation and blending.
Segmenting Quiz is another activity from education.com. This one practices isolating different sounds in words. The oral prompt identifies which sound students are identifying. An example is “Which word has an ending sound of /p/?”
These Digital Phoneme Matching Sorts have students practice isolating a specific sound in words and sorting pictures into the correct categories. There is no connection with print in this activity. 25 different pages are included in both Google Slides and SeeSaw. 3 different files are included: initial, medial, and final sounds so you are able to practice each skill separately. Because these are digital activities, they are perfect phonemic awareness practice during centers.
Finger Phonemes from the University of Texas is a great strategy for making phoneme segmenting and blending concrete.
Elkonin Boxes are a tried and true resource for phoneme segmenting and blending. Students use a concrete manipulative in each box as they practice breaking apart the sounds in words.
Say It & Move It is similar to using Elkonin boxes but without the clear visual of the number of sounds. It’s a way to remove the scaffold of sound boxes and working towards independent segmentation while still using concrete manipulatives.
These Black & White Phoneme Segmenting and Blending cards are easy to print and prep! They are black and white and are printed 3 to a page. They are organized by number of sounds so you can scaffold or differentiate cards based on students’ needs. The given dots give students reinforcement with the number of sounds as they practice segmenting and blending the given sounds in the words.
Blending Segmented Words is available through TinyTap. Students listen to the given sounds in a word and choose the correct corresponding picture. The game doesn’t change with continued play, so it’s more of a resource that can be used just a couple times.
Blending and Segmenting words is a similar game from the same user on TinyTap. Students listen to the sounds in a word and find the corresponding picture.
Phoneme manipulation is the most complex on the phonemic awareness continuum. According to Dr. David Kilpatrick, manipulation activities are the most important to measure. Students that struggle with phoneme manipulation will struggle to apply their phonics learning to decoding and encoding. Often, many phoneme manipulation activities are done with print- especially with work with word families and adding, deleting, and substituting initial sounds. But it’s important for young or struggling students to practice phoneme manipulation without print as well. This post from Reading Rockets has a variety of phonological activities. It has a superb sequence for phoneme manipulation activities.
What’s Left is a phoneme deletion activity from FCRR. Students use the given picture cards to match the word with what’s created when the initial sound is deleted.
Final Phoneme Pie is another phoneme deletion activity from FCRR. Students use the given picture to delete the final sound.
In these Phoneme Substitution Task Cards, students identify if the initial, medial, or final sound changed between two given pictures. There are 120 different task cards included in both printable and digital versions. Each of the task cards works with words with 3 phonemes, though some contain digraphs and long vowel sounds. The digital versions are provided in both Google Slides and SeeSaw so you can use whichever platform works best for you and your students.
My next post will showcase how you can continue to build and reinforce phonemic awareness during your phonics work. For students to be efficient decoders and encoders, it’s critical that they’re phonemic awareness skills are strong.
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]]>Let’s start with a few key terms. Phonemes are the sounds used in the English language. There are 44: 24 consonant and 20 vowel sounds. They are made using many (over 280) different graphemes, a written symbol. Graphemes can be single letters or a combination of letters, such as ie, igh, or sh. When phonemes and graphemes are connected, it’s phonics. This chart from Reading Rockets presents the 44 phonemes with their corresponding graphemes. Continuant consonants are just as they sound- consonants that can be elongated. For example, m, s, and n.
Phonemic awareness is critical for applying phonics skills. Students can learn and memorize graphemes, but if they cannot manipulate phonemes, they will struggle in their reading and spelling development. Many students are able to develop phonemic awareness through typical word work and phonics practice. For others, those with mild and severe phonological deficiencies, they will be unable to build the necessary skills without explicit instruction or intervention. As an interventionist, my first step in trying to identify an intermediate grade student’s needs was to begin with a phonological awareness assessment. Most often, a student that struggled to decode words, had a deficiency in phonemic awareness, and sometimes, even with earlier phonological awareness skills. Understanding the importance of intentional, explicit, and systematic phonemic awareness is the first step to ensuring all students have the skills they need to become strong readers and writers.
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Phonemic awareness is taught concurrently with letter-sound instruction. As students’ build their phonemic awareness and letter-sound skills, they are able to quickly combine the two for reading and spelling. It is critical that articulation of phonemes is precise. Sounds should not have the trailing /uh/ that sometimes occurs. For example, m is not pronounced as /muh/ but is /mmmmm/. The additional schwa makes it difficult to blend and segment, and also impacts students’ work with spelling.
Identifying initial sounds is typically the first piece of phonemic awareness instruction as it is often part of earlier onset-rime work in the phonological awareness continuum. From there, it’s common to identify common medial sounds using CVC words. Students can often sort words with different vowels, especially when they have strong rhyming skills. Identifying final sounds can be tricky for some. I have found segmenting the word into its phonemes as a helpful strategy for those that struggle to identify final sounds in isolation. While the continuum suggestions medial sounds is more difficult than final sounds, in my experience with students, many had more difficulty with final sounds.
