What is Phonological & Phonemic Awareness ?

If you are a primary or early elementary teacher then you have most likely heard and used these terms. And it’s even likely that you may have heard these terms used interchangeably…I know I have. One thing to remember is that both of these skills are auditory and focus on listening and processing, rather then manipulating and using props and tactile pieces. You can also think of these skills as, “lights out, eyes closed” activities…like you can literally close your eyes and practice.

The awareness of and the ability to work with sounds in spoken language and should begin to develop BEFORE students begin school. Being able to discriminate between different sounds and volumes at school and home, will help to strengthen a child’s phonological awareness.

Phonemic awareness focuses in on the smallest units of sound in words, called phonemes. (pg 30) Manipulating the sounds, such as in blending, segmenting, deleting and transposing are key to developing strong phonemic awareness, which in turn, strengthens and helps to build that literacy foundation.

Research shows with overwhelming evidence that phonological awareness is considered by many the single greatest predictor of success in early reading.” pg 29

Research has also shown that children that have not had multiple and consistent instruction and practice opportunities with phonemic awareness will inevitably struggle. Don’t skip over phonemic awareness activities!

Using Haggerty in the Classroom

I cannot honestly write a blog post or talk about phonemic awareness without talking about Heggerty. This book/manual is AMAZING! I used it in the classroom over the last few years and love the simplicity and follow through of this supplemental curriculum. Each page is a week and is then broken down into days. It tells you exactly what words to use and even tells you how to do it. Each daily lesson consists of 8 phonemic awareness activities which include:

And the next best thing about Heggerty is that it takes less than 15 minutes a day. Our class always practiced with the Heggerty book right before lunch. It was the perfect transition. No I am not an affiliate of Heggerty, nor do I work for them. I have personally used this and have seen the results in my students. I also love that it covered all the key components for phonological & phonemic awareness and I didn’t have to plan or print anything. You can check it out here… I promise that it is worth it!

Phonological Awareness: Listening

Having students become active listeners, goes beyond following directions. Active listeners can also distinguish and discriminate sounds and phonemes. Here are a few of my ideas for increasing that awareness.


I once heard that rhyming wasn’t important. I know better now. There is clear research showing children who struggle with rhymes often have problems with early reading. (pg 36) That is not to say that rhyming isn’t difficult for some students, especially second-language learners. But rhyming helps learners listen for the sounds in language, as well as word parts and patterns. Here is how I teach rhyming and some ideas for students to continue practice rhyming all year long.

The rhyming kit has everything to introduce and teach little learners about rhyming. It also includes pocket chart and independent practice activities. You can check it out HERE.

Rhyming Picture Books

I love rhyming books! Here are a few of my favorite rhyming books. What are some of your favorites?

Rhyming Bridge – Action Song Activity

Have you ever heard of Rhyming Bridge? This is a simple and fun rhyming action song that the kids LOVE! Watch it in action here!


Rhyming Bridge – Aquick, fun, and interactive way to practice rhyming. Instagram: @kindergarten_chaos #kindergarten #scienceofreading

♬ original sound – Kindergarten Chaos ✏️Abbie

Letter, word, sentence sort

Little Learners need to know that a word can be spoken OR written and putting words together in a complete thought is a sentence. I found that creating this interactive anchor chart REALLY helps them to understand the difference between letters, words and sentences.

Pocket Chart Sort

This is a an easy activity to do whole-group, small-group, partner or independently. Use sentence strips and write random upper & lowercase letters, words, and simple sentences. Add letter, word and sentence headings to the pocket chart. Have students pull a random sentence strip and sort it in the pocket chart accordingly.


Syllables are simply the parts of a word. Every word contains one or more syllable. Just like I created a Rhyming Kit for Little Learners, I created one for syllables too. Here is everything you need to teach syllables, as well as pocket chart and independent practice activities. Syllables Kit for Little Learners

Segmenting & Blending

Using a mini slinky is one of my favorite ways to segment!

Sound Mapping

Sound mapping requires the student to stretch out the word and map the graphemes to the phonemes, moving students from phonemic awareness to phonics. I have been doing this with some of my private students and it has been working soooo well! I will share the details soon!

Final Thoughts on Chapter 3 – Phonological & Phonemic Awareness

What were your take-aways and aha moments from this chapter? Don’t forget to head over to The Kindergarten Smorgasboard to read his take on Chapter 3 of Know Better, Do Better!

Join In On The Fun!

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