Multisensory Monday: Pebble Push

Posted by Brainspring on 20th Jul 2020

According to author Jo Fitzpatrick, the path to phonemic awareness is sequential. It begins with an awareness of spoken words, then syllables (cat =1 syllable), followed by onsets and rimes (c-at) and finally to individual sounds in words (c-a-t.)

Summertime presents itself with many opportunities to get outdoors and take advantage of learning activities in the process. Take a walk with your child and find some pretty pebbles! You will only need three to start, but it is always good to have some extras. If you live by a lake, gathering small shells would suffice, as well.

You can create a mat with your child to use these manipulatives with, or paint your pebbles, or even draw circles with sidewalk chalk! I like to mimic the colors of a traffic light, with green representing the beginning sound, yellow for the middle sound, and red for the ending sound.

The activities listed below focus on listening and manipulating individual sounds in spoken words.

Phoneme Segmentation

Start by having three pebbles lined up horizontally. Instruct your child to “push up a pebble” as they hear the sounds when you slowly say a (c-v-c) word, such as “h-a-t”. Have them identify the sound they heard in the beginning of the word, the middle and the end. Try a few different words, such as (b-a-t), (p-i-n), (ch-i-p), (d-i-sh) Note that /sh/ and /ch/ are one sound, so your child would only push out one pebble when those digraph sounds are heard.

Phoneme Blending

After moving the pebbles up by individual sounds, have your child “sweep” his or her finger under the row of pebbles and blend the sounds together to say the whole word.

Phoneme Counting

Have your child count the sounds by counting how many pebbles they moved and saying each individual sound.

Phoneme Isolation

You can target a sound, such as /t/ and provide words like tap, pat, tack, cat.

Ask “Is /t/ in the beginning or the end of the word? Where did it move to?”

Phoneme Deletion

After your child has pushed out the sounds for a word, such as “cat” have him or her remove the first pebble/sound. They will now have /a-t/ How many sounds are there now? Which is first? Which is last?

Phoneme Substitution

Have your child remove the first pebble for /c/ and “push a pebble” back up replacing it with the /p/ sound. Say “p-a-t.” What sound is in the beginning now?

The ability to manipulate sounds in a concrete way, paves the path for successful reading! Phonemic awareness precedes phonics instructions. Once children have learned letter formation and have connected the sounds to letters, these activities can be extended to having them write the sounds they hear and spelling these c-v-c words.


Written by Julie Palermo,

Julie is a tutor at our Clarkston Learning Center and former Kindergarten teacher.

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