Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What is Phonemic Awareness and Why Teach it?

I get a lot of emails from parents who are ready to teach their child how to read. They tell me that their children know their letters and their sounds, therefore they are Ready to READ! "Where do we start and what do we do next?" they ask.

I LOVE their enthusiasm! I LOVE their willingness to dive right in.

However... diving into a full blown reading curriculum at that early stage is not the next step. To build a strong foundation for reading success, children need to master Phonological/Phonemic Awareness.

What is Phonological/Phonemic Awareness?

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds (phonemes).  This skill provides a strong foundation for early reading success. As students become more proficient in hearing, identifying and manipulating sounds, they can successfully move onto segmenting and blending words. A systematic and cohesive approach to teaching phonological awareness can build confident readers who are less likely to struggle with decoding and spelling skills. Students with strong a phonemic awareness are much more likely to be successful readers.

Who Can Benefit from Phonological/Phonemic Awareness?
Reading instruction is important for all students. A strong foundation in phonological/phonemic awareness can benefit:
*Beginning Readers
*Struggling Readers
*Students with autism or other developmental disabilities
*Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and 1st Grade Students

Authentic Phonemic Awareness is done without printed words. It is all about the sounds that letters make. It gives students the ability to work with sounds, manipulate sounds and master these sounds in a variety of ways. When students are able to do these skills successfully, they are able to jump into phonics with a lot less struggle.  Phonics (not Phonemic Awareness) works with connecting the sounds to printed letters and words.  When you target phonemic awareness first, it allows a child to focus on one thing...sounds.  However, when you try to teach both phonemic awareness (sounds) and phonics (linking sounds to letters and words), it can be overwhelming and frustrating for children learning to read.

When a child struggles with reading, the gaps are often connected to a lack of phonemic awareness skills. Going back and reinforcing these skills can help fill in the gaps and build stronger readers.

Within my Phonemic Awareness Bundle, I have provided an opportunity to practice many skills necessary to give children a strong foundation with sounds. Let's take a look at this bundle, see how it works and why it is an important component to reading success.

The pictures and activities that I am about to show you below are all stored in my Phonemic Awareness Kit. This is EASY to set up and just requires a box and some file folders. This method keeps me organized and all of my materials are in one place. When my teaching materials are organized, I am more equipped to meet the needs of those that I am teaching.

In this post, I will show you 9 different activities to help build phonemic awareness.

What are the Components to Phonemic Awareness?

I like to start with and include the following packets when teaching phonemic awareness:

Let's start with Beginning Sounds. This is a great place to start, but it is typically the only component of phonemic awareness that many people implement.

1. Beginning Sounds Pocket Chart
Once you print out the letters and picture cards, it is a great idea to set them up and get them organized. I print, laminate and cut out all of the pieces.

Although you typically don't want to use printed letters or words when teaching phonemic awareness, I found it helpful with the pocket chart cards. It lays a great foundation for beginning sounds.

Each set of pocket chart cards has a picture of the beginning sound for every letter of the alphabet.

Once the cards have been printed and laminated, I like to keep them stored and organized in a file folder system. This allows me to keep the contents of my Phonemic Awareness Kit organized and ready to use. 
This is how I store the Beginning Sound Pocket Cards...
I started by purchasing file folders and library cards. The library cards below are a peel and stick kind. It makes it easy for me to place 6 cards on one file folder. 
I will have a total of 5 file folders for this activity:
File #1: A-F
File #2 G-L
File #3 M-R
File #4 S-X
File #5 Y-Z

Once the cards and the file folders are ready to go, simply paperclip the picture cards to the back of each set and slip them into the library card envelope.  This system keeps you organized and makes the cards easy to access.

Each of the five file folders look like this...

When you teach the beginning sounds, start with one sound at a time. Introduce the letter and sounds that the letters make. I like to use a pocket chart system for this packet. This is a portable one, but you can use any size pocket chart you have.

When students become more proficient in mastering the letter sounds, you increase the difficulty of the activity by have them sort two or more sets at the same time. For example, you might have individually taught the beginning sounds for b and d. You can up-level the activity by having all the pictures for these two sounds out and have the student sort the picture cards next the correct letter.

