Today I want to share a quick and easy phonemic awareness activity that is perfect for preschoolers and kindergarten students. This activity is so quick and easy to set up and lots of fun for kids!
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Ok, so to start with, what is phonemic awareness?
Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in words. It is one of the fundamental skills necessary for reading.
The ability to identify the first sound in a word is one example of basic phonemic awareness (e.g. cat starts with the /k/ sound).
A more advanced example of phonemic awareness is the ability to switch out the onset (beginning sound), rime (ending) or a syllable in a word.
- Change the /d/ in dog to /l/. It becomes log. (Changing the onset).
- Change the /ig/ in pig to /at/. It becomes pat. (Changing the rime).
- Change the /x/ in six to /p/. It becomes sip. (Changing the final sound).
What is the Difference between Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness?
Phonological awareness is the umbrella term for the ability to identify and manipulate parts of oral language. Rhyming, identifying syllables, and counting the number of words in a sentence are all examples of phonological awareness skills.
Phonemic awareness falls under the larger umbrella of phonological awareness, but deals with the identification and manipulation of specific phonemes (which are units of sound).
Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?
Phonemic awareness is a crucial skill for reading development. As a kindergarten teacher, I am much more interested in my students’ phonological awareness skills as a whole (phonemic awareness falls under the umbrella of phonological awareness), than their alphabetic knowledge.
Alphabetic knowledge refers to a child’s abilities to identify and name letters of the alphabet (check out this hands-on activity to develop alphabetic knowledge and letter recognition ).
So many parents feel that teaching their children the alphabet is the end all be all of pre-reading skills. Actually, learning the alphabet, although helpful, is not all that indicative of reading success.
Eventually, alphabetic knowledge and phonological awareness meld together, and a reader emerges.
But for pre-readers, phonological awareness is crucial.
So what you can do as a parent to encourage the development of phonological awareness?
Provide lots of exposure and practice is the perfect way to encourage the development of phonological awareness skills. Activities like the one below keep practice fun and engaging!
Animal Breakfast: A Phonemic Awareness Activity
This activity, which I’ve named “Animal Breakfast” is a super fun. Set up is very easy activity and it’s perfect for practicing phonemic awareness.
Your child’s task is to match the animals’ initial sounds to the foods’ initial sounds.
Adding a dramatic play element makes this activity much more playful. H loves any kind of pretend play, so rather than just matching the animals to the food, we pretended to make them their favorite breakfasts.
She loved this activity to much, she immediately asked to do it again, then asked to save it so she could play again tomorrow morning! I call that a win.
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- A variety of animals (can be stuffed animals, figurines etc. we used Little People animal sets)
- Pretend food
To prepare, collect a number of animals and food items that have the same beginning sound (e.g. penguins/peas, bear/bacon, lion/lemon)
Have your child place each animal beside a plate.
Explain that you will be serving each animal special breakfast. The animals each have a favorite breakfast that begins with the same sound as their name.
You may want to model the first matching pair together. E.g. Pull out a lemon and say “Lemon, hmmm, lemon starts with the /l/ sound. Which animal also begins with the /l/ sound? Bear? /b/, /b/, bear, noooo…. lion/ /l/, /l/, lion? Yes! Lemon and lion both start with the /l/ sound!
Invite your child to take out one food item at a time and attempt to match the item to the corresponding animal.
Keep going until all the animals have been served their special breakfast!
- If you haven’t done a lot of phonemic awareness activities before, your child will probably need a lot of guidance initially. That is 100% fine! Your goal is to provide exposure to beginning sounds. Most children require modelling and practice before grasping this skill. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly they pick this up after a few rounds of modelling!
- Remember that this activity focusing on phonemes (units of sounds) NOT correct spelling! The cow is allowed to have kale because they both start with a /k/ sound. Don’t even bring up the idea of spelling yet. You can save the spelling lesson for elementary school.
To make this activity easier:
- Reduce the number of animals/food
- Use only one animal and a variety of food. Ask if Piggy likes: peas, corn, peppers, popcorn, lettuce, pears, etc.
To make this activity more challenging:
- Increase number of animals/foods
- Collect 2-3 foods to match with each animal.
- Extra challenge: Have your child match the ending sounds instead of the beginning sounds of the animals/foods e.g. cheetah/pizza, cat/toast, corn/lion.
Encourage phonemic awareness by:
- Making up silly nicknames for each other (Marvelous Mommy, Beautiful Bella, etc.)
- Make up funny alliterations (the sad snake slithered through the slippery sap).
- Leave off the last word of your sentence. Have your child guess what word you’ve left off using only the first letter. Today we’re going to the p___. (park)
I hope you and your little one will enjoy this phonemic awareness activity!
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