Phonemic Awareness Songs and Rhymes September 10 2010

My teaching career has always involved kids at the fourth grade level and higher, so I didn't know what "Phonemic Awareness" was until my own little preschooler was about to enter kindergarten.

Then I panicked a little - would my preschooler be ready? What if during his formative years I had simply neglected to teach him this all-important skill-set?

It turned out that everything was fine. In our daily lives of talking, singing and playing, I had been teaching my child phonemic awareness without even knowing it.

There might be children who need to learn or review phonemic awareness skills, which are easy to incorporate into any primary curriculum with the whole group, small groups or individual students.

First, Last and Every

Words are made up of individual sounds and blends, which don't always get enunciated properly when spoken. A good example of this is the word "drag," which when spoken can sound like "jrag." Kids with strong phonemic awareness skills will sound out each letter: d-r-a-g.

To turn this skill building into a game, write a word on the board or chart paper, and ask the following questions:

  • What's the first sound in this word?
  • What's the last sound in this word?
  • What's every sound in this word? Let's say each one together.
  • What does the word sound like if we take away the first letter? The last letter?

This fun activity will help kids become aware of each sound in the words they practice.

Rhyme Time

Poetry is such a large piece of primary curriculum, and it's an ideal vehicle to teach phonemic awareness. A silly game I like to play with kids is to choose a word - green, for example - and come up with as many rhyming words as we can. It starts out with words that make sense - mean, lean, clean - but then I encourage them to make up nonsense rhymes too, which ends in laughter.

At the end of this game, I go over our list of rhyming words written up on chart paper and cross out the nonsensical ones. Then I have an automatic minilesson about word and spelling patterns!

Clap and Sing!

It's great to use motions whenever possible when working with small children on phonemic awareness. Practice identifying syllables with shorter words, like cow or sad, teaching kids how to clap them out. Move on to words of two syllables and more to build phonemic awareness.

Singing is also a great strategy, and there are CDs available to help children build phonemic awareness at a learning center, in a small group, or with the whole class. Use the songs for transition times, break times, or for a fun review.

How Many?

This activity can be challenging, but it helps kids practice careful listening skills as well as phonemic awareness. Tell your kids that you have an important sentence for them - start with a short one, like "I'm happy to see you." Then ask them to tell you how many words were in the sentence. The more you practice, the faster your kids will get!

Phonemic awareness is an important skill-set, but there's no reason why it can't be fun!