9 activities to promote phonological awareness in the classroom
Hand clapping games
Hand clapping games are a lot of fun for children of many ages. Think ‘A sailor went sea, sea, sea’ or ‘My aunty Anna plays the piana’. For those who are unsure, a quick youtube search will reveal an abundance of hand clapping games that vary in complexity. These fun games encourage rhyme awareness and exaggerate the rhythmical nature of the English language. As an additional benefit, they also support teamwork, problem solving, and bilateral co-ordiantion.
This fun little game is fantastic to promote syllable awareness and manipulation; a less known, but highly important extension from syllable identification. A word is chosen and a tennis ball (or similar) is passed around the group (anywhere from pairs to whole class). When the person catches the ball, they must say the next syllable in the word. For example, if the word was ‘hospital’ the ball would be passed to three people, each one saying one of the following syllables: hos-pi-tal.
Tongue twists are loads of fun, if not slightly infuriating at times. Think ‘She sells sea shells by the sea shore’ and ‘Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’. These phrases are a great way to explore alliteration.
Alternate nursery rhymes
Nursery rhymes are often used in pre-school and kindergarten programs to expose young children to rhyming. However, once children reach their first and second years of schooling, nursery rhymes are left behind. But, they still offer so much potential! A great activity to do as a class or in small groups is to create alternate nursery rhymes. First, identify the rhyming words in a song and then try to substitute them for alternate rhyming words. For example, ‘Hickory, dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock’ could be changed to ‘Hickory dickory hock, the mouse ran up the rock’. The rhymes don’t have to make sense. In fact, sometimes the sillier they are, the more fun the activity.
‘I spy’ is a classic game, but this version has a slight twist! Instead of using letter names, use letter sounds. This will promote initial sound identification. For example, ‘I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with /p/ (insert letter sound).’ Students could guess: paper, pencil, pom pom, panda, Pete, etc.
What’s your Rock Star name?
This fun little name game is great for promoting initial sound identification and alliteration. Students pretend that they are in a band. They’re about to release their first album and they need to choose their Rock Star names ready for all of the interviews. There are two rules for choosing a Rock Star name though. They need to choose two names and they have to alliterate. They can choose to use part of their own name or make up a completely new one. For example, James plays lead guitar in the band. He decides his Rock Star name will be Jammin’ Jimmy. Sally decides she wants to be on vocals and chooses the name Pop Princess.
This activity is great for developing final sound identification skills. The teacher chooses a topic, such as food. The students have to name as many different foods as they can. However, each answer must begin with the last sound (not letter) in the previous answer. For example, you could have a verbal crossword that went something like this: Food (final sound = /d/), donut (final sound = ‘t’), tangerine (final sound = /n/), nuts (final sound = /s/), etc. This can be difficult as sounds and spelling often won’t be the same, as in the ‘tangerine’ example.
Simon says is a much loved game by children and teachers alike! It’s great for developing listening skills. However, this version of simon says is fantastic for developing blending skills. The teacher, ‘Simon’, stands at the front of the group and says “Simon says..” and provides an action. However, instead of just saying an action, the teacher will segment the action into individual sounds. The students must then listen to the sounds and blend them together in order to be able to complete the action. For example, the game might go something like this:
“Simon says j-u-m-p” (jump)
“Simon says s-t-o-p” (stop)
“Simon says h-o-p” (hop)
If this is too difficult for students (i.e., they are not up to blending words) the same activity could be done with onset and rime. For example:
“Simon says r-un” (run)
Slinkies are lots of fun and are a great visual to support children to learn how to segment words or stretch words into individual sounds. Children hold the slinky together and say the word. As they stretch the slinky out bit by bit they say each sound in a given word. Then, they blend the word back together as they push the slinky back together again. For example, if the word was ‘dog’:
“Simon says s-ing” (sing)
“Simon says d-ance” (dance)
Say ‘dog’ → slinky pushed together.
Segment the word: d-o-g → stretch the slinky out with three separate pulls
Blend the word back together ‘dog’ → push the slinky back together
When students understand this concept, they are ready to play with human slinkies. Students are grouped together, based on the number of sounds in the target words (i.e., if targeting words with three sounds, students are placed in groups of three). Students hold hands and stand closely together in a straight line. This forms the ‘human slinky’. When the target word is given, each student must say one of the sounds in the word, as they move outwards to ‘stretch’ the ‘slinky’. For example, if the word was ‘leg’:
Everyone: says ‘leg’
Person 1: says /l/ and moves to stretch the slinky
Person 2: says /e/ and moves to stretch the slinky
Person 3: says /g/ and moves to stretch the slinky
Everyone: says ‘leg’ and moves to push the slinky back together
It is important in this activity to make sure students change positions, so they are not always identifying the same sound (e.g., initial, medial or final sound).