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Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness

What Is Phonological Awareness?

It’s a big term, but it’s really quite basic: phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify the various sounds in spoken words.

Kids who have strong phonological awareness can do things like rhyme, count syllables, and blend sounds into words. And most important of all, kids with strong phonological awareness learn to read much more easily, making their first attempts at reading more successful. This early advantage sticks with kids as they continue through their school career.

Phonological awareness is so incredibly important that it is one of the Big Five Skills for pre-readers, and it’s one of the first things I work on with children before teaching them to read.

How Phonological Awareness Develops

Kids don’t just pop out of the womb ready to run (although with some kids it may feel that way!). Instead, babies learn to stretch their little limbs, turn over onto their bellies, crawl, and walk–and then, eventually, they are off and running.

In the same way, phonological awareness develops gradually over time. Kids start with the easiest skills–like understanding that spoken language contains words–and then move on to skills like rhyming. Eventually they develop more advanced skills like manipulating sounds and are able to play word games like “Go Find It.”

Quick Check for Phonological Awareness

Here are six skills that indicate that your child is phonologically aware.

Print awareness blue check mark

Your child is able to rhyme. If you say the word bat, your child can respond with words that rhyme like hat, sat, mat, or flat.

Print awareness green check mark

Your child understands word boundaries. If you say the sentence Don’t let the cat out, your child is able to separate the sentence into five individual words.

Print awareness yellow check mark

Your child can clap syllables. If you say dog, your child knows to clap once. If you say umbrella, your child knows to clap three times.

Print awareness blue check mark

Your child can blend sounds to make a word. If you say the sounds sh…eep, your child can respond and say the word sheep.

Print awareness green check mark

Your child can identify the beginning sound in a word. If you ask your child to say the first sound in pig, your child is able to respond with the sound /p/.

Print awareness yellow check mark

Your child can identify the ending sound in a word. If you ask your child to say the last sound in the word jam, your child is able to respond with the sound /m/.

Of course there are more advanced phonological skills, such as segmenting and sound manipulation, but the skills above are the important ones to have before beginning reading instruction.

Phonological Awareness Quick Guide Download

6 Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness!

If your child hasn’t yet acquired the skills on the checklist above, you can help her develop them through informal activities such as listening to great books and playing oral language games. Here are a few ideas for you!

Go Find It

Help your child hear the first sound in a word with our free “Go Find It” game.

This engaging phonological awareness activity is a great way to help your child learn to identify the beginning sound in a spoken word.

Rhyming Picture Books library list

Read lots of great rhyming picture books!

Head to your local library with our free Rhyming Picture Books Library List and Nursery Rhymes Library List and read a few favorites with your preschooler.

Help the monkeys count syllables in this fun game

Play “Help the Monkeys” to help your child learn how to count syllables.

And visit Fun Ways to Count Syllables to read a blog post loaded with hands-on tips for teaching children this critical reading skill.

All About Reading Pre-reading program

Discover five ways to teach rhyming to your preschooler.

In addition to finding lots of great teaching tips, you can also download three sample rhyming lessons from the All About Reading Pre-reading program.

Practice word boundaries with building blocks.

Say a sentence such as My puppy has long ears. Have your child build a tower by adding one block for each spoken word.

downloadable phonemic awareness game

Practice sound substitution with our free “Dinner Time” game.

In addition to helping kids practice sound substitution and rhyming, this fun game will provide lots of giggles for kids and parents alike!

The majority of a young child’s day should be filled with play, real-life activities, and physical exploration. Add in just a touch of daily intentional instruction in the five reading readiness areas (including phonological awareness), and your child will have a huge advantage when it comes time to read.

Phonological Awareness Is One of the Big Five Skills

Phonological awareness is one of the five critical skills for reading readiness that we call the “Big Five Skills.” The other four skills are:

If you’re ready to tackle the rest of the Big Five Skills, be sure to check out the All About Reading Pre-reading program. Your student will enjoy special games, crafts, and story time read-alouds, and you will love the way your student effortlessly learns essential pre-reading skills.

All About Reading Pre-reading

Do you have any questions about print awareness? Post in the comments below!

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Brandy

says:

Thank you for the great ideas. I wish I would of found this program sooner.

Ashley

says:

Thank you for all for the ideas. First time homeschool mom

Brandi Foreman

says:

Great resources.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Brandi!

Stephen Wenner

says:

Great resource. My children love the games on here.

Danielle Hull

says:

I love all the free games you offer now! I will definitely be telling my friends with littles!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for letting your friends about what we offer, Danielle!

