Phonological awareness is a critical component for future reading success. A child needs phonological awareness to blend, decode and read words. Although many children’s brains are “wired” to learn phonological awareness easily, a lot of children need direct teaching with a lot of practice. On today’s post, I am going to give you specific strategies that you can use with your child for teaching phonological awareness.

“What is Phonological Awareness?”

Phonological awareness in a child means that they 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.

Research has proven that Phonological awareness is highly related to later success in reading and spelling.  

Rhyming in Phonological Awareness

Rhyming is the first step in teaching 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, they are focused on the ending ig.  

In many Orton-Gillingham or Structured Literacy reading programs, students are asked to identify and practice rhyming 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 3 words – mop, plop, flop, tag.  Which of these does not rhyme?”

“Can you finish my sentence for me. The cat sat on the _______.”  

You can begin introducing rhymes by reading rhyming stories with your child. Draw attention to the sounds of the rhyme by saying, “I hear rhyming words, dog and bog rhyme! As you read these rhyming books aloud, you will want to really exaggerate the sound of the rhyming words.  

You can also ask your child to predict the next word in the rhyming story, “One berry, two berry, pick me a ______ (child shouts out… blueberry)!   


You can find rhyming books at your public library. A few of my favorites are:

Moose on the Loose by C.P. Ochs

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? By Nancy White Carlstrom

Syllable Division in Phonological Awareness

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

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

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  

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

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


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


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  


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 in Phonological Awareness

The last step to teaching phonological awareness is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness means that your child 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.  

You can ask your child to manipulate the sounds in words:

“Say hop. How many sounds do you hear in the word hop?”

“What is the first sound you hear in hop?”

“What is the second sound that you hear in hop?”

“What is the last sound you hear in the word hop?”

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 stomp their fists.

I like to use sound tokens. The child listens to a word and then moves the sound token into a box for each sound in the word. 

In Summary


  • Phonological awareness includes rhyming, breaking up words into syllables, and sound segmentation
  • Children need explicit instruction in phonological awareness
  • Phonological awareness is a skill all children must learn before they can learn to read. 

If you are interested in an Orton-Gillingham reading curriculum that is HEAVILY scripted out, requires no training, and is perfect for teachers, tutors, homeschool parents and speech therapists, please check out:

The PRIDE Reading Program 

Thank you so much for reading my post today!

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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