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Phonological Awareness

Phonological Awareness is the awareness of all of the sounds of language. It's the ability to hear and distinguish sounds. 

This includes: recognising sounds, adding sounds, taking apart sounds and moving sounds around. Phonological awareness helps children become prepared to learn how letters and sounds go together in words. This makes it easier for them to read and write. Phonological awareness has been found to be a strong predictor of literacy development. Weak skills in phonological awareness are a primary cause for reading difficulties.

Download the phonological skills assessment (PDF 946kb) Opening a new window - an assessment tool to help you identify a pupil's phonological awareness needs.


  • There is ample evidence that phonological awareness training is beneficial for beginning readers starting as early as age 4. For older pupils who have poor phonological awareness, there are plenty of activities and games that can be played to help them increase their reading and spelling ability. It's never too late to teach this vital skill!
  • Phonemic awareness is one aspect of phonological awareness. It is the ability to attend to and manipulate phonemes, the smallest sounds in speech.
  • Phonological awareness and phonemic awareness are different from phonics. Phonics is a means of teaching reading in which the associations between letters and sounds are emphasised.
  • Although training should progress from larger to smaller units of sound, there is no fixed order or teaching phonological skills. Pupils do not need to master one level before being exposed to other levels of phonological awareness.
  • Teaching should be fun, taught for a short time every day (approx. 5 mins), reviewed often and modelled.
  • Concrete representations of sound units (such as counters) may help make mental manipulation of sounds easier for some children. Pictures and objects may help reduce memory load.
  • Phonological awareness skills to be covered include the following areas: syllable awareness, rhyme, alliteration, onset-rime, phoneme isolation, discrimination, blending, segmenting, deletion, addition and substitution.

Phonological Stages of Development

In order to learn to read and write, a child must come to understand that language is made up of parts: sentences, words, syllables, word segments and individual sounds or phonemes.

  • Tell whether two words rhyme
  • Provide a word that rhymes with another like 'hat' and 'cat'
  • Blend syllables and onset-rimes into a word, for example: cup-cake (cupcake) and m-ap (map)
  • Clap or count the beats in a 1 (bus), 2 (ta/ble) or 3 (com/pu/ter) syllable word
  • Isolate and pronounce the beginning sound in a word, for example: nose (n) or fudge (f)
  • Blend the sounds in two and three phoneme words, for example: boy (b-oi) or hat (h-a-t)

  • Clap or count the beats in a 4 (te/le/vi/sion) syllable word
  • Isolate and pronounce the middle and final sounds in words, for example: fun (u) and good (d)
  • Segment and pronounce all the sounds in two, three and four phoneme words, for example: it (i-t), dog (d-o-g) and sand (s-a-n-d)
  • Blend the sounds in four phoneme words, for example: s-k-i-p (skip) and g-r-ai-n (grain)


Games

We've got awhole range of games you can play with pupils to help with their phononlogical needs - read the document.

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