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11.2 Phonemic Awareness

durenmgmail-com November 9, 2021

Phonemic awareness is the knowledge that a word is made up of. It is a series of discrete sounds that enables the student to distinguish and shape phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word that makes a distinction in its pronunciation, and its meaning, from another word. For instance, the /s/ in ‘soar’ distinguishes it from /r/ in ‘roar,’ as it becomes different from ‘soar’ in pronunciation as well as meaning.

How is phonics different from phonemic awareness?

Phonics involves the connection or relationship between written symbols, and sounds, whereas phonemic awareness involves sounds in spoken words. Phonics instruction concentrates on teaching sound-spelling connections, whereas most phonemic awareness tasks are oral.

Phonemic awareness instruction and phonics instruction are connected, where the phonemic awareness method is essential for phonics instruction to be effective despite the different focuses in these two methods.

Before students can decode written words, they must learn that words (whether spoken or written) are made up of sounds. Without this understanding, phonics instruction will not make sense to students.

The following activities will help assess and strengthen a student’s phonemic awareness skills.

(Note: Letters within slash marks are pronounced as the letter sounds, not as the letter name.)

Tapping Syllables Technique

To help students determine the number of syllables in a given word, teachers can use different items such as tennis rackets, hand clappers, or drums. For example, the teacher would tap a drum two times for the word “brother” this is because the word has two syllables.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Word

To help students discover new words:

  1. Teach them a song, and take off some parts (sounds) of the word.
  2. Allow the students to fill in the last word.
  3. After a few verses using new words, encourage the students to sing along.


Beginning Sounds: bus (us), sled (lead), hand (and), & boat (oat), farm (arm), meat (eat).

Ending Sounds: hammer (ham), little (lit), meat (me), & boat (bow),soap (so).

  • Twinkle, twinkle, little word, what is the new word to be heard? If I take off the FIRST sound of (Bus), What new word will now be found?
  • Take the /b/ right off of “bus.” Now the new word sounds like… (us)
  • Twinkle, twinkle, little word, what is the new word to be heard? If I take off the LAST sound of (Soap), What new word will now be found?
  • Take the /p/ off of soap. Now the new word sounds like… (so)

Segmenting Cards (Can use cards with 2 to 5 Phonemes)

  • For this activity, the teacher will place phoneme cards in random order on a plane surface.
  • Say the sound for each picture card while slowly sliding the parts away from each other.
  • Students will then say the sound for each picture part while slowly moving/sliding the pieces back together. Once the pictures are back together, say the whole word and continue with other picture cards.

Examples of a card with 2 Phonemes:

Words within Sentences

For this activity, dictate the following sentences and have students tap their pencils on a surface when they hear a word in the sentence.


  • May I please have a sweet? (six taps)
  • The weather was cloudy and rainy. (six taps)
  • The child went to the park to play. (eight taps)


To get an early indicator of knowing when students are ready to read, use rhyming. Students that demonstrate reading difficulties may show an insensitivity to rhyme.

  1. To start this exercise, start by explaining how words that rhyme has an ending with a similar sound. Example: goatcoat.
  2. Then read the rhyme phrases aloud, emphasising the word. Stop before arriving at the rhyming word and allow students to fill in the word.


  • A rat sits on a _____. (mat)
  • pig ate the _____. (fig)
  • Smell the rose with your _______. (nose)
  • That guy is very _______. (shy)
  • Open the door, then sit on the _____. (floor)