TRT Podcast#31: 3 Keys to teaching phonological awareness
It’s time to get practical! In this episode you’ll get specific steps and strategies for teaching phonological awareness from Pre-K to early third grade.
In this episode I will share …
- My favorite read alouds that build phonological awareness
- My top recommendations for phonemic awareness curricula
- How to keep phonological awareness fun with printable centers and games
Listen to the episode here
- Free sample of phonological and phonemic awareness activities
- Phonological & Phonemic Awareness Super Bundle
- Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Curriculum
- Equipped for Reading Success, by David A. Kilpatrick
Full episode transcript
Hello my name is Anna Geiger and I want to welcome you to this live presentation. I am a former teacher, now serving parents and teachers through my website, The Measured Mom, my membership, The Measured Mom Plus, my Facebook groups, my online courses, Teaching Every Reader and Teaching Every Writer, and my podcast, Triple R Teaching. In the podcast, I help educators reflect on their current practices, refine by making small doable changes, and recharge so they're excited for the next day in the classroom.
You are listening to the second of a series all about phonological and phonemic awareness. Last week we talked all about five things you may not know about phonological awareness. Today, in Episode 31 of the Triple R Teaching podcast we're going to talk about three keys to teaching phonological awareness. If you're listening to this in the future on the podcast, then you're hearing the audio of the Facebook live presentation. If you want to see or get a link to the video, you can head to the show notes which can be found at themeasuredmom.com/episode31.
With that, let's go ahead and get into the presentation. I want to share my screen here. Now last week's presentation was all about laying the foundation, the groundwork, the theory behind WHY we do this. We talked a lot about how phonological awareness is really key to helping students become strong readers down the line, mainly because of phonemic awareness. We talked about orthographic mapping. There is a lot of deep stuff there, but it's a really important foundation for what we're going to talk about today. If you haven't seen or listened to that podcast, I would go back and check it out, it's Episode 30.
Today I want to talk to you about three keys to teaching phonological awareness:
#1- Read the right books to your students.
#2- Give systematic sequential instruction in phonological awareness.
#3- Include phonological awareness activities in centers and small group lessons.
Now before we dive into this, I want to do some reviewing of definitions and I know you're thinking you already know what all the words mean. Some people are listening to this video without having seen the first one, so I want to just do a quick review.
Phonics refers to letters and sounds. It's what we're talking about when we talk about sounding things out. It involves teaching kids to blend sounds of letters together to form words, whereas phonological awareness is an oral skill. So phonics is working with print, and phonological awareness is hearing. It's hearing spoken words and being able to manipulate the sounds in the words. Phonemic awareness is a very specific phonological awareness skill. It is the most complex because it involves recognizing individual sounds - not just parts of a compound word or an onset or a rime, but the INDIVIDUAL sounds.
You might remember this umbrella graphic which we shared last week. It says that phonological awareness has to do with rhyming, alliteration, syllables, concept of word, onset-rime, and phonemic awareness. So phonemic awareness is a piece, and many would say the most important piece, of phonological awareness.
We also had this staircase to show you all the levels of phonological awareness, starting very simple with rhyming, and going more advanced following up the staircase to advanced phonemic awareness.
We talked also about the very basic levels of phonological awareness, which are rhyming and alliteration. Because those are very basic and best taught to our youngest learners, for example, pre-k and kindergarten, it's a really great time to read them a lot of books that can help them build these skills.
I want to share with you some of my favorites. First of all, there is no end to quality rhyming books. There really isn't! There are SO many out there. Some of my favorites include "Duck in the Truck" by Jez Alborough. If you know this book, it's about a duck whose truck gets stuck in the muck, and different animals come and help him out. It's funny and cute, and what's really nice about it is that it works really well for leaving out the last word of a sentence for kids to fill in. What I especially like about this book is that it's so popular that kids will just listen to you read it over and over, and that's really what they need. They need to listen to you read the book many, many times for them to be able to hear the rhymes and produce them themselves.
Another book that I really enjoy is "Rhymocerous" by Janik Coat. This is different than "Duck in the Truck" because in this one it actually supplies the rhymes. It's like each page is a rhyming pair, so it's quite different. It doesn't tell a story, but it's very engaging and has great pictures. I highly recommend it.
