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Tips, Strategies and Activities to Help Develop Phonological Awareness in Young Learners

Phonological awareness involves being able to hear and recognize the different sounds within words.  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 way before children are introduced to letters of the alphabet.  Research shows us that phonological awareness is highly related to later success in reading and spelling.  


Rhyming in Phonological Awareness

Rhyming is the first step in developing phonological awareness. Why is rhyming 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 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.

Here are some ways to practice rhyming with your child

  • Identify and Practice Rhymes
  • Read rhyming books and poems together
  • Sing rhyming songs together
  • Play rhyming games


For specific rhyming games, books, songs and how to identify and practice rhymes, feel free to dig in deeper by reading my previous post:

>>>How to Teach Rhyming<<<

Dividing Syllables in Phonological Awareness

Breaking up words into syllables or chunks is the second step of 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! 

Some other ideas for working on syllable division include:

  • Stamping feet
  • Tapping the table
  • Beating musical instruments
  • Tapping sticks together

Phonemic Awareness in Phonological Awareness

The last step in building 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/


You can help your child with phonemic awareness by doing some of the following activities:

  • Adding and changing the sounds in words (what is the first sound you hear in hop, what is the second sound, what is the last sound?  Can you change the p to t? hot)
  • Tapping, clapping or stomping fists for each sound in a word
  • Pulling words apart with sound tokens

For specific activities and tips on how to compare and match sounds and pull words apart with sound tokens, you can read my post:

Tips on Teaching Sound Segmentation in Phonics

I Have a Resource for You!


Thank you for reading my post today.  You might also enjoy reading my posts:

How to Teach Letters and Sounds Correctly

How to Teach Beginning Blending in Reading


Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program.  The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

The PRIDE Reading Program 

evidence based reading instruction dyslexia

Do you have any questions about Phonological Awareness?  Please feel free to post in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at or visit the website at

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