Checking your child’s sound awareness

Sound awareness or phonological awareness is the ability to hear and talk about the sounds in our language. It is essential for the development of reading and writing skills, and it is extremely important that a child can demonstrate sound awareness before the alphabet is introduced.

Sound awareness is an understanding that:

  • Spoken sentences can be broken up into words, eg, My dog is hairy. (4 words)
  • Spoken words can be broken up into syllables, eg, win-dow (2 syllables)
  • Spoken words can rhyme, eg, fan, van, Gran (The ending sounds the same)
  • Spoken words can begin with the same sound, eg, bee, bus, boat (They begin with the /b/ sound)
  • Spoken words can be broken up into individual sounds, eg, pig (/p/../i/../g/)

It’s easy to check your child’s sound awareness!


1  Check awareness of words

Take a step for each word you hear in this sentence:

I love running under the trees.

(Correct response: 6 steps)


2  Check awareness of syllables:

Clap each syllable or beat in these words:

Daddy, house, television, butterfly

(Correct response: Daddy – 2 claps, house – 1 clap, television – 4 claps, butterfly – 3 claps)


3  Check awareness of alliteration:

Tell me what is the same about these words:

sun, summer, surfing

(Correct response: They begin with the /s/ sound.)

Tell me the word that does not have the same first sound:

jelly, jump, teddy

(Correct response: teddy)


4  Check awareness of rhyme:

Tell me the word that does not rhyme:

king, sing, tree

(Correct response: tree)

Say a word that rhymes with these words:

might, kite,   (Correct response: any ‘ite’ or ‘ight’ word)

wish, dish,   (Correct response: any ‘ish’ word)


5  Check awareness of phonemes:

Tell me the sounds you hear in these words:

fish  (Correct response: /f/../i/../sh/)

tin  (Correct response: /t/../i/../n/)

bag  (Correct response: /b/../a/../g/)


Activities to support the development of sound awareness at home

The type of activities your child needs will depend on the results of your assessment. For example, some children will need extra help listening for the number of words in a sentence, whilst others will need more practice with rhyming words.

  • When you are reading a book to your child, point to and count the words in a sentence. Then say a sentence and ask your child to listen and take a step for each word they hear.
  • Point out long and short words written anywhere… signs, packets, books etc. Say: Look! That’s a long word because it has a lot of letters in it.
  • Read books with real and nonsense (silly) words in them and discuss with your child. (Dr Suess books are great for this.)
  • When reading or singing songs, tap out the the syllables or beats in words. Say two words and ask your child if they have the same number of beats.
  • Read lots of books with rhyming words. Talk about which words rhyme.
  • Make up silly words that rhyme with names, objects etc.
  • Play I Spy. Make sure you use the sound, not the letter.
  • Choose a Sound of the Week. Cut up picture of things from magazines, or find food that begins with a particular sound.




Checking your child’s sound awareness — 2 Comments

  1. Special Notes for Phonological Awareness: When you are teaching phonological awareness, it is important for students to understand that this is NOT phonics. You will need to begin at the meta-cognitive level and then help your student to learn that he is counting the sounds, not the letters, in a word. If you are working with a visual learner, it may help him to visually represent words, syllables, or phonemes with some sort of manipulative (e.g., different colored felts, blocks, papers, etc). A kinesthetic learner may benefit from tapping, clapping, jumping, moving hands together (for blending) and moving them apart for (segmenting).

  2. This fact is well proven: Phonological awareness is critical for learning to read any alphabetic writing system (Ehri, 2004; Rath, 2001; Troia, 2004). Phonological awareness is even important for reading other kinds of writing systems, such as Chinese and Japanese. There are several well-established lines of argument for the importance of phonological skills to reading and spelling.

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