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Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

Building Phonemic Awareness In Kindergarten

Phonemic awareness instruction spans the first two years of a child's schooling in grades Kindergarten and Grade One. 

Oral activities in Kindergarten focus on building beginning knowledge with sound and word discrimination, rhyming, syllable splitting, blending, phoneme segmentation, phoneme deletion and finally phoneme manipulation. These skills can be taught in a sequence that maximizes student understanding using games, songs, books.

Here is a sample of Kindergarten games or songs that we are doing in our classroom or outdoors. Some are small group while others are whole group. Most of my teaching moves to small group by late October and the rest is integrated into literacy work stations and circle time.

Building letter recognition:
sorting, matching and naming letters. singing different alphabet songs, dancing and marching to abc songs, playing abc games in the gym, reading alphabet books and putting letters into your different play centres. For example, I have a magnet letter/name match at the block centre as well as a tub of oversize upper case magnet letters. Every day we play with letters using name cards, bingo cards, puzzles and manipulatives.

Building oral rhyme recognition:
I saturate my students with rhyming read alouds, songs, chants and pocket chart activities all year long. I have added rhyming games to circle time, small group as well as literacy work stations. My primary focus is using oral language to teach and practice rhyme. Pausing before completing rhymes encourages participation and motivates students.

Rhyme: This instruction includes recognition, matching, odd one out and production. Classroom activities can include all four stages with production being the most difficult for children to master.

Syllabication: Phonological awareness develops along a continuum with larger sound units such as the word and syllable developing before small units such as the sound or phoneme. Playing circle games using their names, objects and movement to emphasize the syllables ie: banana ba na na. I like to use a drum to help with beats.

Segmentation: segmenting words into phonemes and spelling development are connected. When starting it is easier to begin with short vowels and then progress to long vowels. Begin with 2 and 3 sound words, accepting real and nonsense from the Kinders.

Blending: this is a pre-skill for reading and has a strong relationship to reading skills. ie: a child has to blend letters to read a word, in order to blend they need to hear the sounds. 

Manipulation: this involves omitting or substituting sounds in words to form new words. It is the most difficult because the child needs mastery of many phonemic skills to do this. Once the child is ready move to building fluency. When the child are ready we play circle games using movement, chanting and objects.

Letter Recognition Activities
Make up name cards and use them to play bingo

Name Sort
Materials: name cards, magnet letters, t chart with yes/no.
Begin with one name, pull a letter from the basket and ask "is the letter ___ in ___'s name, yes or no" place the letter on the t-chart

Hidden Name
Cover up a name and slowly reveal the name letter by letter. Children name the letter as it is revealed and at the end say the child's name.

abc Match
Match upper case with lower case using abc charts and letters, different font sorts, pull a letter and bingo dob a abc sheet, pull a letter and print in jello powder, sift through sensory bin and pull a letter to match to a chart,...

The Wheels On the Bus
The letter on the bus says ___, ___, ___ 3x
The letter on the bus says ___. ___. ___ and __ is it's name.

What's the Sound Mr. Wolf?
This game has been around forever and is modelled after What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?

Children line up in a row and listen for a long or short sound. If they hear a long sound they take a big step. If they hear a short sound they take a short step. If the teacher says "dinner time" they all run back. Once they know the game then a child can be the leader.

Alphabet Dance
Dance to a alphabet song and when the music stops the student calls out a word that begins with that sound. (c cat, f fall, t train).

Alphabet March
Stand children in a circle. Drop letters around middle of circle. March to a alphabet song and when the music stops the students pick up a letter from the carpet. The teacher points to a student and the student calls out a word that begins with that sound. Ensure success by being careful about your choice of letters and knowing your students (this can also be used for letter recognition using upper case then lower case).

"I know a kinder whose name starts with "t" 3x and "t"is his name-0. (sounds) T  T T 3x and TOM is his name-o."

Seat children in a circle and ask them to guess whose name you are going to say. Choose a student and clearly say the child's name emphasizing the child's first sound. Encourage the children to join in when you say the name once they learn the song. The names you are doing in circle can be pre-written on chart paper and you can point along as you sing the song or it can simple be a familiar transition song using the names of children who have arrived in circle.

Oral Rhyming Activities
Matching Lay out 3 rhyming picture cards or objects using two that match and one that does not (Words their Way is a great resource, download from internet sites or purchase cards). Ask student to pick the two that start with the same sound. 

Odd One Out Play the matching game but ask the student to pick the one that does not begin with the same sound.

Feely Bag Put small rhyming objects into a mystery bag. Fan out rhyming pictures. Ask the student to pull out a object and match it to a rhyming picture. 