After introducing the Beginning Sounds Pocket Chart, I would move onto 
2. Beginning Sounds Tic-Tac-Toe
This activity is played like the typical game of Tic-Tac-Toe, but with one person. Once students know all of their letter sounds, they can find and isolate beginning sounds from a set of pictures. These game boards come in both color and black and white. The colored version can be printed and laminated. The black and white version can be colored in. It is a great opportunity to practice saying the beginning sounds of all the pictures on the cards.

In this case, the pictures beginning with the letter a are astronaut, apple and ant. 
These are also stored in my Phonemic Awareness Kit box (shown above). 

Next, you want to further support beginning sounds with the 
3. Beginning Sounds (Cut and Paste) Packet
This packet also has two options: a colored version and a black and white version.

You can keep this set organized in your in a file folder system as well.
You will need 2 file folders and paperclips to organize all of those little pictures. 

The cards the sets are numbered. This will help you keep the sets together and in case they get scattered (which they will) you can place them back with their set. This system helps you keep everything organized. Organization is KEY!  

Now that your child/student has fully mastered their beginning sounds, they are able to move onto middle and ending sounds. By practicing, isolating and mastering these sounds, students are getting ready to move onto phonics. This is where they will be able to connect the sounds of spoken language to the printed letters.

Therefore, the next step in the process, would be to work on the 
4. Middle Sounds (Medial) Cut and Paste Packet
Hearing the middle sounds in a word, can be challenging for kids. While they are practicing hearing the middle (medial) sound, they are also working on the beginning sound. They are isolating the beginning in order to hear the middle. Therefore, you are essentially enforcing the concept of sounding out words, which is a skill needed for phonics.

For example, the upper row of pictures are:
cap, web, wig, top, nut
Each short vowel sound is represented on each set. 
Now students work to hear and match a picture that has the same vowel sound.
cat, bed, bib, frog, tub
This simple skill is helping prepare students to sound our simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words when they begin to work on phonics.

Likewise, this simple skill can be implemented with a pocket chart to teach or practice middle sounds.

After Middle (Medial) Sounds, students work to hear the ending sounds. 
When beginning readers start to read, they often delete the ending sound and make up their own sound. For example if they see (or even sound out) the "ca.."in a word, they automatically assume that it must be the word CAT.   They don't take time to sound out the ending sounds. Beginning readers often make up words as they go. However, by strategically focusing on ending sounds, you can eliminate this problem, and help students to hear the ending sounds in each word.

By focusing on this skill of isolation sounds, you are helping to prepare a student to read successfully and with a lot less struggle. You are laying a foundation for success when they start to learn phonics.

#5 Ending Sounds (cut and paste) Packet

Keep the picture cards organized in a file folder system.
For the ending sounds packets, you will need  2 file folders. 
File #1 Sets 1-11 
File #2 Sets 12-22

Once students have worked to hear and isolate each individual sound, they can move on to segmenting and blending sounds.

#6 Segmenting and Blending Cards (Push and Blend)

This is a FUN packet to work with as students use hands-on manipulatives to hear each sound and blend the sounds together. This task really helps set students up for success when it comes to phonics and sounding out words.

I like to use these counters when segmenting and blending sounds in a word.
This is a picture of a rat. Even the word mouse would work.
The word rat has three sounds /r/ /a/ /t/....rat.
Students put a counter up for each sound they hear. This helps them isolate each sound in the word. If there are 3 circles, that means they must hear and isolate those 3 sounds. This really helps students to SLOW DOWN and isolate every sound.
Once they finish pushing up the counters for each sound, they sweep their finger across the arrow to blend the word.

The same thing can be done with play dough. Having a child use some sort of manipulative helps the learning become more kinesthetic and hands-on. The physical aspect helps the brain connect what they are learning.
Begin by having students make a play dough ball for each circle on the mat. As they segment the phonemes (sound out each sound), they smash a ball.
It's FUN, they like doing it, and they are really forced to hear each sound!
Once again, they would use the arrow to sweep and blend the sounds to make the word.

One of my favorite ways to segment words and to blend them is with a slinky.
Not only are these activities great for developing phonemic awareness skills, but it also helps students  build spelling skills.

This packet contains 240 words for students to segment and blend! This provides them with a LOT of opportunities to practice and master that necessary skill of segmenting and blending phonemes (sounds) to make a word.
This packet works with words that have 2, 3, 4, and 5 phonemes (sounds).

