Elkonin Boxes: A Literacy Tool for Beginning Readers

Quality
Education
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Elkonin Boxes is a digital version of a highly-effective teaching strategy that will help beginning and struggling readers build vital skills for phonemic awareness, which is foundational to success in phonics.
5

App Info

Price: $0.99
AppStore User Rating: 2
Download on the App Store

Overview

Elkonin Boxes helps beginning readers of all ages practice an important foundational reading readiness skill: the ability to segment and blend the sounds that make up words. This app will also help students understand that some letters are silent and others work as a team to make a single sound. The skills are vital for developing reading and spelling proficiency.

Features include:

  • Three levels ranging from words with two sounds to words with five sounds
  • Two modes including two levels of practice and a quiz mode
  • Clear and well-enunciated narration
  • Accurate phoneme reproduction
  • Photographic images to illustrate each word

Quality

Elkonin Boxes is a very high quality app. Developers included a clear and useful set of instructions and even a bit of background about why this skill is useful in overall reading skill development.  The photos used to illustrate each word are high quality and the narrator uses exceptionally clear enunciation for both the words and the individual phonemes when segmented.  The app is simple to use so its accessible to students of all ages and ability levels, and it would be very appropriate for older students as well as the very young.

Education

In order to understand how useful this app is educationally speaking, one must first understand a little bit about the development of beginning reading skills.  Reading is a very complex process, and it’s vital that beginning students have a firm foundation in a host of basic skills before they even begin to try to learn to read.  One of these vital foundational skills is called “phonemic awareness.”  Put briefly, phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made of building blocks that we call sounds. These sounds are discreet units and can be separated and then blended back together to form each word.  The entire body of phonics and spelling learning rests on this key understanding, so it’s crucial that young students get it right and that older, struggling readers revisit these ideas and understand them to move forward with reading.

Elkonin Boxes actually is a digital version of a teaching strategy by the same name. The idea is to give students something tangible to attach to each sound within a word. Letters don’t do the trick, because there are groups of letters (like ‘sh’) that make a single sound, and there are letters within words that have no sounds at all (think the final, silent E on words like ‘home’). In other words, the relationship between letters and sounds is not one-to-one, so Elkonin Boxes create a one to one correspondence to help beginning readers understand this concept that letters make up words and can be separated and then blended back together again.

This app does a phenomenal job of providing practice with this vital concept. Developers have taken an activity that is normally very individualized (and hence very teacher-time-intensive) and set it up so that students can benefit from working on their own. The app shows a picture of an item and says the word aloud. Students are expected to say the word themselves, then tap the boxes below the picture to help them separate the sounds. They say the word again when they are done.  At all of its practice levels, Elkonin Boxes provides this opportunity. The words are grouped into three levels with words ranging from two sounds up to five, and the practice level has two modes. In the simplest version, students touch the boxes and hear the sounds, and in the harder version, they hear only a musical note and are expected to generate the sounds for themselves. The more challenging Quiz Mode requires them to tap the correct number of boxes matching the number of phonemes (sounds) in the target word.

Entertainment

This app is not being rated for entertainment.

Value

This app is a huge bargain at ninety-nine cents in the App Store.  While it’s not really intended for all students, it certainly will help cement the relationship between words and their component sounds for any student that is struggling at all with reading, phonics or spelling. It contains a huge variety of words, including many at a more adult level of vocabulary (such as “pulp” and “mold”), making it a real find for special education teachers and literacy specialists.  It is likely to expand most children’s vocabulary and is very appropriate for mature learners.

Child Friendliness

This app is very child friendly.

  • Parent area (can contain external links & social media)
  • NO external links
  • NO social media
  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads

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