Phonemic Awareness for PreK, K, and 1



What is Phonemic Awareness?

      • 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.”
      • Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds, called phonemes, in spoken words.
      • 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.  Look at 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 (rime).
      • 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 sub-skill under the phonological awareness “umbrella” not all of the measures for determining a reader’s skill level are applied when assessing it. 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 students’ word reading and comprehension, and it helps students learn 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 a draw opening, a book slamming, crackers smashing, 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 that it 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 listening detective!
  • Have the child listen to and participate in storytelling, listening to read alouds, following oral directions, and sequencing events.

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 at , 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Teach the 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/, “at” add /c/.  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 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.
  • What Is Missing?  Say 2 words and ask the child what sound was taken away, such as rice/ice, same/aim, thick/ick.
  • 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.
  • 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 names 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.  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 not belong using beginning letter sounds, vowels, ending letter sound.
  • Blend onset and rimes such as g/ame, n/ight, tr/uck. (The onset is beginning letter sound or blend, the rime comes after.) Have the child segment the onset and rime on own. See my Rime page:

  • Sounds In Words ~ You can use 3 different colored crayons for this activity.  Each color represents one sound.  For example, on the word “rice,”  the child may represent /r/ with green, /i/ with yellow, and /s/ (the actual “ce” in the word sounds like /s/) with blue.  When the green crayon is taken away, it becomes /i/ /s/ ~ “ice” a whole new word.  It is important for the child to segment words into their phonemes.

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.
  • 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/.”  Any 2 or more syllable word 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:

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. 

    • 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:  “Replace the (first, last, middle sound) in ________ with ________.  For example, replace the 1st sound in “map” with /c/.  Now you have “cap.”  Change the /a/ to /o/ ~ what is the new word?  Change ‘cop’ to cot’.”  See if the child can move the last block, which signifies /p/, and replace the block with a different colored block, to represent /t/.  
    • 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 form 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 sound?  What 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 and find the object.  Play the same game with “ends with. . . .” and 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.
  • Sounding Words:  This prepares the child for independent decoding by adding or changing letters in any position in a word.  Write a 3 or 4 letter short vowel word such as list or not.  Change 1 letter and ask the child to read the new word such as lost  or got.    Here is an example:  on ~ change to in, change to pin, change to pit, change to it, change to at, change to bat.  So, add a letter, take a letter away, or change letters in any position.

Some ideas for this page came from:

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


Comments are closed.