Then if you want a more advanced rhyming book, one that is just a great story that kids will listen to repeatedly, but not a simple as "Duck in the Truck", I would check out "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson. Really pretty much any book by her is great, and I think most, if not all, are rhyming books.
Now that's just to get you started. I'm sure you need more than three, so please check out my blog post "75 Best Rhyming Books". It's quite a list, but there are so many good ones! You can find that list at themeasuredmom.com/rhyming books.
So how often should you read rhyming books? If you're in a classroom, I would read one every day. At home, certainly have a stack that you use often and just know that constantly reading these rhyming books will help your learners develop an ear for rhyme.
Now for my favorite books with alliteration. Remember, alliteration is when kids can hear that words start with the same sound. It's harder to find good books with alliteration, but a favorite author of mine for these is Pamela Duncan Edwards. A really funny one that she's written is called "Some Smug Slug". It's about a slug who's smugly climbing up this slope, and everyone is telling him it's dangerous, and to get down, but he's smug about it and keeps going. It turns out, the slope is actually a toad, so it's hilarious. Another good book by the same author is "Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke", and it's also super funny. It's really hard to write a good story using the same letter at the beginning of a lot of words, but she's got it figured out and she's got a few that you should check out.
Another idea is "The Great Fuzz Frenzy" by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, who are a great team. This is a hilarious book. I can't remember, it's been a while since I read it, if they're their prairie dogs, but a tennis ball has rolled into their tunnel and there's just a big frenzy about getting all the fuzz. They are all excited about it, so it's super funny.
If you want more books with alliteration, you can check out my blog post, themeasuredmom.com/alliterationbooks. The funny thing is that when I made this list, I was actually thinking about students who are writing and how alliteration is an example of writer's craft. It's something they can do to make parts of their writing stand out more. I didn't really think about it as being a phonological awareness skill, but looking back I can see many, many books in that list would also work for this as well.
So that is the beginning, that's the first key- reading aloud a lot to your students.
Let's move on to number two, which is to give systematic sequential instruction in phonological awareness. Now, I'm just going to be honest here, but I have to say that for many years the phrase "systematic sequential" kind of gave me hives because to me that just sounds BORING. For me to enjoy teaching, it's got to be interesting! So if you're feeling that way, I totally get it! The good news is that systematic sequential phonological awareness instruction doesn't take long, you can accomplish it in 10 or 15 minutes a day.
To be able to do that you need to remember all the levels of phonological awareness that we talked about last week. Let's just review those briefly: rhyming, alliteration, word awareness (that's when kids can count the words in a sentence), syllables, onsets and rimes (remember an onset is the first part of a syllable before the vowel and rime is the second part. So with the word lamp, the onset would be /l/ and the rime would be /amp/), and then basic and more advanced phonemic awareness. Those involve things like isolating phonemes, blending, segmenting, and manipulating.
So when we think about that staircase of skills there's a few things to remember. It's not one hundred percent accurate one hundred percent of the time. It's a general progression. In other words, some kids have those more advanced skills before they have some of the basic ones, it's just kind of a weird thing. So it's not true that everybody follows through that progression always exactly in that order, but it's pretty standard.
The next thing to remember about this is that phonemic awareness is the ultimate goal, but we should not try to skip the foundational skills. In that long ladder, we know that phonemic awareness comes at the end, and we're excited about that, but we shouldn't try to skip the first ones to get there faster.
Phonemic awareness is the KEY to helping kids with orthographic mapping. We talked about that last week. It's this idea that they map words into their brain so that they can read them automatically next time, but we need those things to build up to it first.
Finally, phonological awareness instruction should begin in kindergarten and continue to early third grade, perhaps longer. I mentioned this in an email that I sent to my newsletter subscribers last week, but as a classroom teacher of first and second grade, I did not do a lot of this. I really thought that it was taken care of in preschool and kindergarten, and my job was to get right into reading. I didn't realize that they could coexist, and that they need to be building this phonological awareness, specifically phonemic awareness instruction, for a while! That's something for you to remember too if you thought that that's just for the very early childhood teachers. Think again, many experts are telling us now, because it's the key to helping kids who struggle with reading.