You-tub videos

 Rhyming Basket
This is an old game from Pre-Kinders blog. Put rhyming objects into a basket and pass the basket around the circle. As each child gets the basket I say a word and the child pulls out an object.You can use any objects because both nonsense or real words are accepted.

Erase the Rhyme Also from Pre-Kinders. Draw a picture on a dry erase board such as grass, sky, tree, flower and sun. Say a word such as tower and have child come up to erase what rhymes with it (bun-sun).  Continue until the whole picture is erased.

Listening Centre Rhyme Bingo: I purchased a bingo game and cut up half the cards so that the children could use picture card match instead of bingo chips.

Read and chant Nursery Rhymes: We read nursery rhymes every day. I have posters, books, cards, puppets and felt stories. Nursery rhymes have both rhyming words and nonsense words. They are fun and memorable. Often, after working with rhymes I like to do a art activity and send it home with children to extend practice and create more opportunities to chant the rhymes. These rhymes provide a great opportunity to use movement. Invite people in to hear your children recite the rhymes in small groups. Scholastic book club has a sale at their website this month that includes nursery rhyme pocket chart strips for classroom teachers. Parents can find a wide variety of nursery books at their local library as well as our school library.

Read Dr. Seuss: His books are full of silly, funny rhymes that children love. 

Listening Station: Include song and rhyming books at your listening station. The children will love revisiting favourite classroom read-alouds during centre time. Make sure that you include it as a literacy work station as well. Use parents, audio cds for the car, for your home computer and ipad/ipod apps are wonderful ways for your child to listen to nursery rhymes at home.

Use chants, books and games with alliteration.  Not only with the children love the silly words that emerge but will build their knowledge at the same time. Eventually students will begin to produce rhyming words during the games.

Willaby Wallaby
We are singing this song at the end of the day to dismiss students. I began by singing and doing the whole rhyme on my own. Once they knew each others names and the pattern then the students joined in.Then I omit the end name and the students chime in. I always use the same pattern choosing names with the Kinders in a circle and going left to right around the circle so that they can predict who is next. When they are ready then they sing the whole chant.

Magic Fan
Select cards with many sounds that are the same and a few that are different. Lay out the cards in a fan shape and say the rhyme Magic fan, magic fan listen to the sounds in my hand. A child selects two cards and you ask if they start with the same sound (later change to end sounds).

Stepping Stones
For this game you can use large pattern blocks to cover pairs of rhyming picture cards. Choose a child to lift the blocks and ask whether they begin with the same sound or different sounds. (you can modify for letter recognition using upper/lower case letters or both lower case depending on the group learning needs).

Body Part Rhyme
"I will be asking you a question about a rhyming word. Listen carefully and after I have asked the question, I want you to point to a special part of your body. 
Head                 Hand                    Knee                            Feet
bed                    sand                      me                               meet
dead                  land                       see                             seat
red                     stand                     we                              beat
led                     brand                    tree                             greet
sled                    band                     free                             heat
shed                   grand                    tea                              sheet
fed                     and                       flea                             neat

Syllable Activities
Clapping Names:
Children sit in a circle and the children clap out the syllables in their names. You can use a drum to set a beat. 

Hickety Tickety Bumble Bee
Children sit in a circle. Sing "Hickety tickety bumble bee, can you say your name for me?" Child says his/her name. Group repeats with a clap for each syllable in the child's name.

Put a dozen or more objects into a bag. While music is playing the children slowly pass the bag left to right. When the music stops the child feels inside the bag and pulls out one object. He/she names the and the group repeats the name, clapping out the syllables. If the  pre-chosen object is pulled then all of his/her pile of objects go back into the bag. You can change the game so that it is connected to a topic like fruit, vegetables, vehicles, insects, people... or numbers (this can also be changed to letter name or sound recognition). 

Bead Slide
Use words with two syllables like it, am, me,... put two beads on a pipe cleaner. Ask children to repeat the word that you say and as the children chant the sound for each letter they slide a bead to the right.

Syllable Hoops
Begin with three hoops and three syllable word cards or a chart paper. Select a word to syllabify. Choose someone to jump out the syllables. The child needs to say the word then say each syllable when they jump into a hoop. I like to choose words from our Big Book read aloud for the week. ie: Shoes from Grandpa. A drum works really well to emphasize each syllable and for pacing.

Hop Scotch
Write out a hop scotch with sidewalk chalk on the playground. Child tosses a stone and hops as he/she says syllables. ba na na.

Thats all I have time for today but next time I will share some activities for the remaining strands of phonemic awareness.



  1. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with your opinion. Thanks!children play centres

  2. Thank you, I hope that some of the activities are of use to you in your practice! Liz :)


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