Keep reading to learn all about phonological & phonemic awareness games you can play with your preschool or kindergarten students in order to prepare them to be strong readers!
HOW DO KIDS LEARN TO READ?
Did you know that reading begins with our EARS not our EYES?
Before preschool and kindergarten students learn to decode letters on a page to read text, they must have a strong foundation in listening to the SOUNDS of our language, which is all done orally.
The best way to develop these listening skills is by playing phonological & phonemic awareness games.
Research has shown over & over again that phonological & phonemic awareness are the best predictors of future reading success for our little learners.
But you might be wondering…
- What is phonological awareness?
- Is it the same as phonemic awareness?
- How can I practice these skills with my students (or my own child at home)?
If this seems confusing, don’t worry! I’ll break it down in an easy-to-understand way, and I’ll provide lots of games you can play with your preschool and kindergarten students to develop these important skills.
PHONOLOGICAL & PHONEMIC AWARENESS DEFINITIONS
In order to help our students become strong readers, we first need to understand a few definitions:
- Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound in a language
- /k/ is one phoneme; /k/ /a/ /t/ = 3 phonemes that make up the word “cat”
- /sh/ is one phoneme; /sh/ /i/ /p/ = 3 phonemes that make up the word “ship”
- Phonemes are written with slashes on either side / /
- To see a video of all 44 phonemes in the English language, click here.
- Grapheme: the written symbol that represents a phoneme
- The phonemes /k/ /a/ /t/ are represented by “cat”
- The phonemes /sh/ /i/ /p/ are represented by “ship”
Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words. It can sometimes be called an “umbrella term” because it can be broken down into two separate groups:
- Phonological Sensitivity: the ability to hear and manipulate units of language larger than phonemes, including words, syllables, and rhymes
- Phonemic Awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes in spoken words
- /k/ /a/ /t/ = cat = 3 phonemes
- /ch/ /o/ /m/ /p/ = chomp = 4 phonemes
- “Say dog. Now say dog but change /d/ to /l/. What’s the new word?” (log)
It’s important to note that phonological awareness focuses on sounds, not written letters. So even if your little ones don’t know the alphabet yet, they can still work on their phonological awareness skills.
You can start TODAY!
Since research shows that phonological & phonemic awareness most closely relate to future reading success, I like to call them the Golden Ticket of Literacy Development.
If you want to help create strong readers later on, you’ll want to focus on phonological & phonemic awareness NOW!
PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS DEVELOPMENT
According to David Kilpatrick in his book Equipped for Reading Success, phonological development includes different skills from bigger units of language (words) to the smallest unit of language (phonemes).
However, new research suggests phonological awareness skills aren’t developed on a continuum as previously thought…they can be worked on simultaneously!
That means you don’t have to teach these skills in order.
For example, you don’t have to wait for your child to master rhymes before moving on to phonemes.
Since the goal of all phonological awareness activities is to build strong readers and writers, we want to work mostly at the phoneme level.
However, if your little one isn’t ready for that yet, back up and work on other skills. But just know that phoneme work will give you the most return on your time investment.
After reading all about the importance of phonological & phonemic awareness, I created games for YOU to play with your little ones to practice these crucial skills!
PHONOLOGICAL & PHONEMIC AWARENESS GAMES
The purpose of these phonological & phonemic awareness games is to help your little ones focus on the speech sounds of English.
We want them to recognize, produce, and manipulate the sounds of our language in order to set a strong foundation for reading.
WHEN TO PLAY
These games don’t have to take a long time…in fact, it’s better if you do short practices frequently and consistently. You can fit them in whenever you have a few minutes!
If you’re working on these skills at HOME with your little one, you can fit them in:
- during breakfast or lunch
- right after naptime
- during bathtime
- while driving in the car
- while waiting at a restaurant
- while waiting for Big Brother or Big Sister to get out of their sports practice
If you’re working on these skills in the CLASSROOM with your students, you can fit them in:
- during circle time or morning meeting
- during snack time
- during small group time
- while lining up to wash hands
- while lining up to walk to lunch
All of the skills in these games are organized into four main categories:
- Word Awareness
- Syllable Awareness
- Rhyme Awareness
- Phoneme Awareness
Because each little learner is unique and will develop their skills at different times, I’ve included 3 levels of games in each pack.
These levels ensure that you can work with your little ones where they are developmentally. Plus, these games can grow with them as they master different skills!
