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Phonological Awareness


“A child’s level of phonemic awareness on entering school is widely held to be the strongest determinant of the success that she or he will experience in learning to read – or, conversely, the likelihood that he or she will fail.” Marilyn Jager Adams, 1990

Phonological awareness refers to one’s ability to notice and attend to the sounds in language. Children develop a sense of phonological awareness by participating in oral activities such as songs, fingerplays, and nursery rhymes. As children become more adept with these skills, phonemic awareness starts to develop. Phonemic awareness involves being able to manipulate the phonemes, or individual sounds in words, to make new words. While many of the activities that take place in an early childhood setting that involve songs and word play lead to phonological and phonemic awareness in children, the development of skills is incidental. Research shows that both phonological and phonemic awareness skills can be developed through intentional instruction and, by providing intentional instruction, adults can increase children’s likelihood of reading success. It is important that children are encouraged to play with language by listening to songs, poems, and books that provide for the development of these skills.

Research indicates that the typical order of phonological awareness skill development proceeds from larger to smaller units of sound and might look like:
• Listening and participating in songs and fingerplays to hear the sounds and rhythm of language
• Segmenting sentences into words (e.g., I like cats…. I like cats).
• Combining and blending syllables into words (e.g., compound words – dog house = doghouse)
• Deleting a syllable from a word (e.g., What is doghouse without dog? house)
• Producing a word that rhymes with a given word (e.g. cat – hat; dog- sog)
**Nonsense words are okay as the goal is to encourage children to complete the rhyme.
• Producing a word that begins the same as a pair of words (e.g., alliteration – bear, bull, baby)
• Combining onset-rime (e.g., /d/ + /og/ = dog)
• Identifying phonemes in words (e.g., How many sounds do you hear in dog? /d/, /o/, /g/)
• Combining phonemes in words (e.g., /k/ /a/ /t/ = cat

Anthony, Jason, Christopher Lonigan, Kimberly Driscoll, Beth Phillips, and Stephen Burgess. "Phonological Sensitivity: A Quasi-Parallel Progression of Word Structure Units and Cognitive Operations." Reading Research Quarterly 38.4 (2003): 470-87. Print.