While the skills on the phonemic awareness continuum chart above move from easier to more complex, it’s important to distinguish that many are related and are practiced together. As students are able to identify the different sounds in words (identification), they are able to apply it to segmenting. For some, segmenting seems to come easier than some identification tasks as students can think through each of the sounds in the word, versus targeting just one. Continuant consonants also makes blending easier as students can slide one sound into the next. For some students, segmenting is an easier skill than blending. Segmenting and blending are often done in conjunction with each other, though they are different tasks. Blending practice often comes from segmenting the sounds and then blending them back together. With that said, manipulation can only happen if students are able to identify and segment the individual sounds in words, and can only make the target word by blending those sounds.
Manipulation tasks are the most complex, the most important, and are the best true indicator of a students’ phonemic awareness skills. Phoneme manipulation tasks (deletion, addition, substitution) will only be successful if students’ can identify, blend, and segment phonemes. Manipulation is what allows children to make connections between words, and build automaticity with phonics. By demonstrating the ability to do manipulative phonemic awareness tasks, children are also demonstrating the ability to do some other phonemic awareness tasks. For example, deleting a phoneme indicates the ability to segment the sounds, identify the target sound to eliminate it, and then blend it. Manipulation tasks are often done in the context of phonics, though not always. Changing the /t/ in “mat” to /n/ can be done completely orally, though it is very helpful to have a concrete piece for each sound. According to Kilpatrick, students that are taught explicit phonics and do phoneme manipulation training show stronger growth than those with phonics instruction alone.
Phoneme segmentation and blending are connected to other phonemic awareness tasks. For this reason, most of our classroom focus is on these two skills initially. The ability to segment the sounds in words is connected to identifying the medial and final sounds. As students work through segmentation tasks, their ability to isolate sounds increases. For some students, they need to segment the sounds to identify them.
Phoneme segmentation and blending is first done with words with 2 and 3 sounds. As students build their proficiency along the continuum, practice continues with words with 4 and then 5 sounds. Separating the sounds in blends is often a tricky sticking point for students. Whether the blend is in the onset or the rime, students often struggle to make the separation in favor of keeping the vowel as the medial sound. “X” and “q” are two letters that represent two phonemes so I avoid those in my phonemic awareness work. While it’s important that students learn this, I don’t introduce either letter in our phonemic awareness work until we are applying it with those specific letters while building words.
Students also benefit from using concrete tools to help “hold” the separation between sounds. Regular classroom manipulatives are often used as counters with a one-to-one correspondence. Phonemic awareness is also an easy task practiced at home using items at home: pasta pieces, coins, beans, food containers, etc. Elkonin boxes, also referred to as sound boxes, are also often used. The visual component of the box helps students work with each sound as counters are tapped or dragged into each box. Later, the boxes provide a nice transition tool as students work with the corresponding graphemes. Reading Rockets has a great, free resource for Elkonin boxes: steps for intervention, words to use, reproducible boxes, and a monitoring sheet.
When providing intervention for phonemic awareness, I’ve often had to incorporate different tools to help guide our work. Colored locking cubes (like Unifix cubes) are a helpful tool as students connect the visual green, yellow, red to help them focus on the specific number of sounds. When working with words with additional sounds, I’ve incorporated a white or blue cube in the middle while keeping green and red as the initial and final phonemes. I also typically use an arm as a concrete manipulative. Students make a fist with their arm in front of their chest for the first position, then centered, and to the outside for the final. I’ve seen other teachers have success with using shoulder, elbow, and wrist, or just by counting. For another child that had a particularly difficult time hearing the different sounds in words, we incorporated gross motor, rather than fine motor, movements. We often used the hopscotch board built into the pavement, and used hula hoops to hop the different sounds. I’ve also used a plastic Slinky Jr. (the smaller size fits little hands better) as a manipulative that’s helped my students with blending the sounds in the word. It is especially helpful when practicing continuous sounds and with students that are just beginning to work on segmenting and blending.
A further post taking a closer look at phonemic awareness activities is in the works and will be coming shortly.
Most diagnostic assessments will include an assessment on phonological or phonemic awareness. In my district, that assessment is online and doesn’t give enough data to target specific deficiencies. I’ve also worked in a district where we truly didn’t assess it. In most places, phonological and phonemic awareness assessments aren’t done above 2nd grade, and sometimes not in 2nd. The reasoning is an assumption that students have already mastered those skills. In my experience, however, a good portion of our students that are not fluent readers in higher grades struggle with phonemic awareness tasks. A strong phonemic awareness assessment will help you identify a student’s specific weaknesses to know what to target. For younger students, the assessments helps you to know where to go next. The assessments I’ve linked below I’ve either personally used myself, or are from a source I trust.
Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Assessments
The PAST Test from David Kilpatrick
Phonological Awareness Assessments from Reading A-Z
Phonemic Awareness Activities gives an overview of phonemic awareness and the skills along the continuum but didn’t dive into specific resources that help make this happen. My next post will focus on building phonemic awareness within phonics and word work.
If you missed my post on What Is Phonological Awareness, it takes a closer look at phonological awareness as a whole and gives strategies and resources.
For more information on phonemic and phonological awareness:
Phonological Awareness & Intervention by Dr. David Kilpatrick
Equipped for Reading Success by Dr. David Kilpatrick
Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum by Marilyn Adams
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