The 3 levels and their skills are:
VOYAGERS: Beginning Learners (Level 1)
- Word Awareness (3-5 Words)
- Syllable Counting
- Syllable Blending
- Rhyme Repetition
- Onset-Rime Blending
- Alliteration Repetition
- Phoneme Isolation (Beginning Sound)
- Phoneme Counting
- Phoneme Blending
- Alphabet Knowledge
EXPLORERS: Middle Learners (Level 2)
- Word Awareness (4-6 Words)
- Syllable Segmenting & Counting
- Syllable Addition
- Rhyme Recognition
- Onset-Rime Segmenting
- Phoneme Categorization
- Phoneme Isolation (Ending Sound)
- Phoneme Segmenting & Counting
- Phoneme Addition
- Alphabet Knowledge
INVENTORS: Advanced Learners (Level 3)
- Word Awareness (5-7 Words)
- Syllable Deletion
- Syllable Substitution
- Rhyme Production
- Onset-Rime Substitution
- Phoneme Location
- Phoneme Isolation (Medial Sound)
- Phoneme Deletion
- Phoneme Substitution
- Alphabet Knowledge
HOW TO PLAY
Each level has 2 weeks worth of games, and each week has 2 pages. You can see the level and page number in the upper left-hand corner.
You can use these games in different ways to meet the needs of your learners.
- One idea is to start Week One on Monday with “Word Awareness” and work your way down all the way through “Alphabet Knowledge.” Then you’re done for the day.
- This will give your little ones a chance to work at a variety of skill levels during one class.
- Another idea is to work across the page instead of down the page. So you could stick with 1-2 skills a day and focus on those instead of working on a wider variety each day.
- For example, you could pick “Alliteration Repetition” & “Phoneme Isolation” if you really want to focus on beginning sounds in words.
It’s really up to you! You can customize the schedule to work best for you and your learners.
PHONOLOGICAL & PHONEMIC AWARENESS GAMES FEEDBACK & FAQS
So far the feedback on these games has been very positive! Some of the nice comments I’ve received include:
I absolutely love the phonological awareness games!!! It only takes a few minutes a day and the best part it’s preparing our little ones for reading success.
Great set of activities and I love the different levels for differentiation!
A big time saver! This is an organized set of lessons to help the students I work with on phonemic awareness.
I’ve also had some questions about these games, so I wanted to address them here in case you have the same questions:
1) I see there are different themes of the phonological & phonemic awareness games. Which one should I pick?
- That’s one of my FAVORITE parts of these games! I am creating one pack for each theme I teach. So if you’re teaching a dinosaur theme, space theme, or bug theme, you’ll have a matching set of phonological & phonemic awareness games!
- Each theme will have ALL 3 levels of difficulty, so you can use them in whatever order works best for you. (If you want to see the order I teach my themes in, click here.)
- If you don’t teach themes in your classroom, or if you’re a parent who wants to use these at home, you can simply pick whatever topics interest your child.
2) My child goes to preschool. Aren’t they being prepared to read there?
- That’s a tough one. I can’t answer that for you since I don’t know your child’s teacher and the curriculum they use.
- BUT here’s what I believe…these games are JUST as important as reading books to your little one at home.
- Even though your child reads books in preschool, you don’t think, “I don’t have to read books at home because they do that at school.” Right?!
- These games are perfect to play at home because they only take 10 minutes and you can do them on the go…they’re SO worth finding that time, trust me!
3) I don’t have access to a great printer. How many pages is this?
- That’s the nice part…it’s only 2 pages per week (and you can print back to back.)
- Plus you can print in black and white…color is not required.
- These games are not anything like my other printable packs…since you’re the only one reading the words off the page, they’re simple.
- You could also just read them off your phone/computer/tablet without printing them at all.
4) I looked at the skills and they look too hard, even the Voyager Level. Should I wait to start these?
- Again, that’s a hard one since I don’t know your child specifically.
- BUT…I believe strongly in modeling. If you start these games by being the one to answer all the questions, you’re still modeling how to do the skills, and that’s exactly how our kids learn.
- When I first started these with my preschooler at home, he couldn’t do all of the skills either. So I just modeled the answers for him on the ones that were too tricky. Then I had him repeat after me so he got familiar with the skills.
- Exposure is what we’re looking for. Plus I bet your little one will pick up on so many new skills before you know it!
5) Are the levels based on ages?
- Nope! I don’t attach ages to any of the levels because kids develop on their own timeline.
- I’ve seen 5 year olds work at the Voyager (Beginner) Level, and I’ve seen 3 year olds work at the Inventor (Advanced) Level. It’s all child-specific!
- I recommend starting with the Voyager skills (no matter your child’s age) and then adjusting based on their abilities.
TEACH READING RIGHT…RIGHT FROM THE START!
I’m SO passionate about this topic because I know that so many reading struggles in school can be prevented by working on phonological & phonemic awareness skills in the early grades.
These are the skills parents and teachers should be focusing on with little ones because they make the BIGGEST difference. I’ve seen them work for my students and for my own preschooler at home.
The bottom line is these games WORK! And they only take about 10 minutes a day.
With time and consistency, your little one will AMAZE you with how much they grow in these areas.
Do you play phonological & phonemic awareness games with your preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten students? I’d love to hear your feedback! Comment below or find me on Instagram [@littleslovelearningblog] & share your ideas!