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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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Lacey Green

says:

Very excited to get started with the program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Lacey! Let me know if you have any questions as you start.

Shannon Valencia

says:

Great tips that we’ll definitely be using and I already printed off some of the games!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great, Shannon! I’d love to hear how your student or students do with these activities.

Heidi

says:

All About Reading is working great at introducing these concepts to my preshooler.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for letting us know that All About Reading is helping your preschooler with these skills, Heidi!

Gillian

says:

My son has a learning disability and speech delay. These resources will come in very handy. Thankyou,

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Gillian. If you ever have questions or need anything, please let me know.

Heidi

says:

I’m definitely going to use blocks to practice word boundaries this week!

Misty Townsend

says:

All About Reading is helping my 1st and 3rd grader tremendously.

Elizabeth Gaines

says:

My daughter’s teacher let us know she needs to develop her rhyming skills. I can’t wait to explore these suggestions.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
I hope your daughter enjoys these as she builds up her skills! Let me know if you need anything.

Carissa

says:

This is a great list of ways to develop phonological awareness!! Thank you for the fun free games too!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Carissa!

Stacey

says:

These look so fun! Can’t wait to try Go Find It!

Mindy Swertfeger

says:

I’m so grateful for all of your tips! Both of my girls are so different in their learning and I have had to be mindful of that! I’ve been able to find answers here and other posts that I receive through my emails. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Mindy! However, if you ever have a question you can’t find here, please just let us know. We’re always happy to help!

Ana R

says:

This is our first year homeschooling and I got the pre-reading program for my kindergartener. I just got it this weekend so we’ve only done 2 lessons but I’m really excited for her journey in learning how to read. I’ve never really thought about phonological awareness and I’m so glad I found this program because I want to be able to give my daughter a good foundation for reading journey

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Have lots of fun with the Pre-reading program, Ana! I enjoyed those years with my children.

Lauren

says:

Your inclusion of thoughtful phonological awareness games into your program, is WHY I went with this program. We love it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Lauren! Phonological awareness is important for reading success, but it can be taught and learned in a way that is fun and engaging. 😊

Lauren

says:

Thank you so much for all the resources! I’ll definitely be checking these out.

Heidi

says:

Thanks for the rhyming book list! My LO is really into rhyming right now. The games look great to try with my little one as well. I love the resources and ideas you provide.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Heidi! Thank you. I hope you find lots of books to enjoy with your little one!

Gianna

says:

I can’t wait to try some of these with my little ones!

Robin L Cook

says:

Very interesting article!

Tracy

says:

We must help our children distinguish the different phonemes (sounds). When we have two words that sound similar but not exact we must help bring that into their awareness. It is a process, journey, and we are their tour guide! :)

Karen Quimpo

says:

I can’t wait to try the app with my kids

Corey Olomon

says:

I love all these tips. I will definitely try some of these!

Randee

says:

My oldest spoke so early and clearly and became an avid reader. We weren’t sure if the next kiddo would get the chance with all the talking the first did :). But rhyming games, books (Dr. Suess), songs, library, story times, etc. We talked about everything – what do you see out the window, etc., counting steps, shapes, letters on signs. I love gathering more ideas for our toolkit – especially free ones for our family of 6. Thanks for these.

Tawnia McQueen

says:

Thank you for the tips.

Amber

says:

We’re half way through level 1 and I love the progress I’m seeing with my 8 year old who has struggled with reading!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Amber! Keep up the excellent work!

athena graeme

says:

I have never heard of this before! My daughter has been struggling with reading, I will have to run through this to check.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Athena,
Yes, sometimes weakness in phonological awareness skills can cause difficulties with learning to read, especially with learning to blend sounds into words easily and confidently.

Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.

Iheartdragon

says:

My son really struggles with reading and I’m afraid my youngest will too, so any tips help.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need help with anything? Teaching reading can be a joy, but it can also be frustrating and worrisome when a child struggles. I’ve had it both ways and I’m happy to help as best I can.

Crystal

says:

My daughter picked up reading so fast and now I know it was because of all the rhyming games we played in the car and her love of clapping out syllables! Who knew those kittens things were doing such big things.

leigha courtney

says:

I am just starting my homeschooling journey and this has helped me tremendously and seeing how ready my two kids are in being able to read and at what level.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Leigha! Let me know if you have any questions about placement or anything else.

Rachael Liankatawa

says:

Those are some great tips. I never realized how much went into learning to read until I started to teach my kids!

Teresa Locklear

says:

Thank you for all the helpful tips and information.

Brandy

says:

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

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Brandy. Let me know if you have any questions or need help with anything.

Ashley

says:

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

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Ashley. If you ever have any questions or need anything, just let me know.

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