Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness


learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.


Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.


Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.


mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:


  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.


  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.


  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.


748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.


If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.


Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.




Becky Welsch


Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

Teaching 8th Grade is (not) Terrifying

Death stare from a 13 year old, anyone?

Death stare from a 13 year old, anyone?

A little background about me: I am a teacher. I have been teaching for seven years. During this time I have taught 1st grade, 2nd grade, 5th grade, and 7th/8th grade. When people ask what I do, I get a variety of responses depending on what grade I am teaching that year. With first and second I usually heard about how “cute” the kids are or how “fun” it must be. With fifth, people didn’t have much to say, with middle school, the result was almost resoundingly “bless your heart” or “I could never do that” or something with a similar sentiment. The general public is terrified of groups of 12-13 year olds. But I am here to tell you, middle school kids are just like 1st graders, for better or for worse.

I would run from this too

I would run from this too

Games. Middle school students and 1st grade students play the same games. Like really, they do. When I taught first grade I had a student come in from recess with a giant mouth shaped bruise. I was horrified. I frantically ran through what the phone call to parents would sound like in my mind. I asked the student where the bruise came from. They were playing zombie tag. Apparently someone took it a little too seriously. Teaching 8th grade, I had a student come in from lunch with a skinned knee. I assumed he got it playing basketball or soccer. Nope. Zombie tag. At 13.

"teacher, I hurt myself"

“teacher, I hurt myself”

Boo-boos. A large part of being a first grade teacher is doing injury and illness triage. When a 7 year old told me he didn’t feel well, my general response was to “get a drink.” Usually in about 10 minutes, he forgot he felt bad. And guess what? This trick works in middle school as well. I also spent a lot of time putting on band aids in first grade. Usually the wound that required bandaging was so minute that one would need a magnifying class to see it. Last week I was giving the AIMS test in an 8th grade room. An 8th grade student raised his hand because he was bleeding (the wound was minute). I got him a band aid. Five minutes later he called me back over with a sheepish look on his face. He asked me to put it on. I put a band aid on a 13 year old.


"OMG, I don't care what you think, but really I do."

“OMG, I don’t care what you think, but really I do.”

Approval. Every child I have worked with really just wants you to like them. First graders try to accomplish this by giving you wonderful masterpieces and works of art. I have home-made ornaments on my Christmas tree and a box of special treasure that six year olds have gifted to me over the years. Usually with a touching sentiment about being the “bestest teacher ever” (I try not to let this go to my head by reminding myself that I am literally one of two at this point). In 7th and 8th grade, they also just want you to like them. I never received any works of art from my middle school students, but they expressed their need for approval in other ways. For example, I had a group of 8th grade boys who would stay after school every day to talk to me about “The Walking Dead” (wonder where they go the idea for zombie tag…). I practically had to chase them away. Every Monday they would come in and ask me about the show and try to spoil the episode for me because I always DVR’d it to watch later. They wanted me to like them and that show was our connection. And ultimately, that is all any kid of any age wants. To be liked and valued.




I hate grapes. With a deep, burning passion. Hate, hate, hate, hate the stupid things. Why, you may ask, why does someone hate such an innocuous fruit? Middle school. I hate grapes because of middle school.

I have lunch duty in the cafeteria during 7th and 8th grade lunch. My administration decided that there needed to be a certified teacher on duty with middle school instead of just aids and cafeteria workers. Somehow I drew the short straw and am the lucky lady who gets to spend 40 minutes of my day with hormonally fueled pre-teen students. Awesome.

Most days it’s not so bad, except when they serve grapes. Grapes are too throwable. They are too crushable. It is way too much fun to try to launch them into your friend’s mouth or squish them under your feet. The crunching sound of a grape as you slowly squeeze it between your fingers is entirely too satisfying. I get it kids. Grapes are fun.

But it is not fun when you have to be the grape police. I have to “gently” (read: scream at the top of my lungs in an already noisy, echoey cafeteria) remind kids not to throw grapes across the table. And I have to not so gently remind them not the chuck them at the back of my head (read: scream at the top of my lungs and threaten to send them to the principal). Throw in the cafeteria “boss” (aka a cafeteria aid on a power trip) who is constantly demanding that kids sweep the floor, and this 40 minutes becomes pure hell.

So my plea to school districts everywhere, stop with the grapes. Just stop. Find a fruit that is not quite so fun. Like orange slices. No one has a good time with orange slices.