phonemic awareness

Teaching Your Struggling Reader Phonemic Awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness?

I promise, I’ll only bore you with the definition once.

Phonemic awareness — the ability to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words

A child who possesses phonemic awareness can segment sounds in words (for example, pronounce just the first sound heard in the word top) and blend strings of isolated sounds together to form recognizable word forms.

phonemic awareness

It has been an uphill battle to teach my daughter her vowel sounds. She can say her consonant sounds like a boss but when it comes to differentiating the sounds that the letter “a” or “i” makes… sigh…..

In the first post of this series I touched on the importance of building trust and putting you and your child’s relationship first. If you didn’t read that post- stop now, and do it… it’s that important.

phonemic awareness

No child is going to learn to read without first understanding the connection between letters and their sounds. If you have a child that is struggling in this area, it’s important that you don’t try and rush past it and you don’t let them rely on just memorizing words by sight. Take time to really reinforce this concept.

According to the National Reading Panel:

“the amount of phonemic awareness that a child has been exposed to before the start of school is a strong factor in how well that child will read by the end of first grade.”

This typically comes naturally for many children who are brought up in rich literature environments. But if they haven’t learned their letters and sounds this is where you start. This doesn’t even have to be formal learning. Every time you come across a letter – point it out, say it’s sound. Sing songs, sing your ABC’s.

And if you have a child (like mine) that feels that they are too old to be singing their ABC’s then just set aside intentional learning time where you play games to reinforce letter sounds.

Teaching Rhyme

Research has shown that children are most successful in mastering their letter sounds when they have interacted with a variety of printed materials, are exposed to hearing the sound repeatedly and when they have someone who is coaching them with the correct sounds along the way.

An easy way to assess whether they have mastered Letter recognition is to present your child with a list of letters and ask them to name each letter. I do this little exercise frequently with my daughter to assess where we are at.

You can also have them separate the letters from a pile of letters, numbers, and symbols. Have them tell you the sounds that each letter makes as they are going down the list or separating them from the pile. It’s best to assess this out of order so that they are not just repeating what they have memorized through song or repetition.

I have created A packet of  Phonemic Awareness Activities chalk full of short activities for teaching phonological awareness. Grab it right here: 

I encourage you that if you have a child struggling with this essential step in learning to read, to move through the activities slowly and patiently. Remember… relationship first!


Need more ideas on teaching a struggling reader? Check out these posts below and come back for the next post in this series.

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Teaching Sight words Teaching Reading, Reading, Struggling Reader, Reading resources, How to teach reading Learning to read, teaching a struggling reader

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