What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that "spoken words are made up of sounds." "Phonemic awareness has many levels and includes the concept of rhyme and the ability to blend and segment words and to manipulate phonemes to form different words" (Gambrell, Morrow, & Pressley, 2007).

Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of success in learning to read. (National Reading Panel, 2000)

How can phonemic awareness be developed?
  • songs
  • nursery rhymes
  • rhyming books
  • tongue twisters

Activity: Phoneme Blending Bags
Objective: Students will blend phonemes together to guess the object you have hidden in a bag or box.
  • Bag or Box to keep items in
  • Several items of a similar theme (See suggested items list below. The best place to look is the dollar store. You can often get several of an item in a pack to split between classrooms or grades. You can also just use a picture for the item.)
  1. Tell students that good readers need to listen carefully to sounds and put them together to make words.
  2. Remind students to allow you to say all of the sounds before they say the word.
  3. Tell students the theme of the items in the bag.
  4. "Inside this bag, I have a /s/, /t/, /i/, /k/."
  5. All students reply, "stick".
  6. Repeat the sounds again if some students did not say the word.
Suggested Items
School Supplies
  • glue /g/ /l/ /oo/
  • pen /p/ /e/ /n/
  • paper /p/ /a/ /p/ /r/
  • pencil /p/ /e/ /n/ /s/ /l/
  • red (crayon) /r/ /e/ /d/
  • blue (crayon) /b/ /l/ /oo/
  • green (crayon) /g/ /r/ /ee/ /n/
  • scissors /s/ /i/ /z/ /r/ /s/
Gift Wrapping (Use a gift box for the items)
  • box /b/ /o/ /ks/
  • tape /t/ /a/ /p/
  • bow /b/ /o/
  • ribbon /r/ /i/ /b/ /n/
  • pen /p/ /e/ /n/
  • card /k/ /ar/ /d/
Lunch (You can get a cheap reusable lunch bag at the dollar store. Then save wrappers and containers or use play food for the items.)
  • milk /m/ /i/ /l/ /k/
  • juice /j/ /yoo/ /s/
  • Hershey kiss /k/ /i/ /s/
  • chips /ch/ /i/ /p/ /s/
  • crackers /k/ /r/ /a/ /k/ /er/ /s/
Outdoors/Sports (You can get small mini-toys for these items at the dollar store.)
  • soccer
  • baseball
  • basketball
  • jump rope
  • bubbles
  • Frisbee
Sick Day (Put the items in a coffee mug.)
  • mug
  • tea
  • tissue
  • piece of fabric for blanket
  • book

Activity: Color-A-Rhyme
You can find lots of examples and directions here.

MaterialsSlinky, Rubber Band, Silly Putty, Bubble GumUse slinky's, rubber bands, silly putty, and bubble gum to demonstrate how to stretch out the sounds of a word. This makes the sounds of the word last longer so that it's easier for children to identify the individual phonemes of a word, determine the number of phonemes in the word, or write a word. You can usually find mini slinky's and silly putty at the dollar store. Using a different material each time will keep students interested in the lesson.Poker ChipsPoker chips can be used to represent each sound in a word. Use them with Elkonin Boxes to improve phoneme segmenting skills.

Print, cut, and laminate these cards for an intervention activity or literacy station.

WebsitesSongs that Build Phonemic AwarenessMrs. Jones Room has 10 songs you teach your students to practice identifying beginning sounds, blending phonemes, and segmenting phonemes.
Reading is Fundamental
Animated rhyming songs with highlighted text.
Beginning Sound/Sound Manipulation Song
Nursery Rhymes
Over 20 nursery rhymes that can be read, listened to, or printed.

Interactive White Board Games and Activities for Phonemic Awareness
Beginning Sound Picture Match

Beginning Sound Picture Match

Rhyme Picture Matching

Phoneme Blending

Sound Blending

Sound Deletion

Sound Substitution

Story Rhymes

Rhyming Picture/Word Match

Starfall Tongue Twisters