Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to child’s awareness of the sound structure of spoken words.

These are important precursor skills to later reading and writing ability. It involves the recognition and manipulation of phonemes, syllables and words by identifying, comparing, separating, combining, generating sounds/words. The skills will give children the ability to read correctly the words that they’ve never seen before and to spell words correctly without memorizing the spelling. Building on the ability to hear the difference between sounds in words, is the ability for the child to be able to differentiate sounds within a word. This can be the child’s ability to divide a word into its syllables. Phonological Awareness includes the ability for the child to recognise that language is made up of words, syllables, rhymes and sounds. Developing phonological awareness skills in the classroom is useful for enhancing children’s literacy.

The skills may include the following areas:

  • Phoneme deletion: The ability to delete the beginning or end sound in a word and be able to say what is left.
    E.g What word would be left if the /k/ sound was taken away from “cat”?
  • Sound isolation: The ability to recognize the initial, medial or final sound in a word.
    E.g. What is the first sound in “rose”?
  • Analysis: The ability to divide a word into its individual syllables/sounds.
    E.g. Divide “cowboy” into its syllables. [cow–boy]
  • Synthesis: The ability to combine individual syllables/sounds into a word.
    E.g What word would we have if we put these sounds together: /s–a–t/? [sat]
  • Substitution: The ability to change a sound in a word to make a new word.
    E.g  If I have the word “run” and I change the first sound to a “f” what word will I have?
  • Rhyme:  The ability to fill in the missing word of a familiar rhyme.
    E.g “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great____[fall]
  • Alliteration: The ability to recognize that certain words start with the same sound.
    E.g Do pen and pipe begin with the same sound?

How to identify when Phonological Awareness may be a problem:

  • Confusion in the sounds/words heard.
  • Has difficulties remembering names and places.
  • Difficulty in following directions given orally.
  • Leaves out words and letters when asked to repeat sentences/words.
  • Identifies one sound or word for another.
  • Confuses the sequence of sounds, words, and steps in a task when presented verbally.
  • Requests a speaker to repeat what is said on a frequent basis.
  • Trouble differentiating one sound from another.
  • Avoids writing/reading activities.
  • Difficulty recognizing a word when only parts are given.
  • Slow in responding to questions presented orally.
  • Inappropriate responses to questions.
  • Difficulty in spelling words which are dictated.

Phonological Awareness Activities

  •  Sound isolation:
    Guess the sound: show 3 pictures starting with same sound, allow them to say the words and the common sound is.
  • Analysis:
    Clap out syllables in the children’s names or other objects.  E.g. On the weekend I went “ice-ska-ting”, what did you do?
    Identify words by taking part of the syllable away: E.g. rainbow, take rain away= bow.
  • Rhyme:
    Teach traditional nursery rhymes to the children.
    Let the children act out the nursery rhymes, or use puppets
    Ask the children to repeat the rhymes in groups and as individuals
    Use CD’s and let the children follow nursery rhymes in books
    Say rhymes but miss out the rhyming word and ask the children to insert the missing word.
  • Alliteration:
    Learn and make up tongue-twisters, e.g. she sells sea shells on the sea shore
    Have a sound of the week and ask the children to bring in objects and pictures starting with the chosen letter.