Phonological awareness involves being able to hear and recognize the different sounds within words. It is the foundation of reading. Without this crucial skill, a child cannot learn to read. Children that have strong phonological awareness are able to do things like rhyming, breaking up syllables, and blending sounds to form words. Children need to recognize the sounds, rhythm, and rhyme involving spoken words before they can begin to read.
You hear it and you speak it.
There is no print involved in phonological awareness. Phonological awareness happens before children are introduced to letters of the alphabet. There are three main areas of phonological awareness.
- Phonemic Awareness
Research shows us that phonological awareness is highly related to later success in reading and spelling and children therefore need to master these 3 skills before learning to read.
Rhyming in Phonological Awareness
Rhyming is the first step in developing phonological awareness. Why is rhyming 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 child knows that jig and pig rhyme, then they are focused on the ending ig but also that the j and p are different sounds.
Because rhyming skills are significant predictors of children’s later success in learning to read, every effort should be made to give young children the opportunity to develop these rhyming skills. (Majsterek, Shorr, & Erion, 2000; Mitchell & Fox, 2001). Here are some strategies and activities on how to practice rhyming with your children so that they will have the opportunity to develop strong phonological awareness skills.
Identify and Practice Rhymes
You can begin teaching rhyming by asking your child to identify and practice rhymes by manipulating, adding, deleting, or substituting sounds in words. Some examples of doing this are:
“Tell me all the words you know that rhyme with the word “hat.”
“Close your eyes. I am going to say 2 words. If they rhyme, raise your hand. If they don’t shake your head.”
“Say the word hat. Good. Say the word hat again, but change the /h/ to /b/.” (bat)
“Listen to these words – mop, plop, flop, tag. Which of these does not rhyme?”
“Can you finish my sentence for me. The cat sat on the _______.”
Rhyme with Letter Tiles
Use Letter Tiles to build rhyming words from the same family by placing the letter tiles for the ending sound in a row and stacking beginning letter tiles to make different words.
Rhyme with Beanbags
You will say a word (e.g., hat). You will then pass a beanbag (or anything else that is soft) to the child. The child will think of a word that rhymes with hat, say the word hat aloud and then pass the beanbag back to you.
The game continues with the beanbag being passed back and forth until you and the child can not think of any more rhyming words.
At that point, whoever is holding the beanbag begins the game with a new word.
Read Stories and Poems Aloud
You can practice rhyming with your child by reading stories and poems that use a lot of rhymes aloud together.
As you read, begin drawing attention to the sounds of the rhyme. For example you can say, “I hear rhyming words… dog and bog rhyme!”
You can also ask your child to predict the next word in the rhyming story (they love doing that). “The hog sat on the _______.”
As you read these rhyming books aloud, you will want to really exaggerate the sound of the rhyming words.
You can also have your child create their own Rhyme Book! Create the book with five blank pages. Have your child draw pictures of objects that rhyme or cut out rhyming pictures. Then bind the pages into a personal rhyming book.
Another option instead of making a book…you can make a collage with pictures of objects that rhyme with one another.
Dividing Syllables in Phonological Awareness
Breaking up words into syllables or chunks is the second step in developing phonological awareness. Why is syllable division important?
Syllabication helps children learn to read and spell difficult words. When a child is stuck on a difficult word, they can use syllabication rules to figure it out.
One activity that helps a child pull apart the syllables in a word is to count them. This can be done by clapping each syllable. You can start by counting (actually clapping) the number of syllables in your child’s own name. Ja-son (clap, clap). Jon-a-than. (clap, clap, clap). You can also clap out the days of the week Tues-day, the months of the year, Sep-tem-ber and fun words like cu-cum-ber or Cin-der-el-la.
If your child is having trouble understanding syllables, try using “chin dropping.” This technique will help your child really “feel” the syllables. Place your hand under your chin. Now, say a multisyllabic word aloud. Every time your chin drops, that is one syllable!
On this video, our favorite teacher, Miss Renee will show you how to practice syllables with these fun activities:
Phonemic Awareness and Phonological Awareness
The last step in developing phonological awareness is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness means that your child is able to hear and separate the individual sounds in spoken words. For example:
The word bat has 3 sounds – /b/, /a/, /t/.
The word ship also has 3 sounds – /sh/, /i/, /p/.
The word last has 4 sounds – /l/, /a/, /s/, /t/.
Compare and Match Sounds in Different Words
You can begin building phonemic awareness by asking your child to match the very first sounds in words and then the final sounds.
It is helpful to have a set of cards with pictures of everyday objects (man, boy, girl, cat, dog, house, book, etc.). You can also cut out pictures from magazines and use those.
Begin by asking your child to identify the first sound in a word such as man. Show your child the picture and say, “say man. Good. What is the first sound you hear in the word man. Yes, you hear the mmmm sound.”
Then lay out five or six pictures and ask your child to say the names of each of the pictures and then to group together all the objects that begin with the mmmm sound.
You can also lay down 3 pictures and ask your child to name each picture. Then ask, “Can you show me which one of these pictures begins with the mmmm sound?”
You can also go outside on a nature walk and look for as many things as possible that have the mmmm sound.
Once your child is successful at matching beginning sounds, work on ending sounds the same way. “Say the word bat. What is the last sound you hear in the word bat?”
Pulling the Words Apart
Your next step in building phonemic awareness is to help your child pull individual words apart.
You can ask your child to clap for the number of sounds he or she hears in a word. For example, “say the word pat. Clap for each sound you hear in the word pat.”
Your child can also tap on the desk for each sound or use sound tokens. The child listens to a word and then moves the sound token into a box for each sound in the word.
You will want to go slowly with this activity and have your child pull apart relatively simple two and three sound words such as go, cat or mop.
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