Katherine

says:

Love the idea of the building blocks to work on word boundaries. My preschooler resists all attempts at teaching her, so we learn through play exclusively.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Learning through play is often the most remembered and successful learning anyway, Katherine!

Mathe Everjoice

says:

Clear and straight forward

Vanessa

says:

This was a great article. I feel like all preschool teachers and parents should be aware of the “All About Learning” way of teaching children. This is the real deal.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Aww, thank you, Vanessa! 😊

Carolsue

says:

I passed this webpage on to my daughter who just started teaching and she said it was very helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for passing along our website, Carolsue. I’m pleased to hear your daughter found it helpful!

Lynne M Gauthier

says:

What a great resource for parents especially with all the at home schooling now

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Very true, Lynne. We put together a Resources for Teaching at Home blog post that compiles many of our free resources and sample lessons from every level of our programs and organizes them by topic for easy searching.

Michelle Manson

says:

Great resource

Alexis Guijosa

says:

Is there a certain appropriate age level for any of these ? TIA🙂

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Alexis,
It really depends on the child. Most children are ready for these fun phonological awareness activities and games when they are about 4 years old. Some are ready a little younger. Older children that didn’t develop these skills when they were younger can benefit from these activities as well. Since phonological awareness is so helpful for learning to read, I like to at least review them before starting reading instruction for 5 and 6 years old.

Sundown

says:

This looks like a great system. Really like the simple but realistic imagery. Mychildren prefer this style to color in themselves.

Elisabeth

says:

Lots of great resources!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Elisabeth!

Amber Brown

says:

Great Tools

Joanna Chinen

says:

Such a great article with helpful resources!

Kelly

says:

My daughter has trouble with this, I hope she can feel good about her progress at the end, as do I.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

These skills can be difficult for many children, Kelly. Three of my children needed extra support to become strong in these skills, and activities like these were very helpful for them.

However, if you need more ideas or activities, consider our Pre-reading level. Each lesson contains a “Langauge Exploration” activity that slowly builds students’ phonological awareness abilities over the course of the level.

Liz Edwards

says:

We’re working on rhyming right now!! Love these tips!

Amy

says:

Thank you for this wonderful resource! You make it easy to understand and give several ways to practice and help develop the skills.

Brittany Chadwick

says:

This is very resourceful since my son is just learning how to talk!

Tulisha Scott

says:

Thank you for so many ideas. I was surprised to my son’s awareness of rhyming seemingly develop just from reading rhyming books. But syllables is something I need to work on with him.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Tulisha. Many children master rhyming easily with exposure to rhyme through books, nursery poems, and songs. However, others need to be explicitly taught rhyme and practice it quite a bit before they can get it.

Most children need to be taught about syllables though. Let me know if you need any additional ideas or help with this.

Rosy Longmore

says:

Give more details on Print wareness

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rosy,
You may find our blog post on How to Develop Print Awareness helpful. However, if you need more information or have questions about print awareness or anything else, please let me know.

Diane Berlin

says:

Super tips. These are really helpful, fun hints. Thanks for your hard work.

Kristin

says:

Thank you for these resources! My daughter is only 3, but of the 5 reading readiness skills, this is the only one she needs more work on. Now, I can try to help her when she’s ready and maybe she’ll be ready to start AAR1 when she reaches kindergarten age, instead of the pre-reading book.

Yocheved

says:

Important article. Thanks for clearly explaining what phonological skills are and activities that can be implemented to strengthen this area of language development.

Marion

says:

Great tips! Thank you for addressing the underlying pre-reading skills!

Sharon

says:

Thank you for the ideas. Fun is not my middle name, so i need help in teaching my young ones

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sharon,
I understand. Not everyone finds coming up with fun yet still educational activities easy, but the good news is that you can take other people’s ideas, like ours!

Anne Richardson

says:

Absolutely LOVE the wonderful tips and ideas in your blog posts. Like this one, they have come in super handy for our little homeschoolers. Thank You!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Aww, you’re welcome, Anne!

Sally Chancellor

says:

My oldest struggles with this. She taught herself to read very young by memorizing whole words, and has always been an excellent reader, but she has a horrible challenge with spelling because she lacks some of these skills. I am bookmarking this page to use with her!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sally,
In addition to these phonological awareness activities, I think you might find our blog post helpful. Learning how to hear each sound in words is important for becoming a good speller, and this blog post is about that.

Please let me know how it goes and if you need additional help.

Kristen suderman

says:

What a great review, I’ve been looking into all about reading for my 2nd child. My oldest uses All about Spelling and we love it.

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