Sign up to our newsletter and get free ideas, information and activities sent to you!


Great Reading Foundations – Phonological Awareness

This article was written by Leigh Parlor and first appeared at . It is the second of seven in the ‘Great Reading Foundations’ series for Beginning Readers. To view the first article on Building Vocabulary click here.



There are many skills required for children to become successful readers. One essential pre-reading skill I love covering with my students is Phonological Awareness. Don’t be scared off by the fancy name!


Phonological Awareness (or PA) is being able to ‘attend’ to the sounds in words. PA is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate (play with) the sounds in words. It includes things like rhyming, syllables and hearing the first sound in words. And it’s great to do with your child – it doesn’t need any major resources and it can be practised anywhere!


Phonological Awareness is often assessed in the very early years of school.  Some educators believe that a child’s PA ability can indicate how they may go with learning to formally read later on down the track.  It seems that children with good PA skills generally have more success at learning to read than those who don’t have sound PA skills.


Some ask ‘How on earth can you predict how a child’s going to go with learning to read at such a young age?’ This is a valid question. The way that I see it is reading is all about the letter symbol, the sound it makes and what it sounds like when you put them all together to make a word. So if a child is struggling to hear the sounds, chances are they may have difficulties when they have to match sounds to letters. It becomes an even harder task for the strugglers.


The great thing about PA is that it can be done verbally. So you can practise it whenever you have a spare few minutes!


How Can You Help Your Child Develop Phonological Awareness Skills?

bear and chair


1. Practise Listening

Phonological Awareness relies heavily on listening. To practise listening try:

• Laying down outside or on the floor and listening to environmental sounds. Listen for the birds, traffic, fans or leaves rustling in the wind.

• Giving your child fun, verbal instructions. Start with two things, then keep adding. For example, “You need to clap your hands twice then sit on the ground’.

• Ask your child to close their eyes and see if the can work out certain sounds – for example the tearing of paper, a door closing or using a stapler.


2. Practise Hearing Sounds In Words

• When reading to your child really exaggerate the sounds in the words.

• When saying words to your child, ask them ‘What sound is at the beginning of cat?’ or ‘ What sound is at the end of hop?’



3. Participate In Rhyming Activities

• Read and repeat lots of nursery rhymes, chants and action songs.

• Read stories with rhyming text.

• Play games with word families –‘How many words can we think of that have ‘an’ at the end like ban, can and fan.



4. Syllable Play

• Clap the syllables in your child’s name.

• Count how many ‘beats’ are in different words.



5. Alliteration

• Make up sentences that have lots of words starting with the same sound – Super Sally sent seven strawberries.



Other quick ideas to help develop phonological awareness

• Play ‘I Spy’

• Guess the sound out word – ‘What is this word – c-a-t?’

• Talk about compound words – ‘What two words make up butterfly?’

• Exaggerate first and final sounds when reading to your child

• Play matching games. Search magazines and cut out all the pictures that start or finish with a certain sound

• Do activities that emphasize certain sounds eg. cook six sizzling sausages

I hope these fun ideas give you a starting point to help you develop your child’s Phonological Awareness skills. There are many more activities you can do, but these are a useful starting point!

Happy Learning!



2 Responses to “Great Reading Foundations – Phonological Awareness”

  1. Norah on September 15th, 2013 10:15 am

    Hi Leigh,

    Congratulations on the very sound advice your articles provide to parents of young children. Well done!

  2. theed on September 17th, 2013 12:11 am

    Thanks so much for your comment Norah! Kind regards, Leigh.

Got something to say?