Phonemic Awareness for PreK, K, & 1

PhonemicAwarenessSteps_1200lowerWhat is Phonemic Awareness?

  • Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds, called phonemes, in spoken words.  Phonemic awareness activities can be done with eyes shut.
  • Phonemic awareness is not phonics, rather, phonological awareness forms the basis of phonics.  Phonics is the understanding that sounds and print letters are connected; this is the first step towards “reading.”
  • Before children learn to read, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, called phonemes.
  • Phonemes are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that makes a difference in a word's meaning.  Listen to the word ball.  It has 3 sounds /b/ /aw/ /l/.  If we switch (or manipulate) /b/ for /w/ we have a whole new word wall.  Change /aw/ to /e/ and we have another new word well.
  • Phonological Awareness, however, encompasses a number of sound related skills necessary for a person to grow as a reader. As a child develops phonological awareness he not only comes to understand that words are made up of small sound units (phonemes), he also learns that words can be segmented into larger sound “chunks” known as syllables and each syllable begins with a sound (onset) and ends with another sound ~ Rimes.
  • When measuring a child’s phonological awareness we look at his ability to apply several different skills. A child with strong phonological awareness should be able to recognize and use rhyme, break words into syllables, blend phonemes into syllables and words, identify the beginning and ending sounds in a syllable and see smaller words within larger words (ie. cat in catalog).
  • Phonemic awareness is just one aspect of phonological awareness.
  • While phonological awareness encompasses a child’s ability to recognize the many ways sounds function in words, phonemic awareness is only the understanding of the tiniest sound units in words.
  • Because phonemic awareness is a subskill under the phonological awareness “umbrella,” not all of the measures for determining a reader’s skill level are applied when assessing phonemic awareness. A reader with strong phonemic awareness will demonstrate the ability to hear rhyme and alliteration (the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of several different words used in a sentence or paragraph, such as sweet smell of success), find the different sound in a set of words (ie. bat, ball, wet) and blend and segment phonemes.

Why is Phonemic Awareness Is Important?

Phonemic awareness improves a child's word reading, comprehension, and ability to spell.

Phonemic Awareness, Blooms Site has other resources, autism intervention, phonics, math, RTI, Worksheets, spuzzles



Play These With Your Child!

Listening Games:  To sharpen the child’s ability to attend selectively to sounds.  Think of:  environmental sounds, storytelling and sharing activities, read alouds, following oral directions, sequencing of events, and being a listening detective ~ detecting the mistake heard.        

  • With eyes closed, have the child identify the sound of clapping, a bell, a drawer opening/closing, a book slamming, crackers smashing, paper crumpling, marbles in a jar, paper ripping, a zipper going up and down, scissors cutting, etc.
  • Have the child identify a sequence of sounds.
  • Can the child locate the source of the sound?
  • Practice, from a familiar nursery rhyme, detecting what is said out of order. For example, Humpty Dumpty wall on a sat, or swap the word parts as in one, two, shuckle my boo. Also, can the child detect that the story order is incorrect, as in mixing up the order in the Three Little Pigs?  If he/she can ~ that is being a good listening detective!
  • Have the child listen to and participate in storytelling, listen to read alouds, follow oral directions, and sequence events.
  • Identify animals by the sounds they make.

Rhyming To use rhyme to introduce the child to the sounds in words.  Think of:  nursery rhymes, text variations where a rhyming word can be inserted, rimes ~ see my Rime page, poetry and finger plays. 

