Phoneme segmentation training in kindergarten: Effect on reading readiness skills

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Benita Blachman


Reading instruction, Language skills, Curricula, Kindergarden, Segmentation skills

Subject Categories



Purpose. There is a substantial body of evidence that suggests that language tasks that measure phonological awareness, the ability to recognize that a spoken word consists of a sequence of individual sounds, are significant predictors of success in the early stages of reading. Recent work has shown that at least some phoneme awareness skills can be taught to kindergarten children and that training in these skills has an impact on reading, particularly when sound-symbol instruction is included in the training. This project evaluates the effect on reading of teaching groups of kindergarten children to segment words into phonemes, while controlling for letter-sound correspondence knowledge.

Procedure. Subjects were selected from the total enrollment of six kindergarten classrooms (N = 151) in three urban public schools. Pretests included measures of vocabulary, phoneme segmentation, letter name and sound knowledge, and word recognition skills. In each of the three schools, thirty students (N = 90) from the remaining pool of 119 nonreaders were randomly selected and randomly assigned to one of three groups: (a) phoneme segmentation training group, (b) language activities group (control group I), and (c) no intervention group (control group II). There were no pretreatment differences among the groups on any pretest measure.

Students in the phoneme segmentation group received instruction on segmenting works into phonemes using disks to represent each phoneme. They also received instruction on letter names and letter sounds. Students in the language activities group (control group I) received the identical instruction in letter names and letter sounds as the phoneme segmentation group. In addition, they participated in language activities. Students in the no intervention group received no additional instruction.

At the end of the seven week intervention, students were readministered the segmentation pretest as well as the letter name and sound knowledge and reading tests.

Results. The results indicate that: (1) Groups of kindergarten children can be taught to segment words into phonemes using the instructional techniques designed for this study. (2) Instruction in letter name and letter sounds alone did not improve the segmentation skills of the kindergarteners who participated in this study. (3) Kindergarten segmentation instruction combined with instruction that connects the phoneme segments to alphabet letters did improve early reading skills. (4) Instruction in letter name and letter sounds alone did not improve the early reading skills of the kindergarteners who participated in this study.

Implications of these findings for future research were discussed. Future research should include a thorough investigation into the interrelatedness of the variety of tasks used to measure phoneme awareness. It is also theoretical and practical importance to determine the relationship among various phonological processes which have been, for the most part, studied in isolated bodies of research.


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