Phonemic awareness is a critical skill for kids to have when they are getting ready to learn to read! Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that can be differentiated in a word. For instance in the word “cat,” the phonemes are the “c” sound, the “short a” sound, and the “t” sound.
Below are helpful strategies for teaching phonemic awareness.
Show printed material to the child:
Children benefit when they see phonemic instruction while simultaneously looking at the word in print. This allows them to make the connection between what they see and hear, a crucial skill for reading. Printed words allow them to see and apply the connection between sound and letters necessary for reading. It is very helpful to point to each letter and say each sound.
Use Short Sessions or Short Games:
Phonemic awareness lessons should be utilized for any child learning to read, or getting ready to learn. Research shows that children benefit most from short sessions (up to 30 minutes). Longer sessions may lead to children becoming frustrated or distracted. You can also turn it into a game. For example, you can take turns thinking of a word, the adult can write the word on a piece of paper, and you can take turns saying the sounds. It is helpful to practice rhyming words as well (i.e., cat, hat, bat).
Clap or Tap the Syllables in Words:
Help children “break up” words by clapping or tapping out their syllables. First, model the tapping or clapping for the child. For example, the adult can show that the word “silly” has two syllables by clapping twice while reciting the word (/sil/ -clap- /ly/ -clap-). Then the child should try it independently and be encouraged to try it regularly. Praise the child for her effort!
Play the song lyric game by changing a phoneme in a song to see how it changes the meaning of the lyrics. For example, “Pop Goes the Weasel” could be changed to “Hop Goes the Weasel.” After changing the lyrics talk about how changing a phoneme gives the song a different meaning.
Practice at Home:
Research has shown that children who are frequently exposed to books at home prior to starting school have higher levels of phonemic awareness. Parents can model phonemic awareness by reading aloud to their children and allowing their children to see them reading. Give your children opportunities to practice early reading skills by talking, singing, rhyming, playing guessing games, and engaging in early writing activities.
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