So if you're listening to all this and you're saying, well, that's great, but I need some examples! What exactly does it mean to teach phonological and phonemic awareness systematically, explicitly, sequentially, give me some examples! That's what we're going to do next.
Alright, so I'm going to give you some oral activities that you can do for each of those skills in that staircase. First, let's start with rhyming. You go very basic and ask them if two words rhyme, and then you can get more advanced. Here's three things you can do. "Do 'cat' and 'bat' rhyme?" You can do an odd one out, "'bag', 'pig', 'dog', which one doesn't rhyme?" Or you can have them generate rhymes, you can say "Name a word that rhymes with 'run'."
Let's go up the staircase to alliteration. You could ask, "Do these words start with the same sound, 'bug', 'ball'?" You could say, "'Bear', 'gum', 'goat', which one starts with a different sound?" Or you can say "What sound does the word 'horse' start with?"
Moving up the staircase let's go to word awareness. So in this one you could just give them a sentence and have them tell you each word, or count the words. It can help to give them some pennies or poker chips that they push forward for every word. So I could say, "How many words are in the sentence, 'I ran to the store'?" and then help them push a penny forward for each word.
Next up is syllables. When it comes to syllables, we can have them put them together to make words, or we can have them break a word apart into syllables. We can have them omit syllables, and we can have them substitute syllables. Let me give you some examples. You could say, "Put these words together to make a word, 'fish', 'bowl'," and they would blend the syllables to make fishbowl. You could ask them, "Break this word apart into two words, 'airplane'." That would be an example of segmenting with syllables. You could say, "What is 'doghouse' without 'house'?"The answer is dog. For substitution, you could say, "Take the word 'playground' and change the word 'ground' to 'house'." They would give you the word, "playhouse".
Next we'll talk about onset and rime so again we're going to talk about blending, segmenting, and omitting. You could say, "Listen to these two sounds and put them together to make a word, /c/, /at/", and they would say "cat". Or you could say "What are the two parts of the word 'house'?" and they could give you the two parts, /h/ and /ouse/. Then "What is 'can' without the /c/?" and they would say, "an".
When it comes to phonemic awareness, there are so many different pieces about them so I provided a whole slide for all four parts of phonemic awareness with examples. First, we can start with phoneme isolation, which is a lot like alliteration when you're talking about the first phoneme. You could say, "What sound does the word 'hippo' start with? What sound does the word 'bird' end with?" Or you can have them listen to the words and tell you which one is different, "Listen to these words, which one has a different middle sound, 'rip', 'win', 'pop'?"
Moving on to phoneme blending, that's a little more advanced. You could have them listen to the sounds and put them together to make a word, so "/ch/, /e/, /st/" and they would blend them to make the word chest. Of course, you would start with two or three letter words and work your way up to longer ones.
Then we've got phoneme segmentation. It's the opposite of blending, we're to take a word apart into its phonemes. So you could say, "Break this word apart into its sounds, 'hat'. /h/, /a/, /t/." Or "How many phonemes are in the word 'stand'?" Then you could watch them or help them /s/, /t/, /a/, /n/, /d/. Remember with phonemes when we're counting them, a digraph is one phoneme. So /sh/ is spelled with two letters, but /sh/ is just one phoneme because it's just one sound.
Remember that even though we may sometimes include letters with phonological and phonemic awareness instruction and that's okay, but in general, these activities are purely oral.
Then we've got phoneme manipulation, which is the most advanced of all the phonological awareness skills. Last week I talked to you about David Kilpatrick and his research, and he talks a lot about how this is the big one in terms of helping kids who struggle. We really have to help them learn to how to manipulate phonemes. Some examples of that would be "Add /s/ to the beginning of 'pin' and what's the new word? Spin!" That would be adding a phoneme. Or you could say "Take the /l/ out of 'plug,' what's the word? Pug!" That would be deleting a phoneme. Finally, "Take the /l/ out of 'molt' and substitute /s/. What's the word? Most!" That's substituting phonemes.
