Phoneme Manipulation

Contributor: Marlene Vogel. Lesson ID: 10791

Do you know what the phonemes are in the word "phoneme"? You will have a lot of practice with phonemes using our puzzles and shark and online games so you can learn to read and write different sounds!



learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • Isn't it fun to make new words out of other words?

For example, look at the word "farm." You can change it into another word if you drop just one letter (farm > far). You can also change one word into another if you substitute a letter (farm > form)

  • What other words could you make out of the word "farm" by dropping a letter or changing a letter?

Before you begin working on the activities in this lesson, it is important that you understand some of the vocabulary words you will see.

You will be working with Phonemes. Phonemes are the different sounds we hear in individual words. An important thing to know is that words can have more than one phoneme, or sound, in them.

For example, say the word "stop."

  • What sounds do you hear?

If you said you hear the st in the beginning of the word and the p at the end of the word, then you are correct! Those are phonemes!

You can identify phonemes using a good set of listening ears.

listening ears

You do not need to know how to read or write to pick out the phonemes in a word, and it is easier to do if you are practicing a group of words that have the same phoneme in them.

For example, if we continue to use our first example, stop, and someone says the following words, it will be easy for you to tell them what phoneme the words have in common:

  • start, staple, step, stump, stumble

If someone asked you what phoneme these words have in common, what would you say? Would you say st? Our example words have the st phoneme in common!

Now that you know what a phoneme is, you also need to know that we are going to practice adding and substituting phonemes.

Adding a phoneme is simply taking a word and adding a letter or two to it so you have a different word with a different sound. An example of this would be to take the word "top" and add an "s" at the beginning of the word.

  1. First, say the word "top." What is the phoneme that you hear at the beginning of the word? Right! You hear the t sound.
  2. Now let's add a phoneme to the word "top" to make a different word with a different sound. Earlier we said we would add the letter "s." Doing this, you have the word "stop."
  3. Since we have already used this word earlier in the lesson, you know the word "stop" has the st phoneme in it.
  4. Let's look at another example of adding a phoneme. Our example will be the word "led." This is a great word to use as an example because you can add several different phonemes to the beginning of it and end up with different words with different sounds!
  5. Start by identifying the phoneme in the beginning of the word "led." What is the phoneme? Very good! The phoneme is the l sound.
  6. Now add a letter to the word led to make a different word with a different beginning phoneme. What about the letter "f"? Adding this letter changes the word from "led" to "fled." It also changes the phoneme from the l sound to what? Wonderful! The new phoneme is the fl sound.
  7. Can you think of another letter you can add to "led" to change the word and phoneme? The letter "s"? Try it. Adding the letter "s" changes the word from "led" to "sled." Fantastic! Now, what is the new beginning phoneme? Yes, it is the sl sound.

Substituting a phoneme means you are going to change a phoneme in a word to another phoneme. This one is a little harder, but you can do it — just take your time!

Since learning substituting phonemes can be a little harder than adding phonemes, you should use a visual tool to help you. Print the Phoneme Shark document found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

You will notice it has two red lines that run through the shark.

Cut on each red line and glue each part of the shark in order at the top of a piece of paper. Make sure you save room to the left of the fish so that you can write a list of words you are going to change by substituting phonemes.

See the image below:

You will use this piece of paper to help you learn how to substitute phonemes. You can call this piece of paper your Phoneme Chart.

Try an easy one first. Take a look at the word "cap."

Write the word under the title List of words:

Say the word out loud.

  • What phonemes do you hear?

You hear the c sound in the beginning, the a sound in the middle, and the p sound at the end of the word.

On your phoneme chart, write the word "cap" under the pictures of the fish, putting the different sounds you hear at the beginning, middle, and end under the correct picture:

Using the phoneme chart helps break a word into its different sounds and makes it easier to substitute phonemes. This word is a lot of fun! We can substitute phonemes in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the word.

Take a look at the word "cap" broken into its different sounds.

  • Can you substitute the c phoneme sound with another phoneme sound and make a new word?
  • What phoneme did you choose for the beginning of your word?

If you change the letter c to the letter t, you have a different phoneme sound and a different word. Go ahead and write your new word on your piece of paper:

Look at the word "cap" again. Try to substitute the a phoneme in the middle of the word with another phoneme. Try the u phoneme. Awesome!

That changes the word "cap" to the word "cup." Write "cup" in your list of words and then broken down under the fish pictures just like you did with tap.

Finally, look at the word "cap" again and substitute the p phoneme with another phoneme at the end of the word. Try the t phoneme. Now you have the word "cat." Again, write your new word in the list of words and then broken down under the fish pictures.

Keep your phoneme chart. You can use it today to continue practicing adding and substituting phonemes.

One last important note: Words that have 4, 5, 6, or more letters can be used in activities like the ones you just did. You are starting out with the easier words (3 letters) until you are sure you have the skills to move on to the harder words.

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