#7 Counting Syllables Sorting and Clip Cards
The Counting Syllables Packet allows students to work with and master syllables in words. When a student can successfully chuck words into syllables, it also helps with decoding and spelling. When they begin to learn more phonics rules, they are able to implement those rules into the chunks they hear.  When a child knows how to decode syllables, they become more fluent readers who can better comprehend the text they are reading.

The counting syllable cards can be used in two ways:
Option #1
Sort into containers by the number of syllables.

NOTE: If students are struggling to hear the number of syllables in a word, have them place their hand under their chin. The mouth will open and the jaw will drop with each syllable. Once the student feels the jaw tap their hand, they know that is one syllable sound.

I use four containers to sort the syllable cards.

Option #2
Use clothespins to clip the correct number of syllables for each picture.

#8 Time to Rhyme
With the time to rhyme cards, students work on hearing the ending sounds to identify a rhyme.
In the example below, the following words rhyme:
frog: dog, moon: spoon, bear: chair, pie: eye, car: jar

All of these activities are great for small groups or reading intervention. 
 I like to use the pocket chart with this activity as well.

*For each set of cards, I also provide you with an answer key in case there is any confusion with the pictures.

In the example below, the following words rhyme:

cake: rake, jam: ram, dice: mice, king: ring, rug: mug

Once again, storing and organizing the sets is key to success!
You can keep the Time to Rhyme mats on a ring, flip and practice.

How do I organize this set?
I use two file folders to place the little cards in:
File folder #1: Sets 1-12
File Folder #2: Sets 13-25
The mini picture cards get paperclipped inside the file folder. Underneath each set of cards, I have them labeled. I simply pull the set out that I need for each Time to Rhyme card. 
Once I am finished with the set, it goes back into my Phonemic Awareness Kit.

#9 Rhyming Strips (Odd One Out)
In this activity, students focus on hearing the rhyme in two pictures and identifying the "odd one out." Although this seems like such a simple activity, it is one that many students really struggle with.

Here is an example:
Students flip and name the picture on the strip. In this case, they would say:
mop, hat, cat. They identify the rhyming set (cat and hat), and mark the odd one out (mop).
This simple task helps students to hear rhyming words, an important skill for reading success.

Here is one more example:
The words corn, horn and lamp. The odd one out is lamp.

Each set of rhyming strips is labeled with numbers. I printed the Rhyming Strips Answer Keys on colored paper to match each Rhyming Strip Set.  The answer keys correspond with the set numbers.
It tells you what the pictures are and which one is the odd one out. 
This set up makes it EASY for YOU (the teacher) and students can successfully move through the lesson without any delays.

Once they have been printed out, you can place the colored pages in a binder or spiral bind them.
Once you are done using this activity, 
you can also put it back into your Phonemic Awareness Tool Kit!

I hope that this post is helpful in showing you how to successfully implement Phonemic Awareness.
Each packet is sold separately or you can purchase 
The Bundle

Individual Packets:
Rhyming Strips (Odd One Out)

Where do I go after this?
Once a child has mastered phonological and phonemic awareness skills, they are ready to successfully transition into phonics!
Next stop:
CVC Word Families

Learning to read should be such a special time for kids!
Keep enjoying the journey!
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.


Gina Ford said...

This post is full of great useful ideas. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. said...

You have so many great ideas and products. Such creative things to do.

shuchi rustagi said...


shuchi rustagi said...


Nicole said...

I purchased the bundle and LOVE it! Is there anyway I could get a copy of the "cover" for my file box?

Mrs. G said...

I was recently referred to your site by a seasoned homeschooling. I love this post and plan on buying the entire package. Can you please tell me how you teach the oo, qu,ee and etc. As these groupings of letters sound differently.

Thank you,
A new fan

Plmcurtis said...

I am a brand new Kindergarten teacher and I am so thankful to have come across your posts. I have already purchased several of your TPT products. Thanks for making this process of information a lot simpler. Wish me luck!!!

Annie Moffatt said...

Hi Pamela!
Congratulations! I am so happy to hear that this post is helpful!
Thank you so much for your kind words!
Annie :)

Adria Janni said...

So many great ideas and useful tips. I plan on purchasing this bundle.

katzzo said...

Great article! Very informative, thanks for the post!
you can check more health tips on womens's Health and fitness magazine

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