The awareness that the speech flow is a compilation of individual words is typically achieved at a very young age. The linguistic play of young children, including rhyming and the generation of nonsense words, provides evidence of this early level of phonological awareness (Bradley, 1988). When a child utters a single word that he has only heard in combination with other words, he is demonstrating the word level of phonological awareness.
The teacher says a short sentence as the student(s) listen. The student(s) claps or taps the words in the sentence. Then the student(s) counts the number of words in the sentence. Counters may also be used to count the number of words as in the use of Elkonin Boxes.
Syllables are the most easily distinguishable units within words. Most children acquire the ability to segment words into syllables with minimal instruction (Liberman, Shankweiler, & Liberman, 1989). Activities such as clapping, tapping, and marching are often used to develop syllable awareness. This level of phonological awareness is useful for initial instruction in detection, segmentation, blending, and manipulation of phonological components of language. The ability to detect, segment, and count syllables is more important to reading acquisition than the ability to manipulate and transpose them (Adams 1990).
Syllable Clapping with Environmental Print
The teacher uses examples of environmental print to have students clap syllables. Students then organize the environmental print examples by the number of syllables in each.
Brand and Name:
Brand and Name:
The onset-rime or intrasyllabic level of phonological awareness is an intermediate and instructionally useful level of analysis between the syllable and the phoneme (Adams 1990). The onset is the part of the syllable that precedes the vowel (e.g., the /k/ in cat, the /br/ in brown). The rime is the rest of the syllable (e.g., the /og/ in dog, the /ack/ in black). Because a syllable must contain a vowel, all syllables must have a rime, but not all syllables have an onset. Instruction at the onset-rime level is an important step for many children because tasks that require onset and rime analysis require the segmentation of syllables, they are more sophisticated than syllable-level tasks.
Onset and Rime House Activity
Using an activity from the Florida Center for Reading Research Student Center Activities, the teacher introduces the activity in a small group. This activity has students place picture cards in the correct “Rime House.”
Onset and Rime House Game
Student Center Activities, Grade K-1, Florida Center for Reading Research
The most sophisticated level of phonological awareness is the phoneme level, most commonly referred to as phonemic awareness. Children with strong phonemic awareness are able to manipulate individual phonemes, the smallest units of spoken language. Phonemic awareness skills include the ability to detect, segment, and blend phonemes and to manipulate their position in words (Adams, 1990; Lenchner et al. 1990).
Phoneme Counting with Mystery Objects
The teacher uses a bag of mystery objects with her class during whole group instruction. The student pulls an object from the bag and then counts the number of phonemes in each object word.
The sound detection strategy asks students to determine the words that begin or end with a certain sound. Kerri Coy works with her first graders as they match initial sound(s) to key card words.
Given a target phoneme, students determine which words begin or end with that sound.
- Matching initial sound: The teacher asks students to tell which words begin with the same sound of a given set: can, cookie, or table? (can, cookie)
- Isolating initial sound: The teacher asks students to identify the first sound in a given word: foot, /f/.
- Sound differences: Students are asked to determine which word begins or ends with a sound different from a given word: "Which of these words does not have the same ending sound as cat: mutt, lift, cake, or bite?" (cake)
Elkonin boxes, or sound boxes, help a child represent the number of phonemes in a word. While saying the word slowly, sound by sound, the student moves a marker into each box to represent each sound in the word. This activity may be modified to allow the teacher and student to practice the skill orally. The teacher may demonstrate using fingers to count phonemes, raising one finger as each phoneme is pronounced. With teacher guidance, the student should be able to learn how to count phonemes independently.
Counting Sounds with Elkonin Boxes
- Count the sounds in the word with the child.
- Model pushing one chip into a box for each sound in the word.
- Assist the child as he pushes a chip into a box for each sound in the word.
- Allow the child to demonstrate independently.
Phoneme manipulation allows students to practice manipulating the sounds in words. In this teaching example, Reggenia Baskin uses a phoneme deletion activity with her students in an activity called "Take Off Cinderella." A simple way to have students use this strategy is by giving them the following prompts:
“Now say _______________ without ______________.”
Deletion of beginning phoneme:
Now say midnight without mid.
Deletion of ending phoneme:
Now say umbrella without brella.
Deletion of medial phoneme:
Now say information without for.