50 Fun Phonological Awareness Activities

Free Resource for K-2 Classrooms

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Fun Phonological Awareness Activities for Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade

Phonological awareness is an essential skill, without which students cannot become strong, independent readers. The Science of Reading identifies phonological awareness as one of the critical elements of reading, along with phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

However, because phonological awareness primarily deals with spoken language, rather than written language, it can be challenging to find classroom-friendly activities that provide students with engaging, targeted practice with this foundational skill.

Luckily, we’ve collected 50 of our favorite phonological awareness activities in one guide! These ready-to-use activities are the perfect addition to any kindergarten, first grade, or second grade classroom.

Complete the short form on this page to access your free copy of 50 Fun Phonological Activities for the full list of activities, or keep reading to see 15 sample activities from the guide.

What is phonological awareness?

At a high level, phonological awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the sounds in the spoken language.

Broken down into more detail, phonological awareness encompasses five key skills:

  • Word Awareness: Understanding that sentences and phrases can be broken down into individual words; counting words in a sentence or phrase
  • Rhyme awareness: Identifying and later producing words that rhyme
  • Syllable awareness: Dividing a word into its component syllables; counting syllables in a word; manipulating syllables
  • Onset and rime awareness: Identifying words that start (onset) or end (rime) with the same sound, often practiced via alliteration
  • Phonemic awareness: The term phonemic awareness comprises six discrete skills

 

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds (or phonemes) in words. Phonemic awareness is part of the larger category of phonological awareness.

Phonemic awareness describes six distinct skills:

  • Isolation: Identifying the specific phonemes within words
  • Segmenting: Dividing a word into its component phonemes
  • Blending: Combining sounds to form syllables or words
  • Deletion: Removing a phoneme from a word
  • Addition: Adding a phoneme to a word
  • Manipulation or substitution: Replacing one phoneme in a word with another phoneme

 

Try these fun phonological awareness activities!

1. Word Awareness: Clap Along

Before children can start identifying the sounds in words, they need to be able to divide sentences and phrases into individual words.

One fun activity is to have students clap once for each word in a sentence. Start by speaking a simple sentence out loud, such as “He walks.” Clap as you say each word. Then model the activity again, this time with a longer sentence such as “He walks to school.

Now have students practice by clapping once for each word as you speak simple sentences out loud.

Tip: Make this more motivating for children by using their names in the sentences. For example, “Jayden waves to his friend.” or “Kali rides her bike.”

2. Rhyme Awareness: Rhyme Match

For this, you will need picture cards with common animals and objects on them, such as bat, cat, can, fan, man, pan. Show the cards one at a time and identify the word each picture represents.

Now, hold up two picture cards at the same time. Say the words out loud or have the students say the words out loud. Ask students to stand up if the words rhyme, or sit down if they do not rhyme. Repeat until you have gone through all card combinations.

An array of picture cards with common words on them, for use for phonological awareness practice.

3. Rhyme Awareness: Stand and Rhyme

You will need one set of picture cards for this activity. One at a time, hold up a picture card. Have students stand if they can think of a word that rhymes with the word represented by the picture card.

Ask a student who stood up to share the rhyming word they thought of. Tell students to sit down if the word shared was the rhyming word they thought of, but remain standing if they thought of a different rhyming word. Have students share rhyming words one at a time until the entire class is sitting, then repeat the activity with a new picture card.

Tip: If a student provides a rhyming nonsense word, explain: “That word rhymes, but it is a silly word! It doesn’t have a meaning that we know.”

4. Syllable Awareness: Syllable Sort

Kids can do this activity independently or in pairs. Provide a set of picture cards representing one-, two-, and three-syllable words such as ball, baseball, basketball, sun, sunset, bag, banana, pan, potato. Have children sort the picture cards into piles based on how many syllables each word has.

Example picture cards from Savvas Essentials: Foundational Reading to use for phonological awareness practice. Link to sign up for a free trial.

5. Onset and Rime Awareness: Lost Beginnings

Explain to children that you found a bunch of words that are missing their beginning sounds. Can children find beginning sounds that will make these words complete again? Practice with the following onsets (example answers provided in parentheses):

  • -at (bat, cat, mat, fat, pat)
  • -ack (pack, sack, back, rack)
  • -ap (sap, map, rap)
  • -ake (take, make, bake)
  • -op (top, hop, pop)

 

6. Phonemic Awareness – Isolation: Initial Sound Sort

Separate students into pairs or small groups, and give each group a set of picture cards for simple three-phoneme words. Explain to students that they will first say the name of each picture card, and then identify the beginning sound in each word.

Next, working as a group, students will sort the picture cards according to their initial sounds. For example, map, man, and mug should together be in one pile, and pan, pig, and pen should be in another pile.

Tip: Use this activity to practice medial and final sounds, too!

7. Phonemic Awareness – Isolation: Medial Sound Match

Identifying medial sounds can be more challenging for children than identifying initial sounds, so it can be beneficial to give children extra practice with this skill. In your classroom, display picture cards: pan, men, wig, hot, and mug. Work with children to identify the medial sound of each word: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/.