  • Round Robin Game:  I’m going on a trip and I’m taking a pet, net, jet, etc. Rhyming words need to be given by the child.
  • Rhyme Hunt:   I see something in this room that rhymes with rock. Continue in this manner.
  • Say two words, and the child gives thumbs up/thumbs down if the words rhyme or not.
  • Ask What rhymes with top and starts with /h/? What rhymes with rack and starts with /t/? Continue with these riddles.
  • Sing new words to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It:  Did you ever see a bear in a chair? (Replace bear and chair with different words the next time around.)  Did you ever see a bear in a chair? No, I never.  No, I never.  No, I never.  No, I never.  No, I never saw a bear in a chair.  Did you ever see a bell in a ______.. . . . “ Continue the song in this manner.
  • Read lots of Mother Goose rhymes to your child. Teach your child to use meaning and meter to notice and predict rhyming words
  • Have the child sit with friends/family in a circle with fists up as in One Potato, Two Potato. As a group, say a nursery rhyme, with fists being tapped one at a time in a circle. If the child’s fist is the rhyming word, the fist goes behind back. Continue in this manner.
  • Evoke the realization that almost any word can be rhymed. Say a word, and have the child say a rhyme for it, even if it is a nonsense word.
  • Say rhyme phrases, and have the child fill in the blank, such as A cat is wearing a ____.  A mouse lives in a _____.
  • ing rhymes for action play ~ barking/parking, ringing/singing, wishing/fishing ~ have the child give a rhyming word and act these out.

Words and Sentences To develop the child’s awareness that language is made up of strings of words.

  • Add A Sound (Synthesis) to introduce the child to synthesize words from their separate phonemes. To Add a Sound, explain that if we put a sound at the beginning of a word, we can have a new word, as in ox, add /f/, now we have fox.  At add /c/, now we had cat.  So, say a vowel with consonant and have the child add a sound.
  • Different Words, Same Final Phoneme:  Gather objects in your house, and ask the child which 2 objects end with the same sound, or even say a word such as fork, and ask the child to find something in the room that ends with the same sound.  Cake ends like fork.
  • What Is Missing?  Say 2 words and ask the child what sound was taken away, such as rice/ice ( the r sound is missing), same/aim (s sound), thick/ick (th sound), or do this in reverse ~ what sound was added?
  • Use alliteration in silly sentences, such as six silly snakes sat soaking up some sun.  Ask what sound was heard most often.  Big bears bake bread.  etc.  Jiggle, Joggle, Jee by Laura Richards and Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan are two books focusing on alliteration that preschoolers enjoy.
  • Round Robin Game:  I’m going on a trip and I’m taking a pen, pencil, peanut, parrot. . . . Continue this game using various letters.
  • Create story titles and a story for a character such as Robert the Running Rabbit.  This is a form of alliteration.
  • Do discrimination activities.  Listen for which word starts with the same sound as take. Say three words such as pencil, tub, pan.  The child should recognize tub as having the same beginning sound as take.  Which word does not belong:  mat, leg, had ~ it would be leg because of the short e sound ~ the other 2 words are alike because they both have short a. This would be more advanced.  You can play which word does/does not belong using beginning letter sounds, vowels, ending letter sound.
  • Blend onset and rimes such as g-ame is game, n-ight is night, tr-uck is truck. (The onset is beginning letter sound or blend, the rime is the vowel and string of letters that comes after.) Have the child segment the onset and rime on own. See my Rime page.
  • Sounds In Words:   You can use 4 different colored blocks for this activity ~ green, yellow, blue, orange.  Each color represents one sound, but not a particular sound.  For example, on the word rice,  the child may represent /r/ with a green block, /i/ with a yellow block, and /s/ (the actual ce in the word sounds like /s/) with a blue block.  When the green block is taken away, it becomes /i/ /s/ ~ ice, a whole new word.  It is important for your child to segment words into their phonemes.  Ask your child to change rice to mice.  Your child should swap out the green /r/ sound with a different color ~ perhaps orange, for /m/.  To change mice to mitt, the blue block is slid out, and the green block can now represent /t/.

Awareness of Syllables:  To develop the ability to analyze words into separate syllables and to develop the ability to synthesize words from a string of separate syllables. 

  • After modeling, and asking the child to listen to syllable counts, have the child clap the syllables in his/her first and last name. Have the child feel his chin move to the various syllable amounts.  Count syllables in various words.
  • Blend and Segment Syllables:  Have the child blend the 2 word parts heard sun/shine, up/stairs, ta/ble. Say a word, and have the child segment the syllables.
  • Play Syllable and Sound Deletion: Say table. Say it again but don’t say /ta/.  The answer would be ble.  Any 2 or more syllable words can be broken down in this manner.  Say computer.  Say it again but don't say er.  It would be compute.

