Phonological Awareness for Kindergarten

What is Phonological Awareness?

Child listening to headphones.

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.

Learn more about phonological awareness.

In kindergarten, phonological awareness focuses on rhyming words (words that sound the same at the end), alliteration (repeated beginning sounds), segmenting sentences (telling how many words in a sentence), syllables (chunking parts of words), and manipulating phonemes (adding, deleting, or substituting sounds in words). All these skills are practiced orally, without any written letters.

What Does it Look Like?

What is Phonological Awareness?

Practice Activities

Nursery Rhymes: Sing a nursery rhyme each week with the child. Talk about words that rhyme, describing them as words that sound the same at the end. As the child becomes more familiar with the rhyme, have them complete phrases by saying the rhyming word. Nursery Rhymes

Odd Word Out with Rhyming: Let the child know that they will be listening for the “odd word out” in groups of words that rhyme (e.g. man, can, book). Remember, rhyming words sound the same at the end.

Rhyming Riddles: Create simple riddles or poems and go over them with the child. Next, let the child fill in the rhyming word after you start the riddles or poem (e.g. “The black cat is very ____ (fat)” or “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a big ____ (fall)”. ) Remember, rhyming words sound the same at the end.

Odd Word Out with Alliteration: Let the child know that they will be listening for the “odd word out” in groups of words that have the same beginning sound (e.g. man, tree, monkey). Remember, words with the same beginning sound are examples of alliteration.

Particular Puppet: Find or make a puppet out of a paper bag or a sock. Talk about how the puppet is picky and only likes foods that start with a particular letter (e.g., He will only eat foods that start with the letter S., He will play with toys that begin with the letter T.). Have the child look around the house, store, or outside for items that Particular Puppet would like. Ask the child to tell you or point out what things Particular Puppet would like.

How many words do you hear?: Say a short sentence. Repeat the sentence with the child. Jump/clap/tap for each word while saying the sentence again. Say how many words are in the sentence. Repeat several times.

Syllable Hopscotch: Use chalk or tape to create boxes on the floor and say a word. Give the child a word. Have the child skip, step, or hop into a box for each syllable they hear in the word. Some words are harder to segment than others. Check the number of syllablesPrintable Cards (optional)

Sound Play Practice: adding, taking away, or substituting individual sounds to form new words. (Adding—“Say pot. Now add a /s/ to the beginning of pot. We made the word spot by adding /s/ to pot!” Deleting—“Say cat. Now say cat without saying /c/. Yes, we made at by taking the /c/ away from cat.”).  Watch Sound Play Practice.

mClass Home Connect: More phonological awareness activities can be found on mClass Home Connect.

Practice Activities (with Printables)

If you don't have a printer, your child's school will print these for you.

Nursery Rhymes:  Recite nursery rhymes.  Pause to talk about rhyming words and how they sound the same at the end.  Nursery Rhyme Sheet

Rhyming Cards:  Use printable rhyming cards for many activities.  Rhyming Cards and Activities

Syllable Cards:  Use printable picture cards to sort according to the number of syllables in words.  Syllable Cards

Sound Board Games:  Create your own beginning sound board game. Change the objects or pictures on the game board to focus on specific letter sounds.  Game Template

Rime House: Match picture cards according to rime, the string of letters following the first sound in a word.  Rime House

Play to Read:  Use a subset of the NC Office of Early Learning Play to Read with a Caregiver resource to focus on phonological awareness.  Print 4 slides per page for cards on the go!  Play to Read: Phonological Awareness 

Online Activities

Word Force:  This interactive game engages children with fun, multi-level literacy development activities.

Alphabats Rhyming: This interactive game gives children practice matching words that rhyme.

Alphabats Syllables: This interactive game gives children practice identifying the number of syllables in word.

Alphabats Alliteration: This interactive game gives children practice recognizing words that begin with the same sound.

Syllables: This video demonstrates how to clap syllables for a word.

Make a Rhyme, Make a Move: This video gives gives children practice with rhyming words.  

Reading Buddies PBS TV Series

PBS Reading Buddies

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.