Phonemic Awareness Phonological awareness and more

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual phonemes.  A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound we hear in a word. 

Phonological awareness is under this umbrella ( includes this ) as well as the ability to hear and manipulate larger units of sounds like onset and rimes as well as syllables.

Here is a breakdown of the units of sounds within a word - organized from the largest to the smallest unit of sound.

*  syllables
* onset
* rime
* phonemes

There are actually 44 phonemes in the English language that includes combinations of letters such as /th/.

It's important to know the differences between the two and how they impact instruction in small groups and the way students learn.

Once phonics is introduced it's no longer just about the sounds.  
At that point we are working on a relationship between letters and sounds.  This involves not just listening to the sounds but looking at print too.  I like to say once pictures/letters are introduced it become phonics.  A student on their way to phonemic awareness mastery  can segment a word, spell a word, blend the sounds, read the word.  Additionally if they can change the /p/ in pen to a /t/, they can make a new word ~ ten.  Phonemic awareness training provides students with the necessary skills to read and spell words when they see these sounds in print.   

Jen Jones says it best, Phonological and phonemic awareness can be done in the dark.  Meaning the focus is on sounds, not print.

Many studies have been done on this topic and research shows that if a student lacks phonemic awareness, or the ability to segment and manipulate individual phonemes, that child will not be able to or severely struggle with connecting those sounds to written letters.  That is where the encoding piece comes in.  

In a  book written by David and Meredith Liben this statement is made, " It is NOT an option to skip or short change phonemic awareness!  Children without mastery of it will inevitably struggle."  
I've seen it way too many times in my career and it's very true.  Kids need explicit phonemic awareness instruction in small groups.  The pit many students fall into without it is a feeling that they have to memorize words and they end up seeing words as whole units instead of phonemes that can be broken down, blended, segmented and manipulated.

Phonological awareness is so important because kids need to manipulate and work with sounds.  They need to realize that listening for the sounds and changing a phoneme can create brand new words.  

Here are some simple ways to incorporate phonological awareness and phonics into your small group time.

One way is to work with elkonin boxes.  These are the perfect way to focus on one phoneme at a time.  These help kids build phonological awareness skills by segmenting words into individual sounds.  
The beauty with these is you can make or create your own, you don't need to invest in any expensive kits to do this.  You can turn a white board or white construction paper into elkonin boxes easily with painters tape or washi tape.  Create 3 boxes to start with, you can  even use sticky notes to show your students how you can easily change out letters/sounds to create new words.
elkonin box ideas

Another way you can incorporate a fun lesson with sound boxes or elkonin boxes is using a magnetic wand from amazon with magnetic chips.  Show an image and have your student say the word aloud.  Then, have them push a chip up into each box as they saw each sound when all chips are pushed up have them blend the entire word and swipe their magnetic wand across the boxes to say the word blended.  They LOVE this hands on activity!

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

Your students will say the word and push a disc up for each sound.  They will say 
/h/ /a/ /t/ and push up the disc for each sound then they will blend the entire word and say /hat/ while swiping the wand across and picking up all the discs at once.

elkonin boxes

elkonin boxes with magnetic wands

If you are interested you can grab a magnetic wand and disc set here.
affiliate link

Another idea is to :
* sort objects/pictures by initial sounds
* highlighting initial sounds
* give students a hand clapper and have them clap the sounds they hear in syllables of a word.  

You can find these here.
affiliate link

Another fun idea is PHONEME JUMPING:
Laminate colored cards, lay them on the ground.  Have students jump to the next color as they say the sound in a word.  They love this!
I hope I've given you some ideas to get started to help meet the needs of your early readers.  If you have some fun, engaging ideas share them below or start a conversation on one of my social media pages.

Happy Teaching,


The Snowy Day Activities for home or school

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
The Snowy Day is such a fun, sweet perfect picture book for a read aloud in the Winter.
There are endless ideas you can use with this delightful story! ❄☃❆❅

The Snowy Day activities

Depending on the age:  Here is a breakdown of ideas you can use for a sensory bin:

* use pictures in your sensory bin for preschoolers and kindergartners.  Kids love seeing their pictures and pictures of their friends or at home - they will love picking out family members and saying their names!  ** BE sure to SUPERVISE toddlers or only use items in the sensory bin that can not be choked on etc. **

Another idea:  Use as a Sunday School teacher - you could put Bible characters in the bin and have kids recognize them.

* use numbers / letters for your early TK - Kinder learners.  This will help them recognize important symbols to help them learn.

* use sight words for K/1 kiddos - have them practice their sight words and build recognition and fluency.

sensory bin ideas The Snowy Day

As you can see on the top picture with the purple sensory bin, I added some clipart to the tongs.  It just makes it more thematic and cute - I told the kids Peter ( from the story ) was helping them with the sensory bin.

***NOTE*** be sure to include tongs in your bin to assist in building their fine motor skills with any of the ages above.  Even first graders sometimes have trouble with the basic pencil grip so this can still be beneficial.

sensory bin idea

SHAVING cream is so much fun as well for your young ones!  The tactile experience is just too good to pass up.  They will be thrilled to touch, squeeze and have the cream ooze between their fingers.  Put it on top of a wintery picture/placemat or again numbers and letters.  As they move the shaving cream around they can say the letters aloud.

hands on shaving cream idea for The Snowy Day

You can also find more ideas here:

The Snowy Day Ideas art and more

Also, I made a super fun, digital game that is based around The Snowy Day, it's very engaging and editable!  You can grab it here

The Snowy Day game

For this game, you hide Peter behind the snowball of your choice.  Kids either on ZOOM, on a device or a smartboard will say a word and click on it to see if Peter is behind it.  Keep playing until someone finds Peter.  You can change where you put him each time. 

I hope you have fun implementing some of these fun ideas...for more fun ideas tune in  each Wednesday with me here on the blog!



The Mitten activities

Friday, January 1, 2021
The Mitten is such a fun book to read in the Winter and there are so many fun, engaging activities that you can accompany this with...

The Mitten ideas and activities

There are so many FUN things you can do as an extension to the adorable story: The Mitten by Jan Brett.  I have included game ideas, sensory bin ideas, printables and more!

These ideas are geared mostly to your younger learners with tracing practice, pin art, letter/sounds, rhyming and sight word activities and more. 

To  meet the all important fine motor skill needs of your students I've included a sensory bin with tongs as a pincher, as well as tracing pages which students love doing.  

To make the sensory bin even more challenging you can have your students wear mittens 
( or gloves ) while using the tongs to pick up the letter/word cards.

The mitten fine  motor skill activities

The Mitten story response pages

The Mitten craft and game ideas

The extension ideas to go along with this fun book are endless, you can spend a week or more on activities to go along with this cute story.

I've even included a snack idea that you can  do with it.  When I taught preschool and a kindergarten summer school class they loved snacks!  I tried to include them often but just kept aware of any allergies in my classes.

The Mitten Snack Idea

There are also story sequencing pages, printable little puppets and more, I hope you can incoporate this fun packet into your winter this year ~~ your students would love it!

Grab it here!

Happy Teaching friends...stay healthy~