As you can see there are four pieces to phonemic awareness. We need to work on all of them, but we need those foundational skills too.
Now if you are interested in finding a sequential systematic phonemic awareness instruction curriculum, I have a few to recommend. The reason I call this "phonemic awareness" and not "phonological awareness" curriculum is because that's what these creators call it. For sure the first one I'm going to share with you includes plenty of rhyming, onset-rime, and all of that which is not technically phonemic awareness, but it is also included. The first one I'm going to recommend, that a lot of people love, is "Phonemic Awareness" from Heggerty. I don't have it in my hands yet, but I have ordered it so I can see it and see what all the buzz is about, but I've seen their previews on the website. If you go there you can get downloads with the scope and sequence as well as sample lessons. The nice thing is that it comes on this big spiral, and they have a separate curriculum (35 weeks worth) for pre-k, kindergarten, primary, and an intervention binder which I'm assuming you could use in third grade. Don't quote me on that, but it's certainly worth checking out. What's nice about it is that it has a set of oral activities for each day, and they tell you it should only take about 10 or 15 minutes, and that sounds good to me. Heggerty also teaches hand signals which can help keep your students engaged.
Another one is David Kilpatrick's book, "Equipped for Reading Success". I just think this is a good book to have in general, to help you understand more about phonemic awareness and why it's important, but at the end, he's got a whole bunch of one minute activities you can do with your students. I would say it's not as straightforward as Heggerty in terms of what to do when, but it's still an excellent resource.
Now with that I'm going to go to my face and take out the slides. I want to say that I think it's a really good idea- an important, smart idea- to get a systematic, sequential, phonemic awareness curriculum and use it in your classroom. Particularly if you teach pre-k to second and even third grade as well. I also think it's important that you keep this whole class instruction short. 10 minutes would be my goal for you, maybe 15. There are so many other things to do in your day, so I would go for 10 minutes. I also know though, that as a teacher if I had to read out of a binder a set of things that follow the same pattern every day, I would get a little bored! Some of your students may get bored as well! So yes, it's important, but I think it's also important to supplement with other things. I wouldn't make that be ALL you do for phonological awareness because you may find that some students get bored with the repetition of it. Then they tune out a little bit, and you need other things to keep their attention- just to keep learning fun for them AND you! You became a teacher because you're creative, not because you want to follow a list of To-Do's every day.
That's why I think that Key #3 is also very important: Include phonological awareness activities in your centers and small group lessons. These would be things that include paper, so it doesn't have to be one hundred percent oral all the time. There are lots of hands-on, colorful things that you can do to help your students learn this in another way.
Let's go on to some ideas for phonological awareness activities and centers. I like board games. I think they're fun, kids like them, I actually used this exact board game with my daughter when she was struggling to learn how to rhyme. She was three, and she was our fifth child. The other ones all picked up rhyming without me really teaching it directly, because I was reading to them all the time! But as our family has grown, I haven't done it as much, with all the kids. All of you with big families, or even more than one child, probably know what I'm saying. It wasn't as explicit as it could have been. So I made this game and we just took turns moving around the board and all she did was land on a space and say the two pictures "star, car," "flag, bag". It was great and this worked! This simple game worked! All of a sudden, she understood how to rhyme. We played it a few times and that was it.
There's a quite a few other things you could do to work on rhyming. These clip cards are a good one for kids just learning. I have some on my website, and you can certainly find them for free if you search on Pinterest. These sorting cards are an activity where you would have a mat with smiley face on one side and a sad face on the other side, and a set of cards. Each card has two pictures and they rhyme or they don't rhyme. Kids will draw a card, name the pictures, and sort them. Bingo is a great whole class activity for teaching rhyming.
Moving on to syllables, clip cards are another good one. This is a board game I like. I've created many, many board games with this similar pattern with a border on the outside of spaces and the inside is a bingo board. Kids can play it all by themselves. They just move around the border using a die, and when they land on something, they find its match in the bingo center. In this version, if you're listening and not seeing it, the outside are pictures that have one to four syllables in their names, and the inside is a grid of numbers. They just go around and if they land on ambulance, for example, they clap it "am-bu-lance", and they color the three in the center. When they have five spaces covered in a row, they are done! It's nice because they can play without you.
