Teach Your Child Sound Awareness

Why is sound awareness important?

Before phonics instruction can begin, children need to become aware of phonemes.  Phonemes are the separate sounds that make up a word.  For example, the “letter b” stands for the smallest sound at the beginning of the word “bat.”  Research shows that developing a good sense of phoneme awareness is an important prerequisite for success in reading.  These beginning skills can be taught to both kindergarteners and preschoolers in an informal and fun way.  Parents and caregivers can be very successful in teaching sound awareness to children.

 Awareness of sounds, rather than mastery is the goal. A logical order to follow when teaching phonemes is to start with rhymes and alliteration. Then begin to teach how to divide sentences into separate words, followed by separating words into syllables, and finally separating syllables into phonemes.

 First, children need to learn to differentiate and identify the sounds in words, then in syllables, and finally practice manipulation of the sounds.  This helps young children when they are in the beginning phases of reading.  Examples of ways to teach phoneme awareness are, manipulation of sounds in people’s names, songs, poetry, rhymes, tongue twisters, sound substitution games, and other forms of language play.

 Following are some fun activities that parents can use to teach some of the elements of phoneme awareness.  A few examples are given.  Use other words and patterns to create more exercises.  Practice with your child in a casual and entertaining way, and stop when the child gets bored or frustrated.

Fun Sound Activities

 1.  Rhyming activities:  

As you sing songs and read stories and poems to a child, pause and let the child supply the rhyming words.  Discover other words that rhyme with the words in the book or song.

 2.  Alliteration and tongue twisters:

Lucky Leroy Leprechaun and Little Lucy Ladybug love to leap into the lake.

Ruby red robins rest on a rainbow.

Six slippery snakes

 You and your child can really have a good time with this one.

 3.  Separate words in a sentence

“I like ice cream.”  Say the sentence slowly, with pauses between words, at first. Say sentences and ask the child how many words they hear in the sentence.

 4. Practice separating words into syllables:   

 Have the child listen to word parts. Say the whole word and clap as you say each part.  Have the child do it with you.  Start with one, two and three syllable words.

 5.  Separating syllables into sounds:   

 Start by saying the sounds of three-letter words slowly.  Then say the whole word with sounds blended together. Repeat with the child.  He will soon be doing this independently.

 6.  Try sound substitution

For example, replace the first sound in “mat” with “s” to make a new word.  Do the same with the ending letter. Use three letter words until they can do this automatically.

 7.   Rubber Band Stretch:  

This activity is used to practice blending sounds.  Stretch a large rubber band as you stretch the sounds of words.  Then let the band go back to regular size and say the word. Children then simulate stretching a band and stretching the sounds, and then say the word in the conventional way.

 It is well worth the effort for parents and caregivers to take the time to work with their preschoolers and kindergarteners to develop sound awareness in an informal and fun way.  Studies have clearly shown that practice with sounds and daily reading to children will be very helpful in their success with reading, writing, and spelling.