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kindergarten teacher helping students make the sounds in words

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Printed Language: Practical Ideas for Parents

Preschoolers who are getting ready to read expand their knowledge of the building blocks of oral and written language, and their use and appreciation of language. Learn activities parents can use at home to support children’s growth in each of these areas.

On this page:

Activity 1: Good vibrations

Practice differentiating voiced and unvoiced speech sounds with your students. Have them put their hand on their throat to feel the difference between phonemes that make the vocal cords vibrate (voiced) and those that don’t (unvoiced).

Voiced phonemes

  • /b/
  • /m/
  • /w/
  • /v/
  • /TH/
  • /d/
  • /l/
  • /j/
  • /y/
  • /z/
  • /n/
  • /r/
  • /g/

Unvoiced phonemes

  • /p/
  • /wh/
  • /s/
  • /sh/
  • /ch/
  • /k/
  • /f/
  • /th/
  • /h/

Activity 2: Human phonemes

Make a list of simple rhyming words and a second column of words with a different medial (middle) sound. Here are some examples:

  • bat
  • hat
  • sat
  • pat
  • bit
  • hit
  • sit
  • pit

Choose students to represent the sounds in the words you’ve chosen. You’ll need one student for each sound. In our example, we would need seven students to represent the /b/, /h/, /s/, /p/, /a/, /t/, and /i/ sounds.

Give each of the students a card with the letter(s) that represent their sound. They should hold the card facing the class.

If you have younger students, you should help them by standing behind the group of phonemes and touching the correct phoneme to step forward as you blend them into words.

If you have older students, as you say the word, the “phonemes” should assemble themselves in the correct order.

Activity 3: The alphabetic principle

Students should sit on the floor in a circle or at tables. Give each student five blocks, chips, or other similar objects.

Tell your students, “Place one chip (block, etc.) in front of you for each sound in the word.”

Here are some sample words to use with this activity although it would be better to use words you have introduced to students as part of your instruction.

  • big: /b/-/i/-/g/
  • house: /h/-ou/-/s/
  • sandy: /s/-/a/-/n/-/d/-/y/
  • comb: /c/-/o/-/m/
  • cook: /c/-/oo/-/k/
  • sit: /s/-/i/-/t/
  • pick: /p/-/i/-/c/
  • win: /w/-/i/-/n/
  • am: /a/-/m/
  • bake: /b/-/a/-/k/

Activity 4: Changing sounds

Call on students to change the sound at the beginning of a word. Start the first round by using their names, as in the examples below. Go around the room until every student has had a chance. Remember, make the sound, don’t say the letter name!

  • Jimmy, can you change the /j/ in Jimmy to the /t/ sound?
  • Lisa, can you change the /l/ in Lisa to the /n/ sound?

Activity 5: Segmenting sounds

As students line up, say a child’s name, but separate the first sound from the rest. For example, for a child named Pam, say, “/P/ /am/, could you please line up?” The students will have great fun trying to guess whose name is being called. Once they understand this type of segmentation, make it trickier by separating all of the sounds within their names, for example, “/P/ /a/ /m/.” They’ll love the challenge.

Activity 6: Recognizing sounds

Tell students to get ready to learn a word game. Say, “We’re going to pretend we are going on a trip. When you go on a trip you need to take lots of things with you. On this trip, we’re going to a carnival. Say ‘carnival.’ What is the first sound? Yes, it’s the /k/ sound, so everyone must take something that starts with the /k/ sound, like this: ‘I’m going to the carnival and I’m taking a coat.’ Say those words: ‘carnival,’ ‘coat.’ What else could I take?”

Ask the children to come up with a suggestion. The story could be changed depending on a specific sound or the recent experiences of the students.

Activity 7: Read books that play with sounds

These books are great resources that play with speech sounds through rhyme, alliteration, and phonemic manipulation.

  • All About Arthur (An Absolutely Absurd Ape)

  • Alphabears

  • Animalia

  • Buzz Said the Bee

  • Catch a Little Fox

  • Each Peach Pear Plum

  • A Giraffe and a Half

  • The Hungry Thing

  • Jamberry

  • See You Later Alligator

  • Sheep in a Jeep

  • Yours Till Banana Splits

  • Zoophabets


Adapted from: Beginning Reading Instruction: Practical Ideas for Parents. (1996). Texas Education Agency.