How to Teach Your Child Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is a listening and oral language skill that does not involve print. It is the ability to hear and produce the individual sounds heard within words. The early stages of phonological awareness emerge when babies and toddlers mimic sounds heard to say their first words. It is an essential skill because it sets the foundation for phonics - the ability to match sounds to their correct letter or letter patterns to read words. The skill increases in difficulty with the addition of letter patterns. For example: the words - cat, cake, team, and sheep all have three sounds. Fortunately, there are fun activities that you can do with your child to promote phonological awareness!


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    Understand Phonological Awareness. Phonological Awareness is a concept that occurs everyday, all day as we communicate by listening and speaking with others. It is the understanding that each word heard is determined by the sound said in a specific order. Below are some fun activities to practice phonological awareness with your child
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    Play with language. Reciting nursery rhymes and playing rhyming games is a fun way to focus your child's attention on sounds. Engaging your child in these activities will help him/her build an understanding of phonological awareness.
    • Focus on the rhyming words in each rhyme. In saying each set of rhymes your child will learn that word order is important - changing the beginning sound of a word changes the word. For example: in the rhyme, Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water; the beginning sound change of /J/ to /h/ changes the word Jill to hill. This builds the realization that the order of sounds said in a word is important.
    • Extend the activity to provide your child with additional practice hearing sounds in words. Ask your child to say a word that rhymes with hill? If your child gives you an incorrect answer, provide him/her with some possible answers by asking what word rhymes with hill; mill or cat?
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    Cultivate the ability to hear sounds in words. This is an activity that does not involve letters. Its intent is for your child to focus on the number of sounds heard in each dictated word.
    • Make soundboxes. Create a template with three boxes to accommodate words with one, two or three sounds. Each box represents a sound heard in the word, not a letter or letter pattern.
    • This is important to note because words consisting of letter patterns will have less sounds than number of letters. Letter patterns are two letters joined (patterned) together to make one sound. Letter patterns include: silent e, vowel pairs (/ea/, /ee/, /ai/), and consonant digraphs (/sh/, /ch/, /th/, /wh/). For example the word sheep has five letters and three sounds /sh/, /ee/, /p/.
    • Say (dictate) a word to your child. Have your child say each sound as they push up a counter (or magnet) into a box to represent that sound. For example, the word at has two sounds /a/ and /t/, and the word cat has three sounds /c/, /a/, and /t/. and the word seat has three sounds /s/, /ea/, /t/
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    Reference the following word lists for soundbox activities
    • Dictate words with two sounds: an, at, no, he, me, go, in, it, to, of, tea, pea, The words tea and pea have the vowel pattern /ea/. 
    • Dictate words with three sounds: bat, sat, can, box, sit, cat, net, big, bug, sat, dog, cake, make, meet, seat, rain, team, sheep, chip, white 
    • Introduce words with four sounds when your child is ready, Add another soundbox to include words with four sounds such as: train, clock, skate /t/ /r/ /ai/ /n/
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    Sort pictures according to beginning sounds. As children develop phonological awareness, it is important for them to practice differentiating the sounds heard in words. This builds the realization that sounds must be said in the correct order to produce the desired word.
    • Have your child sort picture cards or objects according to their beginning sounds.
    • Extend the activity. Have your child sort picture cards and items according to their ending sounds. Use pails or other containers to sort picture cards and items
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    Moving from phonological awareness to phonics (sound-letter match). Extend the activity to include letters. Have your child sort picture cards and objects according to the correct initial letter. This activity requires both sound and letter knowledge.
    • Place a letter on or in front of each pail or sorting container
    • Have your child (1) say the name of the picture card - bear, (2) produce the sound that it begins with - /b/, and (3) place the picture card or item in the pail that shows the correct letter that represents the sound - b.

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