Phonemic Awareness: An Important Early Step in Learning To Read
by Karla B. Moody
Title I Reading Teacher
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate words and sounds. This skill is necessary for students learning to read and is a strong predictor of children who experience early reading success. If a child cannot hear that "man" and "moon" begin with the same sound or cannot blend the sounds /rrrrrruuuuuunnnnn/ into the word "run", he or she may have great difficulty blending sounds to make a word.
What should I expect my child to be able to do?
By the end of Kindergarten, your child should be able to hear and tell whether words or sounds are the same or different, identify words that rhyme, produce words that rhyme, orally blend syllables into words, count words in a sentence, clap or count syllables in a word, identify the first sound in a word, and segment individual sounds in words.
Why is Phonemic Awareness important to my child?
- It requires your child to notice how letters represent sounds. It prepares your child for print.
- It gives your child a way to approach sounding out and reading new words.
- It helps your child understand the alphabetic principle (that the letters in words are represented by sounds).
Why is Phonemic Awareness difficult for some children?
- Although there are 26 letters in the English language, there are approximately 40 phonemes, or sound units.
- Sounds are represented in 250 different spellings (e.g., /f/ as in ph, f, gh, ff).
- The sound units (phonemes) are not obvious and must be taught to your child. The sounds that make up words are not distinctly separate from each other.
How can I help my child?
Here are some great activities that you can do at home to help your child with phonemic awareness:
- Have your child listen to nursery rhymes. Ask them to tell you which words rhyme.
- Play word games with your child. For example, play with the beginning sounds of words. “Kangaroo starts like Kaitlyn what else starts like Kangaroo and Kaitlyn?”
- Read aloud to your child regularly, using both familiar favorites and new books.
- Have children participate in story time at your local library.
- Have your child clap for each syllable you say. For example, the word butter would have a clap for /but/ and /ter/, for a total of 2 claps.
- Give your child a pencil and have them tap out each syllable in the words you say.
- Sing the song “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and ask your child to tell what sounds they hear at the beginning, middle, and end of words.
- Using a rubber band, stretch the rubber band as you say a word slowly, emphasizing the sounds you hear. Then allow the child to “stretch” the word using the rubber band. For example, the word Katie would be stretched out; KKKK-aaaa-tttt-eeee.
- Play the game “I’m Thinking of Something.” Have your child guess what you are thinking about by giving them the beginning sound. For example, tell your child you're thinking of something. Tell them you will give them a hint, the thing begins with the /m/ sound. Then the child must guess what you are thinking about. You can also do this activity with rhyming words. Tell your child you are thinking of a word that rhymes with “bat.” Then they must guess what the word is.
Phonemic Awareness Websites and Resources:
Free Printable Books:
E-Books and Activities:
- Nursery Rhymes
- Dr. Seuss Books
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle stories
- The Hat and other Jan Brett stories
- Parts and other Ted Arnold stories
- Chrysanthemum and other Kevin Henke stories
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and other Judith Viorst stories