What is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological awareness refers to the bigger “chunks” or “parts” of language. When we ask students to rhyme, blend small words to make a compound word, break words apart into syllables or onset-rime, we are working at the phonological awareness level. Phonemic awareness is a part of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate each sound in a word. Phonological/phonemic awareness focuses on sounds and does not include written letters or words.
In 1st grade, readers learn to blend together individual sounds to make words, break apart each individual sound in a word, delete a sound in a word, and change a sound in a word.
What Does it Look Like?
Why is phonemic awareness the key to learning to read?
Sound Walk with Segmentation: Name people, places, and things as you walk around the neighborhood, apartment complex, store, and more. As you name an item, continue by saying each sound in the name of the object or person's name. Then state how many sounds you heard (e.g., I see a bike. /B/ /i/ /k/ has 3 phonemes or sounds). Have the child name items they see and practice counting the sounds together.
Sound "I Spy" with Counting Sounds: Play "I Spy" with sounds by naming the number of sounds as the first clue. Next, give clues about each sound until the spied item is named (e.g., For cloud, the adult would say, "I spy something with 4 sounds. The first phoneme or sound is /c/. The second phoneme or sound is /l/." The child would say, "Cloud!".) Word list organized by phonemes (optional).
Sound "I Spy" with Blending: Play "I Spy" by saying each sound in a word and have the child blend the sounds together and name what you spy (e.g., I spy a /b/ /e/ /n/ / ch/).
Make New Words with Deletion: Say a word to the child. The child will repeat the word. Next, ask the child to say the word without one of the sounds (e.g., Now say the word slip without the /s/. Lip.) The remaining sounds may not be a real word. Watch Sound Deletion.
Make New Words with Addition: Say a word to the child. The child will repeat the word. Next, ask the child to say the word with an additional sound (e.g., Now say the word lip with /s/ at the beginning. What is the new word? Slip.)
What Needs to Change?: Ask the child what sound needs to be replaced to change one word to another (e.g., What sound needs to change to make the word "cat" into "hat"?). Practice changing sounds in the beginning, middle, and end of words. Watch Changing Sounds.
Practice Activities (with Printables)
If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.
Each of these printable activities reflect the activities above.
Say and Slide: Engage in this activity by saying a word, segmenting (taking apart) each individual sound in the word, and then counting how many sounds are in the word. Say and Slide
Sound Counting Sort: Count the number of sounds in a word and then sort the words based on the number of sounds. Sound Counting Sort
Picture Slide: Practice blending sounds while sliding cards together to make pictures. The child will name the picture, segment the word into sounds, and repeat the word (e.g., “Frog, /f/ /r/ /o/ /g/”. Frog.). Picture Slide
Phoneme Swap: Compare two pictures and decide which phoneme sound has been changed. Phoneme Swap
Word Change: Delete the second sound in a blend to make a new word. Word Change
Use the Letter Tile Free Play Board and the word lists below for the online activities:
Letter Tile Segmenting and Counting: Practice segmenting by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board.
Letter Tile Blending Sounds: Practice blending by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board.
Letter Tile Deleting Sounds: Practice phoneme manipulations by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board.
Letter Tile Substituting Sounds: Practice phoneme manipulations by using the free online Letter Tile Free Play Board.
Reading Buddies PBS TV Series
The Reading League’s Reading Buddies is an engaging foundational reading television series that cleverly teaches underlying components of skillful word reading such as phonological awareness, letter names/sounds, and blending sounds to decode words.