Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds-or phonemes-in spoken words. It is a critical first step in learning to read. These activities will help improve your child’s phonemic awareness.
Create a grid of squares on a piece of paper. Write words in each grid square. This game is a great way for your child to identify different sounds. The parent says a word from the grid out loud. The child must find that word, or another on the grid, that begins with the same sound as the word you said. Rehearse all the words with your child before beginning. Point to each word on the grid and have your child repeat it after you say it, so they are familiar with the sounds. For very young children or those who struggle with phoneme awareness, use pictures in each of the grid squares instead of writing the words. Your child can point to the picture then that matches the word you say out loud. To challenge, ask for words that match with ending sounds and middle sounds.
This game provides a great way for your child to identify different sounds. Have a set of alphabet letters available. Rehearse with your child the ‘sounds’ for the letters. Remember, this is to practice sounds NOT letters. The parent says a word out loud. Your child repeats that word and then must match it to the alphabet ‘sound’ and point to that alphabet letter sound in front of them on the table. To really check their ability to identify phoneme and not letters, use words that have the same ‘sound’ as one of the alphabet letters (such as the word ‘kitchen’ for the same beginning sound in the word ‘cup’). They don’t start with the same letter. Keep in mind that the same letters can have different sounds like in the word ‘go’ and the word ‘giraffe’ or ‘cat’ and ‘city’. So, keep it simple for starters. The challenge level can always go higher as your child’s ability level increases. Do not confuse them at the beginning.
Echo Sound Blending and Sound Segmenting:
This activity is a great way to help your child understand how different phonemes can combine to create words. The parent starts by saying each sound in a word (such as ‘c- a – t’) out loud to the child. Then say the word (cat). Your child must echo each sound and then the word, just like you did. This activity can also be done in reverse. Say the whole word first. Then say each sound in the word. Your child echoes what your said. To up the challenge the parent can ask the child “what is the first sound you hear (or feel your mouth saying) in the word. What is the last sound…or middle sound. As a reminder, this is to practice sounds, not letters, so make sure they repeat the sounds and do not tell you the letter. As parents well know, kids are smart and they may know how to spell certain words, but this is a practice exercise to check for phoneme awareness, not spelling!
There are lots of different ways to help your child develop phonemic awareness, and the most important thing is to find activities that your child enjoys and will engage with. These activities should be challenging but not too difficult, and they should be fun so that your child doesn’t get discouraged. With a little bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll see your child’s phonemic awareness improve in no time!