PHONEMIC AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Phonemic awareness activities will help your child to learn to analyze and manipulate individual sounds in words.  Phonemic awareness is the ability to count the number of sounds; identify the beginning, middle and ending sounds; and segment, blend, add and delete sounds in words.

To understand why phonemic awareness is so crucial to your child’s reading development, read my post, “Phonemic Awareness – The Most Important Pre-Reading Skill.”

Now for some fantastic phonemic awareness activities that work…

1. ALPHABET SOUND TUBS – I really like the ones made by Lakeshore Learning.  The objects are sorted by beginning letter.  For example, the A tub includes apple, acorn and alligator.  The objects provide great practice for identifying beginning sounds.  However, if you wanted to practice identifying ending sounds, you could find multiple objects from various tubs ending with the sound /n/, such as sign, cone and sun.  I also like adding objects and toys to the tubs to expand the activity.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

2.  PICTURE SORTS – Google beginning consonant sounds picture sorts, ending consonant sounds picture sorts or middle vowel sounds picture sorts, and you will find a plethora of materials fit for contrasting phonemes within words.  A couple of things to remember:

  1. Start with single syllable words.  Words with only three sounds, such as cat or bus are best.
  2. Contrasting beginning sounds is easiest.  Once that is mastered, move onto contrasting ending sounds.  Contrasting middle vowel sounds is the most difficult.
  3. Start by contrasting only two sounds.  Contrast at most four sounds at one time.

You can do this task with the objects in your alphabet sounds tubs, as well.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights identifying the beginning and ending sounds in words.

3.  ELKONIN BOXES – The Read Rocket website offers instructions how to use Elkonin boxes and the Lanternfish provides a ton of Elkonin boxes templates to download.  Since our goal is to develop phonemic awareness, which deals with sounds within a spoken word, not letters, I would recommend using counters (e.g. pennies or unifix cubes) instead of letters.  For example, when presented with the sheep template below, I would slide one counter in the first box while saying the sound /sh/, one counter in the second box while saying the sound /ee/, and one counter in the third box while saying the sound /p/.  After segmenting the sounds, blend them together to form the word, sheep.

Elkonin box

An Elkonin box template for the word, sheep. There are three boxes for the three phonemes, /sh/, /ee/ and /p/.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights counting, segmenting and blending sounds in words.

4.  USING KINESTHETIC MOVEMENT TO SEGMENT SOUNDS WITHIN WORDS – Start with consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) word families that produce a lot of words, such as –ap, –ed, –ip and –ot.  Work with only one word family at a time, such as –ap, which includes the words cap, gaplap, map, nap, sap and tap.  Pass a ball back and forth between two (or more) people.  When you catch the ball, you say the next sound in the word.  Over three tosses, the word cap sounds like /c/, /a/, /p/.  By working within the same word family, you will only need to change the beginning sound.  In lieu of tossing a ball, you could stomp your foot or clap your hands for each sound, or phoneme.

5.  COMMUNICATE IN SEGMENTED PHONEMES – Start with single syllable words you use frequently, like car, bike, school, bed, ball, dog, etc.  Also use your child’s name, even if it has more than one syllable.  Say things like:

  1. It’s time for /b/ /e/ /d/.
  2. Do you want to /b/ /igh/ /k/ to /s/ /k/ /oo/ /l/ today?
  3. Let’s play catch with the /d/ /o/ /g/.
  4. /S/ /a/ /l/ /ee/, where is your brother?

At first, you may have to blend the sounds to form the word for the child, but with repetition, his ear will be able to hear the word among the segmented sounds.

This phonemic awareness activity highlights blending sounds in words.

Other amazing resources for phonemic awareness activities

I really find value in many of Heidi Butkus’ recommended phonemic awareness activities.  I specifically like the Segmentation Sliders (similar to the Elkonin boxes) and the Puppets speaking in segmented sounds and alliteration, both on page 3.  Sound blending bingo, songs and eliciting a physical response on page 4 are exceptional, too.

I like the Sound Segmentation Pictures at kellyskindergarten.com.  You can use them with Elkonin boxes or Segmentation Sliders to segment sounds in words.  You can hand your child a fly swatter and have him whack the swatter as he segments each sound within the word.

How phonemic awareness activities evolve into reading and spelling activities

Before your child knows a lot about letters, he can know a lot about sounds, especially if you incorporate phonological awareness activities, such as rhyming and syllabication, and phonemic awareness activities into your everyday life.  But at some point, your child is going to recognize letters and develop alphabetic knowledge (linking letters to their sounds).  With a growing awareness of letters, your child’s phonemic awareness will likely grow exponentially.  This is the time to start incorporating letters into the phonemic awareness activities described above.  It will help develop his reading and spelling skills.

Parents: In your own experience, which activities mentioned above were best for developing phonemic awareness before your child developed much alphabetic knowledge?

 

 

HOW CAN I FIGURE OUT MY CHILD’S READING LEVEL?

First … Why is it important to know my child’s reading level?

