Phoneme Segmentation Workout

In kindergarten, our favorite part of the day is our phoneme segmentation workout! This is an easy way to get your kids moving and exercising in the classroom! Students don’t even realize they are practicing a crucial component of learning how to read and write. They may even differentiate their own workout! My student wanted to do one handed push-ups. The whole class gathered around to watch as he segmented phonemes while doing a one handed push-up!

Before you get started with the workout, students must understand what it means to segment phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. You can explain a phoneme by telling students that every time their mouth moves, they are saying a new phoneme. As students are learning the skill, I have them sit in close proximity to me so they can see my mouth move as I model segmenting. For each phoneme, I put the corresponding number of fingers by my chin so it is clearly defined to the students when I am saying a new phoneme. Later, this will help students when writing words. When they hold up the number 1, they know it is the first sound in the word. When they hold up the number 2, they know it is the second sound in the word, and so on. For example, if students are segmenting the word “mat”, they would hold up a number 1 for the sound /m/, a number 2 for the sound /a/, and a number 3 for the sound /t/. 

Be sure to follow these steps before beginning the workout. 

Step 1- Model segmenting phonemes with a long pause in between each sound. Make sure students are watching your mouth as it moves and exaggerate the motions that your mouth makes. Begin with CVC words and use sounds that your students are already familiar with.

Step 2- Have your students say the sounds with you and use their fingers to count the phonemes. 

Step 3- Have the students say the sound while you are moving your mouth without sound. It is fun to tell the students that you are “muted” like the sound on their television, but they can still see your mouth moving if they need help. 

Step 4- They are ready to segment phonemes on their own! Let’s get exercising!

The Workout

Model and teach the proper technique for each workout option before adding phoneme segmentation. For each round, say, “Segment the sounds in the word _______. Ready.” As they get used to the protocol, you can shorten the directions to, “Segment _____. Ready.” Always say ready so the students know when to begin in unison. 

Workout options include:

Chair dips- students segment the phonemes as they dip down and repeat the word as they push back up

Push Ups- students segment phonemes on the way down to the floor and repeat the whole word as they push back up

Jumping Jacks- students segment phonemes each time they clap their hands during the jumping jack and repeat the word when they jump back together

Mountain Climbers- students get set in a push-up position and segment phonemes every time their knee touches their elbow. They repeat the word when they are set back in a push-up position.

Squats- students segment phonemes each time they dip lower in their squat position and repeat the word on their way back up to a standing position

Running man- students jump one foot forward and the other back and segment the sounds each time they switch leg positions. They repeat the word when they jump their feet back together.

Reach for the stars- Students start with legs apart and arms at their side. For each phoneme, they will stretch one arm over their head and switch arms for each phoneme. 

Wall Sits- students start in a wall sit position. They segment phonemes while staying in a wall sit position and clap when they repeat the word. 

The workout options are endless! I usually introduce a few workout options and then give my students the power to choose the workout for the day. 


The result of implementing this fun, 4-8 minute, engaging activity every day is astonishing! By the end of last year, 16 out of 18 of my students were in the 90th percentile for phoneme segmentation on the easyCBM assessment. This school year, 10 out of 18 of my students began in the 0 percentile and by the winter assessment, 11 out of 18 of my students were in the 90th percentile for phoneme segmentation. Try this no-prep activity in your classroom. TeacherSidekick would love to hear your results! Email us at!