Now, one by one, give each student a new picture card, such as fan. Help the student sound out the word, and then ask the student to identify the middle sound in the word. Have the student stand next to the displayed picture card with the same middle sound (so the child holding the fan picture card should stand next to the displayed pan picture card).

Image of an Articulation Video screenshot from Savvas Essentials: Foundational Reading to use for phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. Link to sign up for a free trial.

8. Phonemic Awareness – Isolation: Final Sound, Activate!

Explain to children that they are on the hunt for the final sound /k/, like in duck. You are going to say a list of words out, and if the word ends with the final sound /k/, the children should act out that sound. (Remind children to stay in their own spaces as they act out words.) If the word does not end with the final sound /k/, children should remain still.

One by one, say the following action words: walk, hop, sit, look, write, shake, bake, stand, run.

9. Phonemic Awareness – Segmenting: Team Sound

Divide the class into three teams: Beginning, Middle, and Ending. Say a three-phoneme word such as pen or duck. Ask Team Beginning to pronounce the beginning sound, then have Team Middle pronounce the middle sound and Team Ending pronounce the ending sound. After several rounds, mix up the teams so students have to listen for sounds in different word positions.

Image of a sports banner that reads “Team Sound.

10. Phonemic Awareness – Blending: Simon Says Blend

Tell students that you’re going to play a special version of Simon Says. Instead of telling them what to do, Simon is going to sound out the commands! For example, you’ll say: “Simon Says /s/ /i/ /t/” and students will need to blend the sounds. Once they have blended the sounds into a new word, they should act out the word (sit). (Remind children to stay in their own spaces as they act out words.) Use commands like hop, spin, swim, run, look, eat.

11. Phonemic Awareness – Addition: Sound Thief

Tell children that a thief came in and stole the /t/ sound from a group of words, and you need their help restoring the /t/ sound to these words! Ask children to help you decide if the /t/ sound should be added to the beginning or end of each word. One by one, go through the following words: pan (pant), ten (tent), rain (train), rap (trap), in (tin), win (twin), car (cart), and rim (trim).

Tip: Add extra challenge by including words where the /t/ sound could be added to the beginning or end of a word. For example, an (tan / ant) and are (art, tar).

 Image of a thief with a bag over his shoulder, leaving footsteps behind.

12. Phonemic Awareness – Deletion: Beanbag Toss: Remove /s/

Explain to children that they’re going to practice removing /s/ from the beginning of words. When a child catches the beanbag, you’re going to give them a word, and they will remove the /s/ from the front of that word. The child can then (gently) toss the beanbag to another child. For this activity, use: slow (low), slip (lip), sand (and), seat (eat), snap (nap), sold (old), stop (top), spin (pin), span (pan), slap (lap), scan (can), sink (ink), self (elf), scar (car), spot (pot), and spit (pit).

Tip: Reinforce vocabulary by having children discuss the meaning of each word. Explain any words students are not familiar with.

13. Phonemic Awareness – Addition & Deletion: Concentration

For this game, you will need pairs of picture cards where a phoneme has been removed or added, such as leg and egg, deer and ear, mice and ice, pot and spot, lip and clip. Put children in pairs, then have partners play “Concentration” by turning over two cards and making matches when they find two words where one word in the pair is made by adding a sound to the beginning of the other word in the pair. When children make a match, they keep the cards. When they don’t, children return the cards where they were, facedown. Play continues until children have matched all the cards.

Tip: You can also plan this game with final phonemes, using words like car and cart, bell and belt, bee and bead, ten and tent, pass and past.

14. Phonemic Awareness – Manipulation & Substitution: Backwards Words

Oh no! You had a list of words, but somehow the sounds in your words have been put together backwards. One by one, ask children to help you sound out each word, then put the word back together in the reverse order. Practice with these words: tab / bat, sick / kiss, pit / tip, lime / mile, pack / cap, pot / top, sale / lace, tell / let, back / cab, net / ten, feel / leaf.

Image of a lime, with the word LIME written next to it. Image of a road, with the word MILE written next to it. For phonemic awareness practice.

15. Phonemic Awareness – Manipulation & Substitution: Word Creation

Give students a starting word, such as pan. Put students in small groups and ask them to work together to come up with as many new words as possible by changing one sound in the starting word. For example, pan can become ban, can, fan, man, ran, tan, van (initial phoneme substitution), pen, pin, pun (medial phoneme substitution), and pad, pack, pal, pat (final phoneme substitution).

Tip: Reinforce phonics by having students write down the new words. Depending on students’ skill level, accept approximate spellings.

Ready for more phonological awareness activities, games, and fun?

Be sure to complete the form at the top of this page to get your free copy of 50 Fun Phonological Awareness Activities!

You can find even more activities — plus interactive digital practice, educational games, articulation videos, and so much more — in Savvas Essentials™: Foundational Reading, a new supplemental program designed just for Grades K-2.

Image of a lesson from Savvas Essentials: Foundational Reading, a program that targets phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. Link to sign up for a free trial.

 
 

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