Expanding a child’s phonological awareness through games

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In the process of emerging literacy and learning to read, children will need to conquer phonemic awareness, a part of phonological awareness. While the two are related, there’s a difference that should be understood before parents step into a conference with a reading specialist or teacher:

phonemic awareness: the ability to hear and identify the individual sounds in spoken words

phonological awareness: the understanding that spoken language is made up of individual and separate sounds.


At the youngest of ages, we work with children on enunciation and sounds. Parents make sounds, encouraging children to mimic, then, as children work out using words, parents and friends help with enunciation. This is a beginning stage of phonological awareness.

As children approach pre-elementary age, they begin to identify sounds associated with words and language, which helps them in the earliest stages of reading. To help pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-aged learners, there are several learning games to play.

Rhyming Circle

Start with any word and go around a circle, rhyming. Example:

Person 1: look
Person 2: book
Person 3: nook

It’s acceptable to create words when playing a game like this, in this situation a even though stook is not a word, the game can go on. An alternative to this game is to use a ball and pass it to a friend who’s turn it is to rhyme. Pass hot potato style around a circle, or toss across the circle from friend to friend.

Alliteration circle

Just like the rhyming game, above, play with alliteration. (this is often much more difficult than rhyming). This time, it’s the last part of the word that changes: green, gram, grill, great, etc.

Letter tiles: Making Words

Letter tile games like Bananagrams are great for playing for teaching children to association sounds with letters (which is a part of phonics). Spell a word with letter tiles, then replace some letters to make a new word. GAME becomes GAVE becomes GIVE becomes HIVE become HAVE, etc.

Another game to play with letter tiles, for older learners, is Making Words. Start with a large word, or your child’s name. For example, spell the word dinosaur, with letter tiles. We discover all the words you canmake from the word dinosaur, including sour, soar, no, or, our, in, as, etc.

There are many ways to adapt these games, and so many more games to teach children the basics of phonological awareness and to enhance their skills.


Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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