Music is an enjoyable way to increase phonemic awareness.

Strategies to Teach Phonetic Awareness to Preschoolers

by Jennifer Zimmerman

Phonetic awareness, more commonly called phonemic awareness, helps children read more successfully. This early reading skill is the ability to identify, manipulate and substitute sounds in spoken words. At the preschool level, this means that children can identify words by combining their syllables and sounds, identify and create words that rhyme and isolate the beginning sounds of words. Phonetic awareness is one aspect of phonological awareness, which is the ability to pay attention to and manipulate the sounds in speech, regardless of their meaning.

I Spy Sounds

In this version of the game, children work on putting sounds together to make words. To start, you might say, "I spy with my little eye, something that sounds like so - fa" and hopefully the children reply, "Sofa!" Once they are comfortable identifying two- and three-syllable words, try saying the onset and rime of shorter words, "/b/ /ig/" or "/tr/ /ain/". Finally, you can try saying each phoneme in a short word, "/t/ /o/ /p/". Give children lots of time to master these skills, and don't worry if it takes until they are in kindergarten before they can create their own version of I Spy Sounds.

Read Aloud

Read aloud should be an integral part of any preschooler's day. In addiction to teaching preschoolers new vocabulary, story structure and the conventions of print, read aloud can also help children increase phonemic awareness. Books that play with language, such as "There's A Wocket In My Pocket" by Dr. Seuss and "Dinosaur Roar" by Paul Strickland, encourage children to do the same. As you read, encourage preschoolers to guess which word will come next or to extend the language pattern in the book.

Sing Songs

If your first thought upon reading the section 3 title was, "But I can't sing!", then please relax. Most preschoolers don't really care how you sound, as long as you look cheerful and encouraging to them. Especially if your reason for singing is to increase phonemic awareness, it doesn't matter if you're completely out of tune. Just pick songs that manipulate language, such as Willoughby Wallaby Woo, and go for it. You can also try changing sounds in other familiar children's songs, such as turning Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes to Nead, Noulder, Knees and Noes, then Tead, Toulder, Tees and Toes. Just make sure you close the window first.

Incorporate Rhymes

When you spend a lot of time with a preschooler, you may find yourself repeating the same phrases over and over again. Instead of getting frustrated, use the opportunity to improve phonemic awareness skills. Want her to get her shoes? Say a word that rhymes instead. Or leave out the beginning sound. Or try to come up with rhyming sentences to give directions. You'll be surprised at how much preschoolers get a kick out of you playing with the language. They might even be happy enough to follow directions quickly.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

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