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February 1, 2016

Phonological Awareness Activities

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    Established jointly by the NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) and the U.S. Department of Education, the National Reading Panel identified six techniques to be used to effectively teach reading to children. Of these, there are five components that need to be taught early on. They are:

    1. phonological awareness

    2. phonics

    3. fluency

    4. vocabulary

    5. comprehension

    Phonological awareness is by far my favorite technique to teach beginning readers.

    A Quick Introduction to Phonological Awareness

    Phonological awareness is the ability to play with sounds. There is no visual representation of letters when you are working on these skills, which include:

    • rhyming (identifying and creating)

    • separating a words onset and rhyme (the onset for the cat is /c/ and the rhyme is -at)

    • identifying words that begin with the same sound

    • segmenting words by sounds and syllables.

    Phonological awareness can often be confused with phonics, which is the pairing of the letter sounds to their written symbols. An easy way to figure out which reading component you are working is to ask yourself, “Could this activity be completed in the dark?” If the answer is yes, then you will most likely be planning on a phonological awareness activity. If you can’t complete the activity in the dark because you need to see letters or words, then you most likely are thinking about a phonics activity.

    If You're a Robot and You Know It CoverActivity 1: Segmenting Sounds

    Understanding that words are composed of individual sounds can be very tricky for some early readers. To introduce my favorite phonological awareness idea, I begin by reading If You’re a Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter. It’s a new spin on the old song, "If You’re Happy and You Know It" and kids love it. It’s written so that you sing it while students do things like clap their hands, stomp their feet, jump and beep, and — my favorite — "shoot laser beams out of their eyes!" I then ask them to talk like a robot, which means that they pause between syllables. An example would be “Say butterfly like a robot.” Their response should be “but/ter/fly.” I tell them that now we are going to talk like a robot but pause between each sound that they hear and give them an example like “map” and then I say it like a robot “/m/ /a/ /p/." Moving like a robot is the part that hooks the kids and takes an activity that can seem boring and slow and makes it fun.

    Thumbs Up

    Activity 2: Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down for Beginning Sounds

    This is one of my favorite games because we can play it anywhere at anytime and it requires no real prep time (which teachers will never have enough of). The hardest part is remembering that you have this game in your tool belt of educational strategies when you find those free minutes during the day.

    Do you find yourself sitting outside the cafeteria waiting for the line to go down so you can enter? Play thumbs up/thumbs down.

    What do you do with the kids who are waiting for the others to finish you whole group bathroom time? Play thumbs up/thumbs down.

    Here is how to play. You play say two words and kids have to determine if the initial sound is the same. If it is, then it's a thumbs up. If the initial sounds are not the same, then thumbs down.

     

    Examples of thumbs down word pairs would be:

    • map/nap

    • light/sound

    • highlight/violet

    • brown/down

    This is a great game for many reasons:

    • Kids frequently think that the beginning sound is what makes word rhyme

    • Auditory discrimination can be hard for certain letters

    • It can be played anywhere at any time

    Activity 3: Rhyme Time

    You can take Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down and change the objective to identifying two words that rhyme. However, my favorite way to talk about rhyming is with books. I have three books that I love to teach rhyming with by reading them to my students. The students are only listening to the books and not reading any part of them, so even though I use the books, this is still a phonological awareness activity.

     

    I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! CoverThe first of my favorite books is honestly one of my favorite books ever. Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, is a phenomenal resource for teaching rhyming. The layout of this book is perfect because the one page will say, “Guess there ain’t no harm if I paint my . . . ” and then you turn the page to find the rhyming word, in this case it’s "arm." Students love trying to figure out what body part the main character has painted so you need to keep the focus on rhyming.

    When students predict the rhyming word and if their answer is incorrect but does rhyme, I make sure to congratulate the student for coming up with the rhyme even if it is not what the author has come up with. I also love this book because it's so fun to read. My southern accent is on full display when I read this uproarious read-aloud.


