Phonological Awareness Activities for Kindergarten

Phonological awareness activities are activities done with the spoken sounds of our language, not the written symbols (letters.)  These activities are done without seeing the letters or words, they can be done with pictures or simply through teacher talk.  It is all auditory and does not involve any written words.  Research has shown that phonological awareness skills are crucial when learning to read.  So make sure to find the time in your day to add these quick and easy activities.   

picture of kids clapping for phonological awareness activity

Phonological Awareness Levels

Phonological awareness can be thought of as an umbrella with different categories.  The four categories we like to use are:

Word awareness: Students learn about words as a whole in sentence segmentation.

Syllable awareness: Students learn how to break words into syllables.

Onset and rime, alliteration, rhyming: Students learn how to break words into first sound (onset) and the rest of the word (rime).  They also learn when many words in the same text begin with same sound (alliteration), and when words sound the same at the end (rhyming).

Phonemic awareness:  Students identify, isolate and manipulate the phonemes or individual sounds in words.

picture of phonological awareness umbrella with the categories: word awareness, syllable awareness, onset and rime, rhyming, alliteration, and phonemic awareness under the umbrella.

Phonological Awareness Games

What better way to practice phonological awareness skills than a fun game?!  You can play these games whole group or small group.  Once your students understand how to match the cards, you can place them in a center.   Students can place the cards face down to play concentration or match them facing up.  They work on 4 phonological awareness skills, including rhyming, syllables, beginning sounds and digraphs.  Our educational matching cards resource also comes with 7 sets of phonics skills to practice. 

Sentence Segmentation

This is where you are teaching your students about wordness; that a sentence is made up of different words. 

Sentence Game

Tell students you’re going to play the sentence game.  Anytime you add in the word game, students get more excited about the activity.  In this game, the teacher says a sentence.  Next she says the sentence again with students as they clap every time they say a word.  For example: The teacher says, “I like pizza.  Let’s say that sentence together as we clap each time we say a new word.  I – like – pizza.  How many times did we clap?  That’s right, we clapped 3 times because there are 3 words in this sentence.”  Continue with several more sentences.  The first time you play, make sure your sentences are short so your students can get used to clapping with the words.

picture of kids clapping as they play a phonological awareness activity and clap to count words in a sentence.


The perfect way to teach syllables is using your students’ names.  Whenever you are calling your students names, say them in syllables.  Say their name, then clap out the syllables as you say the name again.  For example: Jameson. . . Ja·me·son.   Have your students clap out the syllables with you.  This is a quick way to teach syllables.

Onset and Rime

Use hand motions to show students how to separate words into onset and rime.  First say the word.  Then hold out your right hand as you say the onset of a word, hold out your left hand as you say the rime of the word, then clap as you say the word together.  “We’re going to separate the beginning sound from the rest of the word.  The word is bat.  (Hold out right hand) /b/,  (hold out left hand) /at/,  (clap) /bat/.” As students get used to this phonological awareness activity, see if they can guess the word.  Don’t tell them the word at the beginning.  Just do the onset with your right hand and the rime with your left hand, then see if they can clap and put the word together on their own.  We chose the right hand as the onset and left hand as the rime because we sit facing our students, therefor they see it as going from left to right.

Alliteration and Rhyming words

A great way to help students learn alliteration and rhyming is simply through reading to them.  Nursery rhymes and poems are best for introducing rhyming and alliteration.  Anytime you read a book with rhymes or alliteration, make sure to point it out.  See examples for each below.


After reading Jack and Jill, say “I’m going to reread part of this story.  As I do, listen for words that rhyme – they’ll sound the same at the end.  Jack and Jill went up the hill. . .Hill.  What other word sounds like hill? That’s right Jill.  Hill, Jill.  They have the same ending sound, these words rhyme.  Let’s say those words together.  Hill, Jill.”  Continue doing this with other rhyming words in the story.  

flip chart of nursery rhymes

This Nursery Rhyme Flip Chart is great when working on rhyming and other phonological awareness skills.  Click on the title to purchase from Amazon.


For alliteration you can use Peter Piper.  After reading, you might ask, “What sound did you hear at the beginning of some of the words?  Yes, /p/.  I heard that too.  /p/ /p/ Peter, /p/ /p/ Piper, /p/ /p/ picked… We heard /p/ /p/ /p/.  Alliteration is when most of the words have the same beginning sound.  I’ll reread the story.  This time, give a thumbs up every time you hear a /p/.”  Another great resource for alliteration is alphabet chants.  Our alphabet chants are fun, rhythmic and full of alliteration.

Phonemic Awareness Activities

A fun way to practice phonemic awareness skills is to add some movement.  Have your students stand up to segment words.  Put their hands on their head as they say the beginning sound, hands on their belly as they say the middle sound, and hands on their knees as they say the ending sound.  Use cvc words to play this game, for example: cup /c/ /u/ /p/.  This is one of many fantastic activities in our phonemic awareness resource

Scheduling Phonological Awareness Activities in Your Day

Most of these phonological awareness activities are quick and can be easily implemented anytime throughout your day.  These activities should take no longer than 5 minutes.  Try to find a 5 minute spot in your schedule where you can fit one or two of these activities. Rotate through the activities, so you’re not doing the same ones every day.  If you need more help knowing which activities to do and what words to choose, our phonemic awareness resource has it all done for you.  This resource has so many great phonemic awareness activities and also includes syllables, rhyming, and onset and rime activities.  Let us know what your favorite phonological awareness activities are, and read our phonics activities blog when you’re ready to teach those skills.

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