5 Activities for Building a Strong Phonological Awareness

When I think of teaching first grade, phonics is the first thing that comes to my mind. First grade is the magical year when students learn to read. We get to see them progress from only being able to identify letters and sounds to becoming fluent readers, and it all begins with teaching phonics skills. There are so many different activities and lessons you can use to do this. Today, I'm going to share 5 activities for building strong phonological awareness with you.

Use these 5 activities to build a strong phonological awareness in your first graders this year.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the foundation for reading and begins early on in a child's education. It allows students to recognize sounds in our spoken language. This includes things like noticing words that rhyme, pointing out sound repetitions in sentences, and counting syllables in words. This is taught in early childhood education through activities like songs, rhymes, and even daily play. Most kids will naturally gain an understanding of phonological awareness as they interact with language and books. While others, especially those with dyslexia, may need some additional help.

Phonological awarenes in a way to teach students to recognize sounds in our spoken language.

Why is it Important?

Without phonological awareness, students will lack the necessary skills to be fluent readers and spellers. They need to be able to distinguish the individual sounds in spoken and written words in order to be successful. Later on down the line, phonological awareness is also important when introducing new vocabulary words. We need to be sure our students can break apart words into sounds, identify them, and put them back together again. 

The Most Important Phonological Awareness Skills 

Teaching phonological awareness includes many different skills. Some of these skills include rhyming words, isolating sounds in words, counting syllables, and segmenting sentences. 

Building a strong phonological awareness is important because it helps build the necessary skills for your students to become fluent readers and spellers in the future.

Focusing on these skills will help your students understand how letters and letter patterns work to make words in our written language. 

If you're not sure where to start, don't worry- I've got you covered! Here are 5, fun ways to teach phonological awareness. 

5 Fun Activities for Teaching Phonological Awareness 

1. Mystery Bag

The mystery bag game is tons of fun! I'm sure you already have everything you need for this activity! Just a paper bag and some plastic letters (those letter magnets you probably already own are perfect for this). This is a fun activity to play in whole groups, small groups, or even in a literacy center. 

Use this mystery bag activity to help build strong phonological awareness by giving your students the opportunity to get in some hands on learning with manipulatives like magnetic or foam letters.

Before each round of this game, place 3 letters into the bag that you know can make a word that is easy to sound out like 'bat' or 'rat'.  Have your student pull out one letter at a time while saying the sound the letter makes.  After each round see if they can guess the mystery word.  After they pull the second and third letter you might need to encourage them to try the sounds in different orders to figure out the mystery word.  

For younger kids, you can create the word with them. For older kids, have them create their own words. 

An extension of this activity would be adding more letters to the bag to create more complex words. You can also try deleting letters and swapping them out. This is an excellent way to challenge them. Your students will love playing this hands-on game!

2. Word Card Activities

Word cards are so versatile and can be easily adapted to meet your student's needs. I love using them to introduce word families. After writing my word family words on the cards, I laminate them so they'll last for years to come. Then I cut the first letter or phoneme off to make letter cards and word family cards.  

Word card activities like these can help build phonological awareness because it introduces word families in a game like way your students will love.

After introducing the word family sound, we practice adding letter cards to make words.  Not only does this activity reinforce sounds, but it is a great way to work on rhyming words too.  

You can also use letter tiles or magnetic letters with the word family ending cards and let students make their own words.  After they read a word they can decide if it is a real word or a nonsense word.

Word cards are great for whole class or small group activities.  Once students know what to do you can add them as a great center activity.

3. Around the Room With Blends

It is always a good idea to get your kiddos up and moving. This is the perfect activity to get some wiggles out and build some strong phonological awareness. Pick 2 or more blends or sounds that you are working on. Make a large card or poster for each sound. Then, hang the cards up in different areas of your classroom. 

Build a strong phonological awareness in your students with an around the room activity like this that gets your students up and moving around while practicing ending sounds.

For your activity, give each student a card that includes a word with blend. For younger students, you can include a picture with the word. Have the students find the sound in their word and then move to the area of the room with the matching card. Mix up their word cards and play again!

For less movement, use the same cards in a center as a sorting activity.  Perfect for the floor, table, or a pocket chart!

4. Scoot!

Scoot is such a fun game to play in class.  If you are not familiar with Scoot! you use multiple task cards and place them around the room or on each desk.  Students stand up in front of a card.  Then you set a timer and students complete the activity on the card in front of them.  When the timer goes off you say "Scoot!" and the students move to the next card.

Use this scoot game as you plan your phonological awareness activities to help students learn word families.

The kids always get excited about this game, and they get in some important practice at the same time. I love to play Word Family Scoot! as an activity for building phonological awareness. I choose a few word families that we are working on and grab corresponding picture cards.  Then I give each student a recording sheet with columns for each word family.  

Students will move from card to card writing down each word under the correct word family.  You can use cards with or without the written word depending on the skills of your students.  To play this game, I usually give my students about 30 - 60 seconds at each desk or station. You'll quickly get a feel for how long your class needs.  The students love the challenge of trying to write the word before it is time to move on.  

5. Clap it Out

This is a super simple yet effective activity that I love to weave into our daily morning routine. It is so much fun to sing and chant with your class! Just turn on one of your favorite songs or chants and have the class clap out the different syllables. Then go back and choose a few words to focus on.  Clap the syllables of those words, segment the sounds, and then blend them back together.  

Use total physical response like clapping to help build a strong phonological awareness in your students this year.

Change it up by clapping loudly, softly, or even stomping to the syllables. This phonological awareness activity is great for recognizing syllables and for practice with segmenting words.

You can also grab a set of word cards that correlate to a specific word family or sound you are working on and do the same thing.  This daily practice with syllables, segmenting, and blending will really help your students develop a strong phonological awareness.  And . . . the entire activity can be completed in just 2-3 minutes each day.  It makes a great way to fill extra time too!

Ready Made Activities for Building Phonological Awareness

I love teaching phonics and phonological awareness.  That is why I have created so many activities for my classroom.  I know just how important it is to provide fun and engaging practice for all these developing skills.  

I've put all my favorite classroom phonological awareness activities in my store on TPT.  No matter the skill, concept, or sound you are working on, I probably have an activity to go with it!  Check them all out here.  

Pin it!

Be sure to save this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can quickly come back the next time you need ideas for helping your students build phonological awareness skills.

Looking for simple ways to build a strong phonological awareness in your first grade students this year? Use these 5 fun and engaging activities to help introduce, get in lots of practice, and help your students master phonological awareness throughout the year. #thechocolateteacher #phonologicalawareness #teachingphonologicalawareness

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