Elkonin Boxes

Printables Interactive

What are Elkonin Boxes?

Elkonin Boxes are a visual tool used to help children break down words into individual sounds or phonemes. They are typically drawn as a series of squares, with each box representing one sound in a word. For example, the word ‘cat’ would be divided into three boxes, representing the /c/, /a/, and /t/ sounds respectively.

The Role of Elkonin Boxes in Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to the understanding that spoken language is made up of individual and separate sounds. It’s a crucial step in learning to read and write, as it allows children to understand the relationship between sounds and letters.

Elkonin Boxes play a significant role in developing this awareness. They provide a visual representation of the sounds in a word, helping children to see the segmentation of the word. This helps them understand that even though a word is a single unit when we say it, it’s made up of individual sounds.

Using Elkonin Boxes in the Classroom

Using Elkonin Boxes is a straightforward process. The educator says a word slowly and clearly, and the child pushes a token into a box for each sound they hear. For instance, for the word ‘dog’, the teacher would say /d/ – /o/ – /g/, and the child would push a token into three separate boxes.

Over time, as the child’s phonological awareness improves, they can start to use Elkonin Boxes independently. They can also begin to use them for more complex words with blends or digraphs.

The Benefits of Elkonin Boxes

Elkonin Boxes offer multiple benefits for early literacy development:

  • Building Phonological Awareness: They help children understand the concept of individual sounds in words, which is crucial for reading and spelling.
  • Enhancing Listening Skills: Children need to listen carefully to distinguish the different sounds in words, which can improve their overall listening skills.
  • Encouraging Active Learning: Moving tokens into boxes makes learning interactive and engaging, which can help children stay focused and retain information better.
  • Providing Visual Support: For visual learners, seeing a word broken down into individual sounds can make the concept more concrete and understandable.


Class Playground printables are free to share, download, and print (with attribution and without alteration).


Activities designed for elementary aged students.