Phonological and Phonemic Awareness:
Phonological Awareness is a broad oral language skill that includes rhyming, syllabication, and recognizing initial (beginning) sounds in words. Here are 8 ways to build phonological awareness in Pre-K and Kindergarten:
- Listen up: Good phonological awareness starts with kids picking up on sounds, syllables and rhymes in the words they hear. Read aloud to your child frequently. Choose books that rhyme or repeat the same sound. Draw your child’s attention to rhymes: “Fox, socks, box! Those words all rhyme. Do you hear how they almost sound the same?” It also helps to point out repeated sounds. For example, if you’re reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, ask your child to listen to the /fffff/ sound in fish. (Really stretch the sounds out at first.) Outside of story time, try pointing out other words that start with the /fffff/ sound, just like in the book.
- Focus on rhyming: Ask your child to pick out the rhyming words in books by himself. Ask, “Did you hear a word that rhymes with fox?” Teach your child nursery rhymes and practice saying them together. Or say four short words, like log, cat, hog, frog. See if your child can pick out the word that doesn’t rhyme.
- Follow the beat: Teach your child about syllables by clapping the “beats” he hears in words. Let’s say you choose the word elephant. Pause as you say each syllable—e-le-phant—and clap out each syllable together. You can also get your child up and moving by having him stomp or jump with each syllable.
- Get into guesswork: Guessing games such as “I spy” can be used to work on almost any phonological skill. Want to practice noticing what sounds word begin with? Try “I spy something red that starts with /s/.” Want to work on rhymes? “I’m wearing something warm that rhymes with boat.”
- Carry a tune: Singing in general is a great way to get kids rhyming. There are also good songs teachers use to focus on other kinds of phonological and phonemic awareness skills. “Apples and Bananas” is a fun one. You can search online for more songs about phonemic awareness or ask your child’s teacher for recommendations.
- Connect the sounds: Sound blending is an important skill for early readers. They need to put sound units—phonemes—together to be able to read a word smoothly. You can help your child start working on this by putting together the sounds he hears. Ask him to connect the beginning sound with the rest of a word. For example, tell him, “Start with /p/ and add /ig/. What do word do you hear if you put them together?”
- Break apart words: Have your child work on hearing a word and taking it apart. Start by using compound words such as cowboy, baseball or firefly. Tell him, “Say the word cowboy. Now take away boy. What word is left?” You can also use Lego bricks to make this point. Give your child two attached Lego bricks to represent parts of the word. Then have him physically take the Lego pieces apart as he removes part of the word.
- Get creative with crafts: Kids respond to hands-on learning. Try making a collage of items that start with the same sound using pictures from magazines. Sock puppets can be another fun way to work on these skills. Make one that likes to munch on words that start with a certain sound. Let your child have fun “feeding” his puppet different objects or pictures that start with that sound.
Here are a few games you can play at home:
On-the-Go Rhyming Game
Goal: To show your child that rhyming words end in the same middle and ending sounds
Materials Needed: Your child, Your imagination!
- As you are riding in your car or walking through your neighborhood, invite your child to play a rhyming game with you.
- Tell your child you are going to name something you see, and then say another word. S/he is to listen to the sounds and tell you if the two words rhyme.
- Example: Say, “tree, see.” Ask your child, “Do these words rhyme?”
- Then say, “tree, cap.” Ask your child, “Do these words rhyme?”
- Say, “I see a house.”
- Then say, “house, horse” (you can choose any two words that don’t rhyme, but do sound similar) and “house, mouse” (use any two rhyming words).
- Then ask your child which word rhymes with house? horse or mouse?
Goal: To help your child identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds in words
Materials Needed: Time with your child
- Invite your child to play “Sound Spy” with you. S/he will be a “spy” who has to find matching sounds at the beginning of words.
- Now, think of two words that begin with the same sounds and one word that begins with a different sound. Example: mat, sit, mop
- Say the words and have the child say them with you.
- Then say, “I hear two words that begin with the same sound. Can you ‘Sound spy?’” (Your child may need a lot of help at first.)
- Try the same game, but this time match middle or ending sounds. This is harder, but with practice, your child should be able to “Sound Spy” in no time!
Say and Clap
Goal: To help your child learn to notice the number of syllables in a word
Materials Needed: Time with your child
- Say a word.
- Have your child clap once for each syllable in the word.
- Turn this activity into a family game throughout the day with different household items.
Phonemic Awareness focuses on identifying individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. For example, the word cat has 3 phonemes /c/ /a/ /t/. It is the foundation for spelling and word recognition. Below are some activities you can do at home:
- Push lights: Purchase 4 battery operated push lights originally intended for night lights. Simply push the button and the light turns on. Have the student push the button (turn on the light) for each sound in a word. These lights can be purchased in most large department stores.
- Balls: Give your child a small ball and have him/her toss the ball up in the air for each sound in the word.
- Turtle Talk
- Bingo Vowel Sound
- Short Vowel Sounds