What is Phonemic Awareness? – Della Larsen's Class
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What is Phonemic Awareness?

Teaching young children to read is one of the greatest enjoyments of being a kindergarten teacher. To take a child from knowing just a few letters of the alphabet to a student who can read a book from start to finish is one of the greatest joys of a teaching career. When that kindergarten student looks up at you after they finish reading a book from cover to cover for the first time your heart can’t help but fill with joy. Helping a child see themselves through the lens of a reader is humbling and powerful. 

How do we get young children to become fluent readers?

Becoming a reader is much more than knowing your alphabet and the sounds of letters. Researchers have identified five key concepts at the core of every effective reading instruction program. Often these concepts are referred to as the pillars of reading.

The 5 pillars of reading 

Phonemic Awareness





Phonemic Awareness

Let’s start with the first pillar of reading – Phonemic Awareness

So what exactly is phonemic awareness and why is it so important to kindergarten students?

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, manipulate, and substitute phonemes. 

 It is essential to have a strong foundation in phonemic awareness when learning to read. One of the best predictors of a successful reader is their success with phonemic awareness skills.

What do our students need to have for a strong foundation in phonemic awareness?

Our kindergarten and first-grade students need to be able to rhyme.

Phonemic Awareness rhyming

The very first way students begin to become familiar with the sounds phonemes in words is with rhymes.



Early childhood students need to be able to count syllables. 

Phonmic Awareness counting syllables

Dividing words into chunks or parts helps to speed up the process of decoding. 



Beginning readers need to be able to isolate the sounds in a word.

A kindergarten student who is strong in phonemic awareness is able to identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words. Readers need to recognize that letters and sounds are related. That those sounds are predictable. Understanding that sounds are predictable brings order to reading. 

Learning to read means being able to segment and blend sounds.

Segmenting phonemes is the ability to break words down into individual sounds.  The skills students show when they can take a word like “dog” and break it into its smallest unit of sounds /d/ /o/ /g/.

 Phoneme blending is very similar to segmenting words but when blending words the students are taking sounds and putting them together to make a word. Students show this skill when they take the sounds /b/ /u/ /g/ and understand those sounds mean bug. 


Effective readers can manipulate the sounds in a word. 

 I like to think that phoneme manipulation is like doing mental gymnastics. However, it is not as difficult! Manipulating phonemes require the ability to modify, change or move the individual sounds in a word. A child who understands that changing the /h/ in hat into a /b/ changes the word from hat to bat is manipulating phonemes.


All the skills involved in phonemic awareness help work together to build a strong foundation for beginning readers. 


phoneme awareness guide

Boom Cards are a great way to teach phonemic awareness skills.  Learn more about Boom Cards and receive 2 free decks.


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Boom Cards Kindergarten readiness







Phoneme manipulation




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