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Phonemic Awareness Activities

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This page contains all the FreeReading activities for Phonemic Awareness. They are divided into Sequenced Activities and Supplemental Activities. You can click here to add your own supplemental activity.

Note: FreeReading includes activities for both Phonemic Awareness (this page) and the broader category of Phonological Awareness (click here for those activities). You can choose either based on how specific the skill you want to teach or re-teach is.


About the phonemic awareness activities

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest unit of sound that makes a difference to meaning. For instance, the /b/ sound in bat and the /m/ sound in mat are phonemes.

The objective of the phonemic awareness sequence of activities is to teach students to identify and manipulate phonemes in spoken words.

Two important manipulation skills are:

  • Oral segmenting, which refers to taking spoken language and breaking it into separate parts. So phoneme segmenting teaches students that words are composed of sounds, which they need to understand in order for sounding out to make sense.
  • Oral blending, which refers to taking a sequence of sounds and putting them together to form spoken language. So phoneme blending is what students will need to do when they sound out words and blend to pronounce the word correctly.

Since phonemic awareness doesn't require any recognition of printed letters, and since it is a preskill for sounding out words, it can be taught very early in the reading program.

The National Reading Panel (2000) concluded:

  • Phonemic awareness can be taught explicity.
  • It helps all types of children improve their reading: normally developing readers, children at risk for reading, disabled readers, preschoolers, ELL students, and children from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Instruction that focuses on one or two skills produces greater transfer than a multiskilled approach.
  • Teaching students to segment and blend benefits reading more than a multiskilled approach.
  • Phonemic awareness instruction is more effective when delivered in small groups than when delivered to the whole class.

(For more of the research on phonemic awareness, see Intervention A, the research base.)

The phonemic awareness strand of instruction covered here focuses on explicitly teaching students to segment and blend.

Tips and tricks for teaching phonological awareness

  • It's easier to see which students are struggling (especially in a large group) if you ask them all to respond simultaneously. One problem with this is that the quicker students drown out the slower. To avoid this, you can ask the question in a particular way: Ssssaaammm. Now you say the word quickly. Ready? (Pause to make sure slower students have had a chance to figure out the answer.) What's the word? This technique takes a little practice.
  • For each activity, keep a record of items a student had problems with. Review this activity log before the next activity so you pay special attention to those students. You might also create a small group of the students struggling on the same skill (e.g., letter-sound correspondence) to give them extra practice. Use a Build Accuracy activity with the group until their ability to discriminate is almost flawless, then switch to Build Fluency.

Phonological awareness resources

Sequenced phonological awareness activities

A Note on Lesson Deltas. If you're using an integrated instructional program such as IPID 101 that comes with a map, follow the lesson numbers in the map and ignore the deltas below. If you're using this sequence outside of a program map (e.g., you're creating your own program), take whatever lesson number you are at when you start this sequence, call that Lesson N, and add the deltas below to N to calculate the lesson number for each subsequent lesson -- i.e., if you are on Lesson 10 when you start this sequence, then the activities below labeled +14 should be included in your Lesson 24.

Phonemic Awareness (SID: 203)
Lesson Δ Oral Blending Oral Segmenting
+0: Sam, mad, sit
+1: sit, am, run, if
+2: sad, it, Sid, am
+3: Sid, run, me, Sam
+4: sit, mad, Sam
+5: mad, run, me, fit
+6: fit, mom, add, fan
+7: wet, lip, nut, van
+8: can, bag, hot
+9: hot, tap, cut, ten
+10: bit, got, him, den
+11: ten, fit, him, me
+13: wet, bag, tap, mom
+15: ship, be, mop, fish
+17: dish, other, night
+19: wash, grape, lock, space
+21: water, place, clock, funny
+23: finish, after, robot, can, wheel
+25: smash, glass, thread, got, little
+27: about, string, sister, Friday, lip
+29: sister, window, ink, pencil, ribbon
+31: about, string, sister, Friday, sea
+33: tell, cheese, click, eat, storm
+35: tree, treetop, stream, hill, field
+37: turtle, rabbit, fly, fox, animal

Supplemental phonological awareness activities