“What is Phonological Awareness?”

Phonological awareness means that a student can recognize the sounds, rhythm, and rhyme involving spoken words. You hear it and you speak it. There is no print involved in phonological awareness. Phonological awareness happens way before children are introduced to letters of the alphabet.

Phonological awareness is highly related to later success in reading and spelling.  


Rhyming is the first step in teaching phonological awareness. Why is this so important? It is important because rhyming draws attention to the different sounds in our language and that words actually come apart.  

For example, if your student knows that jig and pig rhyme, they are focused on the ending ig.  

Syllable Division

Breaking up words into syllables or chunks is the second step of teaching phonological awareness. Syllabication helps students learn to read and spell difficult words. When a student is stuck on a difficult word, they can use syllabication rules to figure it out.

In many Orton-Gillingham or Structured Literacy reading programs, there are 6 different syllable types that the students learn. These are:

1. Closed Syllables

These syllables end in a consonant. The vowel has a short vowel sound, like in the word fan. Some examples of closed first syllables are: ad-mit, un-fit, thun-der, cab-in, hab-it, lap-top.  

2. Open Syllables

These syllables end in a vowel. The vowel has a long sound, like in the word so. Some examples of open first syllables are: a-pron, ra-dar, ba-con, u-nit, tu-lip, pi-lot, lo-cate.  

3. Vowel-Consonant-e Syllable

These syllables are found at the end of a word. The final e is silent and makes the vowel in that syllable long, like in the word shake. Some examples of vowel-consonant-e syllables are: con-fuse, camp-fire, cup-cake, es-cape, ex-plode, flag-pole, cos-tume.

4. Vowel Team Syllable

These syllables have two vowels next to each other that make one sound together like in the word boot. Some examples of vowel team syllables are: eight-y, dis-count, teach-ing, tug-boat, dug-out, dis-count.

5. Consonant plus -le Syllable

These syllables end in -le, like in the word puddle. Some examples of consonant plus -le syllables are: cud-dle, pur-ple, crac-kle, frec-kle, snif-fle.  

6. R-Controlled Syllable

These syllables contain a vowel followed by an r. The r will change the way the vowel is pronounced, like in the word car. Some example of r-controlled syllables are: hor-net, bom-bard, far-mer, tar-nish, mor-sel, bor-der.

Phonemic Awareness

The last step to teaching phonological awareness is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness means that your student is able to focus on and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.  

These individual sounds are called phonemes. The word bat has three sounds – /b/, /a/, /t/. The word ship also has three sounds – /sh/, /i/, /p/. The awareness of the separate sounds in a word is what we refer to as phonemic awareness.  

Watch these videos to see it in Action!

Sound Deletion and Substitution 

The student is asked to repeat words and give the first, middle and last sounds of the word. She is also asked to repeat the word and change a sound in the word. By manipulating and playing with these sounds in words, the student begins to understand the concepts of our language and build a strong reading foundation.

Here is a sample lesson:

“Say rat. Say rat again but this time, instead of /t/, say /g/.” (rag)

“Say cab. Say cab again but this time, instead of /c/, say /l/.” (lab)

“Say jam. Say jam again but this time, instead of /j/, say /y/.” (yam)

Sound Providing and Rhyming

The student is asked to repeat words and find words that rhyme. Rhyming draws attention to the different sounds in our language and that words actually come apart.  

Here is a sample lesson:

Write the word pat on the whiteboard. “What is this word?”

“What letter says /p/?”

“What letter says /ă/?”

“What letter says /t/?”

“What two letters say /ăt/?”

“What does the letter p say?”

‘What does the letter a say?”

‘What does the letter t say’?”

“What do the letters at say?”

“Say pat. Say pat again, but change the /p/ to /c/.” (cat)