Introduction to Phonological Awareness Continuum

The phonological awareness continuum is a model that helps us understand how children develop phonological awareness skills. The model has six levels:

  1. Listening Skills
  2. Rhymes and Alliteration
  3. Sentence Segmentation
  4. Syllabic Awareness
  5. Onset and Rime
  6. Phonemic Awareness

We will discuss these levels in detail in the upcoming texts.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is hearing, identifying, and manipulating language sounds. It is a critical skill for early reading and writing development. Children with strong phonological awareness skills are likelier to be successful readers and writers.

Phonological awareness is a predictor of early reading success. It also can help children develop other important language skills, such as spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Phonological Awareness Developmental Continuum

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The Six Levels of Phonological Awareness Continuum

Listening Skills

This phonological awareness continuum level involves the ability to attend to and discriminate between sounds in spoken language. For example, a child at this level might be able to differentiate between the sounds “/b/” and “/d/”.

Listening skills Awareness Tasks

  • Alertness: Being aware of sounds in the environment and being able to locate them.
  • Discrimination: Recognizing the same or different sounds.
  • Memory: Remembering sounds and sound patterns.
  • Sequencing: Identifying the order of sounds.
  • Figure-ground: Isolating one sound from background noise.
  • Perception: Understanding the meaning of sounds.

Activities

  • Read aloud to children regularly: This exposes children to various sounds and helps them learn to listen attentively.
  • Point out rhyming words: This helps children identify the similarities and differences between sounds.
  • Play games that involve listening for sounds: For example, you could play “I Spy” or “Simon Says.”
  • Ask children to repeat sounds, syllables, and words: This helps them practice listening and identifying sounds.
  • Makeup songs or poems focusing on sounds: This helps children learn to enjoy listening to and playing with sounds.

Examples of Listening Games

  • I Spy: It is a classic game that can be played with children of all ages. Speak, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /b/.” Children may guess the item one at a time.
  • Simon Says: This game helps children learn to follow directions. The leader gives instructions in this game, such as “Simon says touch your nose.” Children must only follow instructions that begin with “Simon says.”
  • Sound Bingo: This game is fun for children to practice identifying sounds. Make a bingo board with pictures of objects that start with different sounds. Children can take turns calling out sounds, and the first child to get five in a row wins.
  • Clap Along: This simple game can be played with children of all ages. Read a sentence aloud and have children clap once for each word in the sentence.
  • Tapping Game: This game is similar to Clap Along, but children tap their fingers on the table once for each word in the sentence instead of clapping.

2. Rhymes and Alliteration

This phonological awareness continuum stage involves identifying words that rhyme or have the same initial sound. For example, a child at this level might be able to say that “cat” and “hat” rhyme or that “dog” and “duck” start with the same sound.

Activities

  • Point out rhymes and alliterations in songs, poems, and stories: This helps children learn to identify rhymes and alliterations.
  • Play games that involve rhymes and alliterations: For example, you could play “I Spy” with rhyming words or “Piggy Bank” with alliterative words.
  • Ask children to make up rhymes or alliterations: This helps them practice using rhymes and alliterations.
  • Makeup songs or poems that focus on rhymes and alliterations: This helps children learn to enjoy playing with rhymes and alliterations.

Examples of Rhymes and Alliteration

  • Piggy Bank: This game is fun for children to practice identifying alliterations. The leader says a word that starts with a certain sound, and the children add words that start with the same sound.
  • Rhyme Time: This game is where children take turns saying rhyming words. The first child to say a word that does not rhyme is out.
  • Alliteration Train: This game is where children take turns saying words that start with the same sound. The first child to say a word that does not start with the same sound is out.
  • Rhyme Charades: This game is a fun way for children to practice using rhyming words. One child acts out a word, and the other children have to guess the word. The child gets an extra point if the word rhymes with another word.
  • Rhyme Chain: This game is fun for children to practice creating rhymes. One child starts by saying a word, and the next child has to say a word that rhymes with it. The game continues until a child cannot think of a word that rhymes.
  • Rhyme Scavenger Hunt: This game is fun for children to practice finding rhyming words in the environment. Give children a list of rhyming words, and have them find objects that rhyme with the words on the list.
  • Rhyme Poems: This activity is fun for children to practice writing rhymes. Give children a rhyming word, and have them write a poem using that word.