I like this syllables board game which is a lot more advanced. Kids roll a die, and they move to the next picture which has that number of syllables. So if they roll a four, they might move up to u-ni-cy-cle. If they roll a five, they lose their turn. If they roll a six they roll again. Then, we have good old worksheets. I'm not a huge fan of worksheets, certainly not a steady diet of them, but I'm not going to tell you they're evil and you should never use them. I don't believe that. So, they're certainly there for you. They are not my first choice, but they're something when you need something quick.
When it comes to concept of word, I really think the best way to do this is to teach with a little book. A nursery rhyme emergent reader is a good way. This would be an example, it's "Humpty Dumpty", and there is a dot under each word. I like to use nursery rhymes because kids know them, at least many kids do. If they don't know them, then read to them, and once they know them you can use these little books. They can point to each word as they read and they're not really reading, they're reciting, but it helps them match every word they say to a word on the page.
There's a lot of activities for phonemic awareness. Here's one example for phoneme isolation. My kids have always loved chutes and ladders. You can make a really simple version of that on a piece of paper and put pictures in each box. When they get to a picture they have to say the first sound of the word. You could do a blending activity where they have a game that has a whole bunch of different pictures on it. So think of a grid with eight pictures. You say the three sounds that go in the word, and they have to find it. I actually did this exact type of activity with my son and his friend today at our home preschool. He is five, and she is almost 4. I would say, "/p/, /i/, /g/," and they had to put the sounds together to make "pig" and then cover the pig on their board.
Here's an example for phoneme segmenting. Do you have Elkonin boxes? Those are the cards that have a picture on the top and boxes on the bottom for each sound. If you've got Elkonin boxes at home, you can repurpose those into a game. Just get a blank game board. Kids would say all the sounds in the word, and then they would move ahead on the game board the same number of sounds that were in the word. They just flip an Elkonin box card, and if it has a picture of a bee on it, they say, "/b/, /ee/", and then they moved two spaces on the board. It's a way to get extra mileage out of those cards.
Then for phoneme manipulation, here's another example of a game. It's a little hard to explain to those of you are listening on the podcast, but each space has a picture and a letter to add to the beginning of the word. So in this case we're using letters a bit, but by this stage they're at an advanced stage of phonemic awareness, and they should know the letters and sounds for sure.
Let's review the three keys I talked about today that I believe are important in teaching phonological awareness. They are reading the right books giving systematic sequential instruction in phonological awareness, and including phonological awareness activities in your centers and small group lessons. Now I told you what kind of books to read and I gave you some links to book lists that should be helpful. I recommended some systematic curricula for teaching phonological, and specifically phonemic awareness.
Now I'm going to help you with number three. I want to help you get your hands on some centers and small group activities that you can use that can make phonological awareness FUN for you and your students! I want to share my Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Super Bundle! I've put together six products from my shop, and dropped the price by 33% in this big bundle. I want to share with you what's included. We've got my Rhyming Activities that's normally for $15. Syllable Activities are $10. The Phonemic Awareness Bundle is $24. My Nursery Rhyme Pack, which includes things like the "Humpty Dumpty" book you saw earlier, plus a lot of corresponding activities is $15. Set 2 of those which I just released is also $15, and Personalized Emergent Readers where kids can actually have their name in the book, as the first word on every page. All of these together is a combined value of $89, but in the bundle it's put together for $57, so I would like to offer that to you in my shop. It's called the Phonological Awareness Super Bundle for $57. If you're not sure yet, or you want to try before you buy, check out this free sample. You can get it at themeasuredmom.com/sample, and it includes a rhyming game, a syllables game, two phonemic awareness games, plus an emergent reader. I would definitely check that out and that way you can get your hands right away on some engaging activities that you can use in your centers or your small groups.
So there you go! Those are my three keys to teaching phonological awareness. If you are listening on the podcast and you want links to things I mentioned, you can go to themeasuredmom.com/episode31. If you're live with me on the video, that won't be ready for a couple more days. Thank you so much for watching, and I look forward to talking to you again next week!
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