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21st Century Community Learning Centers

Phonemic Awareness


Definition: The ability to notice, think about and work with the individual sounds in spoken words

Phonemic awareness activities are oral language activities; children play with the sounds in the language, but without attaching sounds to letters. For example, rhyming games, breaking words apart by their sounds or counting syllables are all ways to build phonemic awareness.

Why it’s important: 

  • There is strong evidence to suggest a child’s level of phonemic awareness is the strongest predictor of later reading success (Adams and Bruck, 1995).
  • Phonemic awareness provides the foundation for later phonics skills (linking sounds with written letters).

What might I observe in students who need support?

  • They may mispronounce words. 
  • They may have difficulty recognizing and producing rhymes.
  • They may confuse similar sounds (e.g., f and v).
  • They may omit or insert sounds in words.

Learn more

In order to build phonemic awareness, young children should play with sounds through games and word play. Review Playing with Sounds in Implementation Strategies, or explore Phonemic Awareness and Phonics Activities or PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) for some great suggestions on how to turn young children into readers!


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