 Phonemes:  To develop the ability to analyze words into a sequence of separate phonemes and to develop the ability to synthesize words from a sequence of separate phonemes.  


  • Blend the sounds in a word into a word as in /s/ /a/ /d/.  Talk like a robot, segmenting each sound, and have the child blend the sounds into a word.
  • Say a sentence leaving a word out that you deliberately segment, such as where did I leave my /p/ /e/ /n/?  This is a fun way for the child to blend.
  • Say a word, and have the child segment it on own. Use Elkonin boxes, which look like this:

Image result for elkonin boxes

The sounds of the word /f/ /i/ /sh/ fit nicely in the 3 squares because fish has 3 sounds.  Ask the child to point to the box where he/she hears /i/ for example.  The answer would be the middle box.

f i sh
t oo th


  • Have the child work on sound discrimination ~ does boy start with /b/ or /v/?  Say various words and give 2 sound options.
  • Have the child do manipulation activities with plain blocks, crayons, or ziti which are used to represent sounds:  Show the child 3 pieces of ziti.  Say this says map, /m/ /a/ /p/.  Now change map to mop.  The child should know to swap out the middle ziti.   Then say, now change mop to cop.  Now change cop to cot.  The child should be swapping out the correct ziti.  You can also do this orally without the ziti.  Say change the /a/ in map to /o/.  What is the word?  Mop!  Now change /m/ in mop to /c/.  What is the word?  Cop!
  • Play “Sound of the Day” by renaming common items with the same sound for example, mamper, mesk, mencil. . . .
  • Consonant Blends ~ Adding and Subtracting Initial Sounds:  The child should have plain blocks or pieces of ziti ~ any item ~ small, uniform, and plain.  Say a simple word such as lay.  The child must represent the phonemes heard by using the plain blocks or ziti.  Lay has 2 phonemes /l/ and /a/.  Now say a rhyming word play. That has 3 phonemes to be represented /p/ /l/ /a/.  Continue in this manner.
  • Building Sounds in Words:  Start with a 2 sound word such as pie, a 3 sound word from that is spy, a 4 sound word from that is spice.  Here are some 2 sound words. . . .good luck  :)  :  my, an, at, in, ice, ate.
  • Guess A Word:  Have the child find a secret object in the room.  You guess what the object is while he says it phoneme by phoneme such as /ch/…./ai/…./r/.

Introducing Letters and Spellings To introduce the relation of letters and speech sounds. 

  • Ask riddles such as What ends with /d/ and is a color?
  • Guess What ~ Introducing Sounds and Letters:  I'm think of something in this room that starts with /sh/.  Say the SOUND, not the letter name(s).
  • Initial Sounds and Letters:  Use pictures from a book, objects in a room, or just say words from your head.  Say 2 words and ask the child if they begin with the same sound.  Does dog and deer begin with the same soundWhat about milk and nest?
  • Final Sounds and Letters:  Say 2 words such as dress and glass.  Ask the child if the words end with the same sound.  What about box and hill?  Continue playing in this manner.
  • Word Search Initial or Final Consonants:  Ask the child to find something in the room that starts with. . . and say any letter of the alphabet ~ NOT the sound, but the actual letter.  The child must determine the sound of the letter to find the object.  Play the same game with ends with. . . again say the letter name, not the sound.  
  • Introduction to How Words Are Spelled By Adding A Letter:  Start with writing down 2 letters such as at, ad, or even sa or ma.  Add a 3rd letter for the child to decode such as mat, sat, pat in the at example or in the sa example sat, sad, sag.


Please watch my presentation:  PhonemicAwareness (2)





Adams, Marilyn Jager.  Phonemic Awareness in Young Children.  Brookes Publishing:  Baltimore, 1998.

Araujo, Judith E., M.Ed., CAGS. "Phonemic Awareness for PreK, K, and 1." Mrs. Judy Araujo, Reading Specialist. N.p., 5 Sept. 2012. Web. <>.

Graphics are from Google Images.  Right click on them.


I am happy to share my pages, but please cite me as you would expect your students to cite their sources.  Copyscape alerts me to duplicate content.  Please respect my work.


Comments are closed.