    Rhyming Dust Bunnies CoverRhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas is the second rhyming book that I use. In the book, all the dust bunnies but one named Bob come up with word families. Before I read Bob's random word, I have the students come up with more words in the word family. I do not write these words on the board because I want students to hear the rhyming. Writing the words changes this activity from phonological awareness to a phonics activity.

    The book only serves as a guide for the teacher to help make this activity fun. The students could still do their part of this activity in the dark if they needed to. So long as their responses are verbal, you are still working on phonological awareness skills.

     

    Frog on a Log? CoverLast, but certainly not least of the best three rhyming books, is also the newest. In Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field, the conversation that takes place is between a cat and frog. It is so funny that I struggled to get through it without laughing too hard the first time I read it. Basically, the cat is informing the frog what each animal is supposed to sit on and, as you can guess, it always rhymes. Goats sit on coats, parrots sit on carrots, and apes sit on grapes.

    At the end of the book, I have the students pick an animal and draw them sitting on something that rhymes. Sometimes they will come up with a cat sitting on a hat and sometimes they come up with something genius like the picture below that illustrates how a lion sits on an onion (both end with the -un sound when said with a southern drawl). This proves to be a great phonological awareness assessment about them being able to create rhymes.

    Phonological Awareness Art

    With rhyming, please remember that this needs to be taught with phonological processes. This means that if you have a paper station that students need to complete to “show” that they have this skill, the activity needs to be picture based.

    Anecdotal notes are often the easiest way to keep track of how a student is doing with learning how to identify and produce rhymes.

    This is important for two big reasons:

    1. Words that rhyme aren’t always spelled with the same letters at the end (kite/might).

    2. Rhyming is an auditory skill, not a written skill and therefore should be assessed as such.

    I hope you find these three phonological activities helpful with your kids and I hope that you will share your favorite phonological awareness activity in the comments below.

    Please connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest.


    
I can’t wait to see you next time.

    Established jointly by the NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) and the U.S. Department of Education, the National Reading Panel identified six techniques to be used to effectively teach reading to children. Of these, there are five components that need to be taught early on. They are:

    1. phonological awareness

    2. phonics

    3. fluency

    4. vocabulary

    5. comprehension

    Phonological awareness is by far my favorite technique to teach beginning readers.

    A Quick Introduction to Phonological Awareness

    Phonological awareness is the ability to play with sounds. There is no visual representation of letters when you are working on these skills, which include:

    • rhyming (identifying and creating)

    • separating a words onset and rhyme (the onset for the cat is /c/ and the rhyme is -at)

    • identifying words that begin with the same sound

    • segmenting words by sounds and syllables.

    Phonological awareness can often be confused with phonics, which is the pairing of the letter sounds to their written symbols. An easy way to figure out which reading component you are working is to ask yourself, “Could this activity be completed in the dark?” If the answer is yes, then you will most likely be planning on a phonological awareness activity. If you can’t complete the activity in the dark because you need to see letters or words, then you most likely are thinking about a phonics activity.

    If You're a Robot and You Know It CoverActivity 1: Segmenting Sounds

    Understanding that words are composed of individual sounds can be very tricky for some early readers. To introduce my favorite phonological awareness idea, I begin by reading If You’re a Robot and You Know It by David A. Carter. It’s a new spin on the old song, "If You’re Happy and You Know It" and kids love it. It’s written so that you sing it while students do things like clap their hands, stomp their feet, jump and beep, and — my favorite — "shoot laser beams out of their eyes!" I then ask them to talk like a robot, which means that they pause between syllables. An example would be “Say butterfly like a robot.” Their response should be “but/ter/fly.” I tell them that now we are going to talk like a robot but pause between each sound that they hear and give them an example like “map” and then I say it like a robot “/m/ /a/ /p/." Moving like a robot is the part that hooks the kids and takes an activity that can seem boring and slow and makes it fun.

