Parents are often eager to teach and practice the good old ABCs with their children. However, there are other ways that parents can support pre-literacy development, such as fostering phonological awareness skills, too! Phonological awareness is the understanding that sentences/words are made up of smaller units, as well as the ability to identify and manipulate these units. Research has found that strong phonological awareness skills are predictors of early reading success. One way to understand phonological awareness is to divide it into different levels: word, syllable, and sound. Check out NSPT’s blog Phonemic Awareness Skills to learn more about when these skills are acquired.
Each level of phonological awareness is described below, with activities you can do at home!
Word: The concept of a “word” is an important first step in understanding language. Children are constantly building their vocabulary and using these new words in a variety of ways. There are many ways to begin bringing attention to how words work.
- Clap out the words of a favorite song (e.g. Old – McDonald – had – a – farm) to help children learn that sentences contain separate words. You can also use musical instruments, tapping on the floor or jumping. This is especially important for “function” words that are more abstract, such as “the,” “and,” “do,” etc.
- Read books that rhyme as a fun and silly way to teach children to recognize that words have patterns. Check out NSPT’s blog Rhyme Time: 10 Books To Teach Your Child Phonological Awareness for children’s books that contain great stories with rhymes.
- Enjoy tongue twisters to begin thinking about alliteration (e.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. What sound do all of these words start with?). Alliteration, or when every word of a sentence starts with the same sound, is another way to bring attention to patterns in words.
Syllable: Words can be broken down into smaller units, one of which is syllables. Children learn to separate these chunks in a similar manner as they do for words in sentences. Knowing how to do this will help when a child is reading and comes across a multi-syllabic word they are unfamiliar with.
- Make a bean bag toss in which you provide a multi-syllabic word, and the child has to throw a bean bag into a bucket while saying one syllable at a time.
- Write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on a piece of paper and place them in separate areas of a room. Then give the child a multi-syllabic word and have them run to the number that represents the number of syllables in that word.
- Sort objects found around the house into groups by how many syllables they have.
Sound: Words can also be broken down to their individual sounds. There are several ways we can manipulate sounds, including identifying (e.g. what is the first sound in “bat?”), segmenting (e.g. what 3 sounds do you hear in “bat”?), blending (e.g. what do the sounds /b/ /a/ /t/ make?) deleting (e.g. what’s “bat” without the /b/?), and substituting (e.g. if you change the /b/ in “bat” to /m/, what word is it?). Here are a few ways to begin prating these in an interactive, multi-sensory way.
- Play “Simon Says.” Give the last word of the direction by segmenting it into sounds. For example, Simon Says touch your /l/ /e/ /g/, or Simon says stand /u/ /p/.
- Play “I spy” to bring attention to particular positions of sounds (beginning/middle/end of word). For example, you could say “I spy something that begins with a sssss sound.”
- Modify “head shoulders knees and toes” by providing a multi-syllabic word. The child can touch their head, shoulder, knees and toes (one per sound) as they figure out what sounds are in the word. For example, /b/ (touch head), /a/ (touch shoulders), /t/ (touch knees).
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!