Phonological Awareness Ideas

Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness are essential building blocks for reading.  Even students with impressive phonics knowledge may struggle if they are lacking in these important prior skills.   I work on phonological awareness activities with all my groups grade K-4 to make sure they continue to be able to manipulate sounds.  Everyday we practice these skills, so I needed to find engaging ways to teach and assess quickly. In this post I’ll share with you some fun ways to make sure your students have phonological awareness and can manipulate phonemes.

Making learning fun and engaging has always been my goal. When you teach intervention and you’re reviewing the same concepts over and over, you have to find ways to spice things up.  This is why I love using manipulatives to practice phonological awareness concepts.

Some of the manipulatives we love are:

1. 3D Erasers

2. Squish toys

3. Touch Lights

4. Magnetic Wands and Chips

5. Tiny measuring tapes

6.Unifix Cubes


3D Shape Erasers:  There are so many ways to use these. Often times I hand my kindergarten students one of the erasers and ask them, the beginning sound, ending sound, a word that rhymes, how many syllables are in the word.

You can also have the student come up with a sentence for the word and then have the group count how many words are in the sentence.

You can give the student the eraser and change the beginning sound to another and state the word. For ex: Hand them the donut and have them change the /d/ to a /g/. Gonut.

If you want to move on to phonics with these you can also hand them three erasers and play a mystery word game.  For example: hand them a cat, umbrella and taco.  Have them write the beginning sound of each eraser on their white board and have them blend to read the word.  So  write  c-u-t and blend to say cut.

phonological awareness manipulatives

Squishy Fidgets: My kiddos love fidget toys, so this squish toy is so much fun for them. We use these to squish the syllables in a word. We can also count how many words are in a sentence by seeing how many times we squish the ball.

Keychain Measuring Tapes: These little keychain measuring tapes are great for segmenting and blending.  You can give students a word to separate by onset-rhime, or  phoneme segment all sounds by pulling out the tape slowly. You can also give the segmented sounds and have student blend by quickly

Touch Lights: Touch lights are also a fun way to manipulate sounds. Put the lights out to represent the beginning, middle and the end of the word. Students can touch each light when they segment sounds in a word. You can also give them a word like cup, then change the word to cut and ask them to tap the light of the sound that changed. You can also give a word and ask them where the sound is.  For example: Give the word mud, ask them to tap the light where the /u/ sound would be.

Magnetic Wands: These magnetic wants are a fun way to practice phoneme segmentation and blending. I give the students three different color chips.  They push up the sounds in the words as they segment and then blend them back together as they swipe the wand to pick up the chips.

Unifix Cubes

Unifix Cubes: Much like the chips above, you can use unifix cubes for representing the segmented sounds. I also like to use these for phonics. I put a vowel tent for each of the vowels up.  See more about vowel tents here.   Then I give students the cubes.  Students predict which vowel will get the most cubes. I then say a word and the students will put a unifix cube in front of the vowel tent that represents the vowel in the word.  The vowel with the most cubes at the end is our winner.

I hope some of these ideas spice up your phonological awareness routines.  If you need more ideas, don’t forget to check out my stories on Instagram. I often share what I’m doing with my reading intervention groups.  For other phonological activities check out Kilpatrick’s book Equipped for Reading Success. 

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Michelle Oakes

Wife, mom of 2 boys and a bulldog, reading specialist, Target frequenting lover of fashion, home decorating, Cincinnati girl.

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