What is Phonological Awareness & How to Help Your Child Master It

When it comes to learning to read, there are 4 major categories of pre-reading skills that your child should have before jumping in to learning to read words, books, and sentences. 

These skills include:

  • Print awareness
  • Rhyming
  • Letter sounds and names
  • Phonological awareness

Many of these are pretty self-explanatory, but others sound more complex and confusing. Especially Phonological Awareness.

What is phonological awareness? And how do you know if your child has it- and how do you teach it?

young girl pointing to letters on a poster

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the knowledge that words are made up of individual sounds, as well as the ability to work with these sounds. It’s important to remember that phonological awareness is AUDITORY. It is all about hearing the different sounds in words- and not reading printed words. 

It includes things like being able to:

  • Identify the sounds at the beginning of words
  • Identify sounds at the ends of words
  • Recognize alliteration
  • Clap words into syllables

Here’s the whole checklist for Phonological Awareness:

phonological awareness checklist
This is a page in Fun Easy Reading’s FREE Pre-Reading Checklist. Just join our email mailing list to get this free resource!

How Do You Teach Phonological Awareness?

The best way for kids to learn is by making language part of their everyday life. Remember that phonological awareness is mostly auditory- your child doesn’t have to know how to read yet, they just have to use their ears!

This means making word-play and exploration a part of every day. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Point to pictures or objects in their world and ask them what sound that object starts with. If your child has trouble at first, make sure you really stress the first sound when you pronounce the word.
  • Practice reading or memorizing tongue twisters- or make up your own!
  • Play matching games with objects (or cards) to match objects that start with the same sound
  • Play with rhyming words to help your child see how beginning and ending sounds work together
  • Run your fingers under the words as you read aloud to your child to  help them learn that each word makes a specific part of the sentence. 
  • Practice isolating sounds in common word/ object names. Can your child tell you the distinct sounds they hear in words like mop, cat, rock?
  • Practice clapping out syllables in their name, favorite objects, and words to help them understand syllables.
  • Go on scavenger hunts for items that begin (or end) with a specific sound.

Basically, you just want to surround them in language- ask questions, play games, sing songs, do simple worksheets, and read out loud a lot!