You want to know your child’s reading level because then you can make sure he has access to books that are a perfect fit!  When you match a child with appropriately-leveled reading books, his reading skills will improve.

reading level

Knowing your child’s reading level will help you to choose books he can read independently and books he can read with adult assistance.

Your child’s teacher should know your child’s reading level

ASK!  Depending on the leveling system that the school or classroom uses, the teacher may provide you with a grade number (K-12), letter or number.  Then use the Reading Level Correlation Chart to see how his reading level correlates to other leveling systems.  A lot of classroom teachers send home nightly readers/books at your child’s independent reading level.  Often teachers will supply students with a couple of books at their independent level to keep in their desk to read during free, or silent, reading time.

How to figure out your child’s reading level

Select at least three books that you believe your child can read easily.  By easily, I mean they can read 98% or more of the words in the book.  Find out the books’ reading levels by using Scholastic’s Book Wizard.  On the home page of Book Wizard, you can select which leveling system to use.  I like Guided Reading (A-Z) best.  I would use this system unless your child’s classroom teacher uses another leveling system.  In that case, align the system you use at home with the school’s.  If Book Wizard does not have a level for the book you entered, keep entering in new titles until you find ones that have a reading level.  Hopefully, the three books you selected have similar reading levels.  They should.  By similar, I mean they should only differ by one letter (Guided Reading) or one letter (DRA) in the leveling system.  If there’s a discrepancy between the reading levels of the books, enter a few more books’ titles until you can find a consistent reading level among the books.

Steps to find your child’s reading level

1.  Count the words in the book, if your child is reading at a K-1 grade level.  If reading at a second grade level or higher, select a passage, roughly 100 words, in the book for your child to read.

2.  If possible (I know it is time-consuming), photocopy or copy by hand the book or passage.

3.  Have your child read the passage orally.  Children reading at a third grade level or below typically perform best reading orally.

4.  Your child has the original book in front of him, and you keep the copy in front of you.  Have a pencil ready.

5.  As your child reads aloud, cross out any words that he misreads or skips.  Do not give hints.  If your child looks to you for help, you can say, “Try again.”  If he does not know the word and refuses to continue, you can tell him the word, but cross it out and consider it misread.  If you cannot cross out the miscues because you did not copy the book, tally the miscues.

6.  If your child self-corrects, which means correctly reads the word after misreading it, do not cross it out.  Additionally, sometimes children will realize that they are off track and that what they are reading does not make sense and will reread an entire sentence.  If the second reading includes self-corrections, do not cross out those words.

7.  When your child finishes the book or passage, total up the miscues (crossed out words).

8.  Use the following formula to calculate your child’s reading accuracy rate:

(Total words – miscues) / Total words = Reading accuracy rate (round upward to whole number)

Example:  Book has 79 words, and the child makes 5 miscues. 

(79-5)/79 = 74/79 = 94% accuracy rate

In other words, subtract the miscues from the total words and then divide that number by the total words to find the reading accuracy rate.

9.  On a subsequent day, or immediately afterward if your child does not appear fatigued or frustrated by the oral reading session, repeat the above 8 steps with the other two books you selected at the same reading level.

Using the reading accuracy rate to determine whether a given book is at your child’s INDEPENDENT, INSTRUCTIONAL or FRUSTRATION level

Your child’s reading accuracy rate determines whether a book is at your child’s independent, instructional or frustration level for word identification in context.  This only checks how well your child can read the words in the text, not whether he comprehends what he is reading.

There are three levels that depict your child’s relationship with a given book.  At the independent level, the child can read without assistance.  At the instructional level, the child can read successfully with some teacher/parent instruction.  At the frustration level, the child makes so many mistakes (miscues) that understanding the book is impossible. 

Using the formula above, if your child’s reading accuracy level is at 98% or above, the book is at his independent level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is between 90% and 97%, the book is at his instructional level.

If your child’s reading accuracy level is at 90% or below, the book is at his frustration level.

Your child’s independent and instructional reading levels will be different

Let’s say the first three books that you selected as “easy to read” were leveled as D in the Guided Reading leveling system.  You might find that he reads all three books you first selected with 98% accuracy or better.  Woohoo!!  You have found his independent reading level to be level D books.  But let’s consider a different scenario: Your child read the three books with accuracy rates ranging between 93% and 98%.  Okay, that suggests that D level books are more consistently at your child’s instructional level.  Go back on Scholastic Book Wizard and find some books that are at the C level.  Repeat the reading accuracy test and see if the easier books are at your child’s independent reading level.  After finding your child’s independent reading level, find your child’s instructional reading level by having him read slightly harder books that he can read with 90% to 97% reading accuracy.

When should my child read at his independent level and when should he read at his instructional level?

When your child is reading on his own, he should read at his independent level.  Reading at this level improves reading fluency, sight word knowledge and confidence.  When your child is reading with a teacher or parent, he should read at his instructional level because the adult can provide support and instruction that will allow the child to improve his reading skills.

Parents, did you use this method or a similar one to determine your child’s reading level?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Have you seen the meaningful purpose of your child reading independent and instructional leveled books?