What is Phonemic Awareness?

photo of teacher and students with text what is phonemic awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness?

There are a lot of different definitions and explanations about what phonemic awareness is.  We define phonemic awareness as the ability to hear and manipulate the individual sounds in words that are spoken.  Children need the understanding that words are made up of sounds.  The individual sounds are called phonemes.  Hence the name .  .  . phonemic awareness.  Please make note that this is about spoken words,  phonemic awareness is auditory and does not involve written words.  These activities can be done in the dark.


Phonemic Awareness vs Phonological Awareness

Phonemic awareness is a part of phonological awareness.  These terms are often used interchangeably.  Phonemic awareness is under the umbrella of phonological awareness.  That is why our Phonemic Awareness Activities satisfy most of the CCSS Phonological Awareness standards. 


Phonemic Awareness in Kindergarten

Phonemic awareness is an important pre-reading skill. There is a strong correlation between a student’s phonemic awareness and their success in learning to read.  Most kindergartners come to school with only some of these skills.  However, it is hard for a teacher to determine which ones they’ve mastered.  Therefore, it must be taught and not simply assumed that students have it.  It is often intentionally taught during the reading skills block, with lessons building upon each other.  The lessons are usually very quick.  That said, phonemic awareness is also woven throughout many other kindergarten activities.  For example, every time a Dr. Seuss’ book is read, and the teacher has the class listen for the rhyming words, phonemic awareness is being taught.  Every time a teacher demonstrates how to stretch out a word during an interactive writing lesson, phonemic awareness is being taught. 

Activities for Kindergarten

4 Kinder Teachers has put together some fun, fast activities for phonemic awareness instruction.  These activities ensure that all children become phonemically aware.  These lessons are no prep and easy to implement. They are fast-paced and will only take a few minutes.  There are 81 lessons in all: 26 alphabet and 55 weekly activities.  See below for more details.


Alphabet Phonemic Awareness Activities

We have letter specific activities that have been created for use when focusing on one primary letter.  They can be used when introducing or reviewing a letter.  If you are using our Alphabet Animals Reading Skills Curriculum, we recommend doing these activities the first 26 days in conjunction with Rainbow Writing Letters A-Z.  You could also use these activities immediately after you introduce a new letter.


Example Lesson

First the teacher says, “We’ve been studying the letter c.  C says /c/. Can everybody say that sound /c/ /c/ /c/.” Students make the /c/ sound.  Then the teacher says, “Very good!  Now we are going to play a game.  I’m going to say a word and if it starts with /c/ then you will make jazz hands.  So, if I say cat, you make jazz hands.  Show me your jazz hands.” Students make jazz hands.  Teacher continues, “Great! This is a fast game, so you need to listen carefully. Let’s begin.” The teacher proceeds by saying each word and waiting for the students to respond; “coat” jazz hands “cap” jazz hands, “bike” hands still.  There are approximately 18 words total.  After finishing the list of words, the teacher completes the lesson with the following; “You guys did a great job!  Were there any tricky words?  Maybe bike? Can you think of a word that begins with /c/.  Turn and tell a neighbor.” Students share a word that begins with /c/.

Weekly Phonemic Awareness Activities

We suggest these activities be used after the alphabet activities. They are also fast-paced and will only take a few minutes.  These activities include rhyming, initial sound comparison, manipulating phonemes, segmenting words into phonemes, and more.  They follow the same format.

  • First, teacher explains the directions (which can be found before each activity).
  • Next, teacher models the example.
  • Then students do the activity.
  • Finally, teacher reinforces the appropriate response.

Example Lesson

  • Teacher explains the directions, “I’m going to say two words, if the words begin with the same sound do a thumbs up.  Listen carefully”. 
  • Teacher models the example,“cat, cup”. Teacher and students do a thumbs up.  
  • Students do the activity. “Now it’s your turn.  Listen carefully: fun, fan.”  Students do a thumbs up. 
  • Teacher reinforces the appropriate responseby either putting her thumbs up or putting her thumbs up and explaining; “Fun and fan start with the same sound /f/”.  

More From 4 Kinder Teachers

Start your school year off right with Alphabet Animals Phonemic Awareness Activities.  You can do these lessons alone or in conjunction with our Alphabet Animals Reading Skills Curriculum.  It is a yearlong, reading skills curriculum that covers the standards, includes strategies for differentiation, and is fun and engaging for your students. Please visit our TpT store 4 Kinder Teachers to see all our products.    

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