Before you can expect a child to read or write, you need to be teaching phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness can be broken into four main skills. The first of these is the ability to hear and isolate sounds (phonemes) in words. The next two skills a child needs to master are the blending and segmenting of phonemes. The final skill is phoneme manipulation. I have found this is usually the most difficult of the four phonemic awareness skills.
This is where children need to be investigating both the producing and hearing of phonemes – sounds. Getting children to listen and watch you produce a sound helps them to isolate phonemes.
Ask them to copy you and make the sound too. They should be noticing the position of their mouth and tongue when they do it. It can be a little easier for some children to have access to a mirror when they are producing different sounds. A mirror helps them see and copy the mouth positions.
Tongue twisters are a fun activity that children always love. Have them repeat or create tongue twisters to reinforce the isolation of phonemes. You can download some tongue twisters here.
Picture and word sorting are fantastic activities for exploring phoneme isolation. I have some picture sorts available in my store. These picture sorts are designed to focus on initial sounds in words. The position of the phoneme in each word has a different level of difficulty. The initial sound in a word is the easiest to hear and isolate.
Blending and Segmenting Phonemes
Before you tackle the blending and segmenting of sounds, it is important that your students have a solid understanding of letter, sound and word concepts. Children need to be able to differentiate between these concepts before you begin any blending and segmenting activities.
I designed a phoneme bingo game to build phonemic awareness in beginning readers. I use this phonemic awareness game to teach my students how to blend and segment the sounds/phonemes within words. Some other activities to help teach the blending and segmenting of phonemes are:
- count the phonemes in words
- play with a puppet that emphasises initial, medial or final sounds “look at that c-a-a-a-t”
- use an elastic band to demonstrate segmenting by stretching the band and saying the word slowly at the same time
One of the most difficult of the phonemic awareness skills requires children to substitute, delete and add phonemes to words. I have had success with this skill once children have started formal reading and writing. We make words in numerous ways. We use magnetic letters, rock letters (letters written on flat pebbles) and scrabble tiles. I always begin with CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. When the children can make CVC words quite competently, we start swapping letters out to make new words. If you can make cat, you can make mat, fat, sat, pat, bat etc.
Research indicates that phonemic awareness in young students is one part of an effective reading program. The teaching of phonemic awareness is most successful when there is an explicit focus on recognising and manipulating sound units— phonemes.
This Phoneme Bingo game has helped the students in my class recognise and manipulate phonemes. They love playing this game. It has been great to see them gain confidence and experience success with their phonemic awareness skills.
This .pdf file contains a call sheet and 18 bingo cards. Each card has 6 pictures. I have used stock photos for the pictures as I like the authenticity of real life images. Your students will instantly recognise the pictures on each card. Instructions for playing are included along with some information on phonemic awareness.
This game is easily differentiated to suit the developmental level of your students. Some ideas for differentiation are included.