Get ready, my friend, because today we are diving into one of my FAVOURITE topics: What is Phonological Awareness? And why, the heck, is it one of Sarah’s favourite topics?
Phonological awareness, in a nutshell, is the understanding of how sounds are put together and can be manipulated and changed in oral language. It includes seven areas:
- Word Awareness
- Syllable Awareness
- Sound Identification
- Sound Segmentation
- Sound Blending
- Deleting Sounds
And why is it one of my favourite topics? Direct teaching of these phonological awareness skills through play in the preschool and kindergarten years can eliminate reading struggles down the road!
In fact, phonological awareness is the strongest predictor of early reading success. How amazing is that? Right now, by playing with these seven areas of phonological awareness, we can set our little ones up for complete reading success.
Before we get into each of the seven skills, you’ll want to grab these Rhyming Cards—perfect for practicing the first phonological awareness skill through play! You can get your FREE Rhyming Cards right here:
I wanted to share with you a video I made that tells you all about what phonological awareness is, and also shares with you a fun way to practice each of the seven areas of phonological awareness through play. But just before that video…
I would love to offer you step-by-step support as you begin this amazingly important journey with your little one!
In my learn-to-read program, How Wee Read, we cover everything you need to teach your child to read, starting at the beginning with Phonological Awareness. By starting at the very beginning, I was able to ensure that any child will have success when being taught to read for the first time, and any struggling reader could go back to the beginning and relearn each step to catch whatever skill is lacking.
How Wee Read covers it all. From rhyming to reading in 60 sequential, simple, and beautiful lessons:
- Step One: Phonological Awareness (7 lessons)
- Step Two: Letters, Sounds, and Blending (12 lessons)
- Step Three: Special Rules (5 lessons)
- Step Four: Familiar Readers (36 lessons)
The 7 Phonological Awareness Skills
Alright, let’s get to those phonological awareness skills, what they are, and how to teach them! Here is the video I created for you sharing all of my years of training and learning about phonological awareness boiled down to 10 minutes:
And just in case that video doesn’t work for you (it can be a bit fussy when I upload it in this way), here is the same video but shared from my YouTube channel:
If you are a reader more than a video watcher, here are the details from that video:
There are skills that are MORE important for preschoolers to develop than letters to support future reading. Those skills are phonological awareness skills.
Rhyming is the skill of saying a word and choosing a second word with the same ending. There are three levels to this skill. First, children will begin by being able to recognize rhymes: does cat rhyme with bat? After this, they will be able to differentiate if a word does not rhyme: does cat rhyme with tree? And finally, they will be able to produce a rhyme themselves: cat rhymes with hat.
Activity: Ramp It Up
A fun way to practice this activity is to set up a ramp out of cardboard and put two objects at the bottom. Maybe a hat and a cup. Call out a word that rhymes with hat and have your child zoom a car down the ramp trying to hit the hat. Then, call out a word that rhymes with cup and have your child zoom a car down the ramp trying to hit the cup!
#2 Word Awareness
Word awareness is understanding where a word begins and ends. This can be trickier than you might realize. Consider this: be is a word all on its own, as is the word begin, but be true is two words. Tricky!
Activity: Build a Word Tower
A fun way to practice this skill is to have your little one stack blocks while singing a familiar song, stacking one block with each word in the song.
#3 Syllable Awareness
Syllable awareness is the ability to discern how many sounds are in a single word. There are many ways to play with this skill, like clapping steadily as a word is said slowly. This skill should only be practiced after word awareness has been learned (not simultaneously) in order to avoid confusion.
Activity: Hand Under the Chin
A fun way to practice this skill is by popping a hand under your chin and saying a word very slowly. However many times your chin goes down is how many syllables are in the word. Empty out the junk drawer, pop some sticky notes on the table with the numbers one to four written on them and let your little one sort by syllable!
#4 Sound Identification
Identifying the sounds in a word is an important skill for future reading and writing. Sound identification starts with identifying the first sound in a word, then the last sound, and finally, the middle sound, which is the most difficult.
Activity: Walk and Gather
A fun way to practice this skill is to have your child walk around collecting all the things he can find that start with the sound /s/.
#5 Sound Segmenting
Sound segmenting is about pulling words apart. Saying a word s—l—o—w—l—y allows us to better hear each of the individual sounds that make up a word.
Activity: Button Flick
A great way to practice this phonological awareness skill is by doing a button flick! Give your child a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant, like cat or dog) and three buttons. Have him flick one button for each sound in the word. /c/ flick! /a/ flick! / t/ flick!
#6 Sound Blending
Sound blending is the flip side of sound segmenting. It involves pushing sounds in a word together and blending sounds to hear (or read) full words.
Activity: Walk to Run
A fun way to practice this phonological awareness skill is with a game called Walk to Run. Start by saying a word very slowly, all stretched apart. As you walk faster, say the word faster, blending it together.
#7 Deleting Sounds
Deleting sounds involves removing the first or last sound in a word. For example, saying the word cat, then saying the word again but deleting the first sound, which would result in at.
Activity: Make Up a Silly Song
A fun way to practice this skill is with silly songs! We like to sing this one: “There was a silly cat, he lost his /c/ and became a crazy… ___ (child fills in at)!”
I hope these phonological awareness skill descriptions and activities help you to figure out exactly what phonological awareness skills are and help you to see how you can teach them—and why you should!
Teaching our little ones to read can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! In How Wee Read, I walk you through everything, step-by-step, in 60 simple activities.
For absolutely everything you need to teach your child to read—from rhyming to reading—take a peek at How Wee Read right here:
Thank you so much for reading, sweet friend!