    Thumbs Up

    Activity 2: Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down for Beginning Sounds

    This is one of my favorite games because we can play it anywhere at anytime and it requires no real prep time (which teachers will never have enough of). The hardest part is remembering that you have this game in your tool belt of educational strategies when you find those free minutes during the day.

    Do you find yourself sitting outside the cafeteria waiting for the line to go down so you can enter? Play thumbs up/thumbs down.

    What do you do with the kids who are waiting for the others to finish you whole group bathroom time? Play thumbs up/thumbs down.

    Here is how to play. You play say two words and kids have to determine if the initial sound is the same. If it is, then it's a thumbs up. If the initial sounds are not the same, then thumbs down.

     

    Examples of thumbs down word pairs would be:

    • map/nap

    • light/sound

    • highlight/violet

    • brown/down

    This is a great game for many reasons:

    • Kids frequently think that the beginning sound is what makes word rhyme

    • Auditory discrimination can be hard for certain letters

    • It can be played anywhere at any time

    Activity 3: Rhyme Time

    You can take Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down and change the objective to identifying two words that rhyme. However, my favorite way to talk about rhyming is with books. I have three books that I love to teach rhyming with by reading them to my students. The students are only listening to the books and not reading any part of them, so even though I use the books, this is still a phonological awareness activity.

     

    I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! CoverThe first of my favorite books is honestly one of my favorite books ever. Karen Beaumont and David Catrow’s I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More, is a phenomenal resource for teaching rhyming. The layout of this book is perfect because the one page will say, “Guess there ain’t no harm if I paint my . . . ” and then you turn the page to find the rhyming word, in this case it’s "arm." Students love trying to figure out what body part the main character has painted so you need to keep the focus on rhyming.

    When students predict the rhyming word and if their answer is incorrect but does rhyme, I make sure to congratulate the student for coming up with the rhyme even if it is not what the author has come up with. I also love this book because it's so fun to read. My southern accent is on full display when I read this uproarious read-aloud.


    Rhyming Dust Bunnies CoverRhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas is the second rhyming book that I use. In the book, all the dust bunnies but one named Bob come up with word families. Before I read Bob's random word, I have the students come up with more words in the word family. I do not write these words on the board because I want students to hear the rhyming. Writing the words changes this activity from phonological awareness to a phonics activity.

    The book only serves as a guide for the teacher to help make this activity fun. The students could still do their part of this activity in the dark if they needed to. So long as their responses are verbal, you are still working on phonological awareness skills.

     

    Frog on a Log? CoverLast, but certainly not least of the best three rhyming books, is also the newest. In Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field, the conversation that takes place is between a cat and frog. It is so funny that I struggled to get through it without laughing too hard the first time I read it. Basically, the cat is informing the frog what each animal is supposed to sit on and, as you can guess, it always rhymes. Goats sit on coats, parrots sit on carrots, and apes sit on grapes.

    At the end of the book, I have the students pick an animal and draw them sitting on something that rhymes. Sometimes they will come up with a cat sitting on a hat and sometimes they come up with something genius like the picture below that illustrates how a lion sits on an onion (both end with the -un sound when said with a southern drawl). This proves to be a great phonological awareness assessment about them being able to create rhymes.

    Phonological Awareness Art

    With rhyming, please remember that this needs to be taught with phonological processes. This means that if you have a paper station that students need to complete to “show” that they have this skill, the activity needs to be picture based.

    Anecdotal notes are often the easiest way to keep track of how a student is doing with learning how to identify and produce rhymes.

    This is important for two big reasons:

    1. Words that rhyme aren’t always spelled with the same letters at the end (kite/might).

    2. Rhyming is an auditory skill, not a written skill and therefore should be assessed as such.

    I hope you find these three phonological activities helpful with your kids and I hope that you will share your favorite phonological awareness activity in the comments below.

    Please connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest.


    
I can’t wait to see you next time.

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