Best Phonemic Awareness Activities For Kindergarten

Phonemic awareness skills are an important part of reading success. Teaching them is a lot of fun. Kindergarten and first grade students will enjoy rhyming, blending, syllable activities, and working with phonemes.  We’ve got everything from games to centers. Click through for the ultimate list of phonemic awareness activities.

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You have been given a difficult task.

I get it.

You have a class of wiggly Kindergartens and somehow you are expected to get all of them reading. Added to which they are all at different levels, so every activity must be differentiated. We don’t want kids getting overwhelmed or bored, which is probably worse.

You are watching your sanity getting ready to pack up and leave.

We’ve all been there.

But if you use some basic literacy strategies, I promise… it will make a HUGE difference.

You will of course be focusing on sight words (link) and phonics (link). But another important literacy skill is phonemic awareness.

This post doesn’t just include some brilliant phonemic activities, but it also includes tips that will make it easy to include these activities into your day. Because the more you practice this skill, the easier it will be for your students to succeed. And that is something very sweet indeed!

Before we get into those fun phonemic awareness activities, let’s answer two basic questions.

1. What is Phonemic Awareness and why it is important?

Phonemic awareness is all about being able to hear, identify, and manipulate phenomes. These are the individual elements of sounds in any language.

For example, in the word “map,” the phonemes are the “m,” “short a,” and the “t” sounds. A Kinder with well developed phonemic awareness can both

  • Segment these sounds
  • Blend the isolated sounds back together to form a  recognizable word.

There are 44 phonemes in the English language. To further complicate things, some letters have more than one sound.

For example, the letter ‘o’ represents one sound in the word other and a completely different sound in the word book. And as if that isn’t hard enough, some letters form a completely different sound when they are arranged side by side in a word. Examples of this are ‘th’ found in the word this or ‘ch’ in the word chair.

The  Reading Well website has a complete list of phonemes if you are interested.

The ability to hear and understand the sounds in words is one of those foundational literacy skills. In fact, studies indicate that a well developed phonological awareness in kindergarten is a strong predictor of later reading success 

2. What is the difference between Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

In a nutshell, phonemic awareness is about the sounds of a word and manipulating those sounds. While phonics is concerned with the relationship between the sounds and the letters.

Obviously, the two skills are intertwined, but they are not the same. Phonemic awareness is the precursor to phonics instruction. It will be very hard for your students to succeed in phonics if they do not have a well-developed phonemic awareness.

  • Phonemic Awareness is concerned with the sounds.
  • Phonics involves the printed words.

Teaching Tip: Children with dyslexia often display impaired phonological awareness. They struggle to learn the simplest rhymes and have trouble discerning the individual sounds in words. If might be worth testing students that lag behind their peers, despite extra help. Click here for more information.

The Best Activities to Develop Phonemic Awareness In Kindergarten

Rhyming Activities

Most kids enjoy rhymes and grasp the idea very quickly. Rhyming word play draws our student’s attention to the sounds and patterns of language, so it is a good place to start. I love learning that occurs in an informal and fun way.

The very best way to introduce rhyming is to read lots and lots of rhyming books. Most of these books appeal to our kid’s sense of humor, so have fun with them. Draw children’s attention to the rhymes in the book.

The next best way is to play some rhyming games. Kids love games, so it is a great way to learn.

Teacher reading rhyming book

Rhyming Activities For Independent Learning or Centers

We have two different sets of rhyming puzzles

Rhyming app

The Partners in Rhyme app invites children to practice their rhyming skills. There are four games to choose from and the app uses pictures rather than words, so the children say the words and must listen for the ones that rhyme. Consequently, it is great for increasing phonological awareness. Get the app here.

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Phoneme Isolation

Phoneme isolation at this level involves isolating and identifying sounds in the words. Here are a few general principles.

  • We usually start with 3 sound words. CVC (consonant- vowel-consonant) words are perfect for this.
  • Beginning sounds are a good place to start because they are easier than middle and ending sounds.
  • Children in this age group tend to find that consonant sounds are easier to identify and isolate than vowel sounds

Printables to Teach Beginning Sounds

A Free App

This Phonemic Awareness Bubbles app focuses on beginning sounds. Games include matching pictures with the same beginning sound and picking the picture that starts with a different sound. Get the app here

Segmenting and Blending Sounds

Once Kinders can isolate and identify sounds in words, they can move on to blending and segmenting sounds. Again, we would be working with three sound words. Here are some fun activities.

Sound blending With a Fun Song

If you think you know this word (Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands)

If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word,
Then tell me what you’ve heard,
If you think you know this word, shout it out!

After singing the verse, give the phenomes of a 3-sound word. You might say as M-A-T and the students shout back “Mat.” This can get noisy, so be prepared and fun with it.

Segmenting and Blending Printables

Click her for a list of videos about decoding and blending

Phoneme Substitution

These are activities in which students are invited to replace one phenome with another. It can be as simple as showing a picture card of a CVC word and inviting the students to say the word. Then challenge the group to replace one phenome with another. You can do this with beginning, middle, and end sounds.

For example, change

  • Cat to Hat
  • Hat to Hot
  • Hot to Hop

Silly Sound Switch

In this activity, you will challenge students to make a silly sound switch to a familiar song.

For example, the song, Row, Row, Row Your Boat is brilliant for this. You can sing

Row, row, row your boat, and then switch the b for another letter. Students will love singing Row, row, Row Your Goat, or Row, row, Row Your Coat!

Here’s another fun sound switch song

Activities to Reinforce syllables

Dividing words into syllables helps build phonemic awareness. Each syllable represents one sound. It helps the students master the process of decoding. Understanding the rules for syllable division will increase fluency and accuracy in your students.

Nonsense words

As we break words down into phenomes, we are reinforcing syllables – an essential piece to phonological awareness.  Again, in the continuum of reading, students will not be able to be fluent readers until phonological skills are mastered.  Practicing reading these nonsense words to help your students develop this skill.

Other Syllable Activities

Your Turn

What activities do you use to help build phonemic awareness? Leave a comment below.

Phonemic awareness
Phonemic Awareness pin
Phonemic Awareness Pin
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