Phoneme Substitution: Everything You Need to Know

This is a verbal process during which a speaker exchanges the sound in a particular word with another sound. Phoneme substitution is one of the key skills children need to have to be proficient readers. Here’s an example of phoneme substitution using the word “sand.”

  •         If the first /s/ is replaced by a /h/, the word becomes “hand”
  •         If the last /d/ is replaced by a /k/, the word becomes “sank”
  •         If the second /a/ is replaced by an /e/, the word becomes “send”

One phoneme was substituted for another in these examples, and the word completely changed. When children are proficient at phoneme substitution, they’ll advance in their literacy development and general language. Phoneme substitution may be quite challenging for young kids, so patience is required. Parents may find that it takes their kids a long time to give the right answer when challenged with questions on phoneme substitution. This is fine as they’ll achieve more proficiency at it with constant practice.

Parents should begin with a word’s first and last sounds. It’ll be more difficult for the kids to substitute sounds located in the middle of the words. Once they become confident with the first and last substitutions, parents can slowly introduce substituting the sounds in the middle of words. Kids should practice phoneme substitution once they’ve got a good understanding of different letters’ phonemes. 

If parents try to do this before, kids will likely find this really difficult. Parents should teach the kids phoneme isolation and identification first as that’ll help them. They need to be proficient in these activities to approach phoneme substitution with confidence.

Parents can use letter cards to teach kids phoneme substitution. First, they need to spell out a word using the cards and ask the kids to sound it out with them. Next, they need to tell the kids that they’re going to change one of those letters, and the children need to tell them about the new word. Once the kids can efficiently substitute the initial words, parents can move on to the last letters in words. 

The kids must have mastered the final sound substitution before parents move on to the next stage. Parents should try several middle phoneme exercises until the kids become confident with this. Once the kids can proficiently substitute middle phonemes, they can do more exercises involving the initial, middle, and final letters.

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