What is Phonological Awareness?
Phonological awareness is the ability to detect rhyme and alliteration; to segment words into smaller units, such as syllables, to put together separated sounds into words; and to understand that words are made up of sounds that can be represented by written symbols or letters.
Why is Phonological Awareness Important?
Countless research studies over decades have shown that strong phonological awareness skills lead to strong reading skills.
How are Phonological Awareness Skills Acquired?
What follows is the normal acquisition of phonological awareness skills. It is important to master each skill to be successful in reading:
- Segmenting words into syllables
- Identifying words with the same beginning sound (alliteration)
- Identifying words with the same final sound
- Counting sounds in words and segmenting words into consonant-vowel (CV), vowel-consonant (VC), and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words into phonemes
- Phonemes are the distinctive sounds of a language
- Segmenting CCVC, CVCC, and CCVCC words into phonemes
- Manipulating sounds in words, like say “fun” without the /f/, take the /t/ from the beginning of “ten” and put it at the end
What Can We Do to Develop Phonological Awareness Skills?
The wonderful thing about developing phonological awareness skills is that there is so much you can do with very few materials. Below are some activities for each skill listed above.
- Read books with rhymes and encourage children to play with the rhymes they hear, substitute other words that rhyme, or make up nonsense words that rhyme
- Segmenting words into syllables
- Rhythmic activities are great for this – kids can form a band and “play” the number of syllables in each word or dance the number of syllables in each word by performing a different movement for each syllable
- You can take recurring words from the books you read when focusing on rhyming to get more mileage out of the same books and keep it familiar for the kids
- Identifying words with the same beginning sound (alliteration) and identifying words with the same final sound
- Kids can make a book with drawings or cut out pictures of words that have the same first or final sounds
- Letters can be associated with the sounds by writing the letter for the sound the words share on each page of the book
- Sing this song to the tune of Old MacDonald, you can use it for beginning or final sounds:
What is the sound that starts these words:
Toad, train, top (wait for a response)
“T” is the sound that starts these words:
Toad, train, top
With a “t” “t” here . . .
- Counting sounds in words
- Try singing this song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:
Listen, listen to my word
And count all the sounds you heard. (spoken): top
“T” is one sound
“Ah” makes two sounds
“P” makes three sounds
Top has three sounds, it’s true
What a good listener that makes you!
- Segmenting words into phonemes
- Use coins to represent sounds and give the child a picture of a CV, VC, CVC, etc. word with a box under each word for each sound in the word (e.g., a CV word would have two boxes)
- Say the word, prolonging the first sound while modeling moving one coin into the first box
- Do the same for the rest of the sounds/boxes
- Manipulating sounds in words
- Play the Name Game!
Anna, Anna, bo-bana, banana-fana fo fana, fee fi fo mana, Anna!
*The information for this handout was adapted from Language Disorders from Infancy Through Adolescence, 3rd Edition, by Rhea Paul, a book I have referred to on a regular basis since completing graduate school in 2008.