3. Sentence Segmentation

Phonological Awareness Continuum: Sentence Segmentation and Syllable Segmentation

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This phonological awareness continuum level involves breaking down a sentence into its words. For example, a child at this level might be able to say that the sentence “The cat sat on the mat” has four words.

Activities

  • Point to the words as you read: When reading to children, point to the words as you say them. This helps children to see the connection between the sounds of words and the written words.
  • Ask children to repeat sentences: After you read a sentence, ask children to repeat it back to you. This helps them to focus on the individual words in the sentence.
  • Make up your sentence segmentation activities: Be creative and have fun! There are many ways to help children segment sentences.

Examples of Sentence Segmentation

  • Put the words in order: Read a sentence and then jumble up the words. Ask children to put the words back in the correct order.
  • Make a sentence train: Write each word in a sentence on a separate piece of paper. Put the pieces of paper in a line to make a “sentence train.” Ask children to read the sentence aloud.
  • Use picture cards: Show the child a picture card and ask them to say the sentence that describes the picture. This will help the child to associate words with their meaning.

4. Syllabic Awareness

This phonological awareness continuum level involves the ability to identify and manipulate syllables. For example, a child at this level might be able to say that the word “cat” has one syllable or that the word “dog” can be divided into two syllables: “do” and “g.”

Syllable Structure Awareness Tasks

  • Syllable segmentation: Breaking a word down into its syllables.
  • Syllable completion: Filling in the missing syllable in a word.
  • Syllable identity: Identifying the same syllables in two different words.
  • Syllable deletion: Removing a syllable from a word.

Activities

  • Clapping: Clap out the syllables in a word. For example, clap once for the syllable “ca” and once for the syllable “t” in the word “cat.”
  • Singing songs: Many songs have a clear syllable structure, which can help children to hear and identify syllables.
  • Playing with syllables: Makeup games and activities involving syllables, such as syllables bingo or hopscotch.
  • Segmenting and blending: Ask the child to segment a word into its syllables or to blend a group of syllables to form a word.

Syllabic awareness is a complex skill that takes time and practice to develop. However, children can learn to identify and manipulate syllables easily and fluently with the right activities and support.

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5. Onset and Rime

Onset and Rime – Kindergarten phonemic awareness

This phonological awareness continuum level involves identifying a word’s onset (the initial consonant or consonant cluster) and the rime (the vowel and consonant sound spoken afterward). For example, a child at this level might be able to say that the onset of the word “cat” is “/k/” and the rime is “/at/.”

Onset Rime Awareness Tasks

  • Spoken word recognition: Identifying whether two words rhyme.
  • Spoken rhyme detection: Identifying the word that does not rhyme in a group of words.
  • Spoken rhyme generation: Generating a list of words that rhyme with a given word.

Activities

  • Playing with onsets and rimes: Makeup games and activities that involve onsets and rimes, such as onsets and rimes bingo or onsets and rimes charades.
  • Segmenting and blending: Ask the child to segment a word into its onset and rime or to blend a group of onsets and rimes to form a word.
  • Using onset and rime families: Teach the child about onset and rime families, which are groups of words that share the same onset or rime. For example, the onset family “cl” includes clap, clear, and climb.
  • Reading rhyming words: Read rhyming words to the child and ask them to identify the rhyming words.

6. Phonemic Awareness

What is the phonological awareness continuum, phonemic awareness, and phonics? How to teach it & FREE continuum guide!

The capacity to recognize and work with specific phonemes is known as phonemic awareness. A phoneme is the minutest unit of sound in a language. For example, “cat” has three phonemes: /k/, /a/, and /t/.

The most advanced phonological awareness continuum level is phonemic awareness, which is necessary for learning to read and write. Children who have strong phonemic awareness skills are better able to decode unfamiliar words and spell words correctly.

Phonemic Awareness Tasks

  • Phoneme matching: Identifying words that have the same initial sound.
  • Phoneme isolation: Identifying the sound at the beginning or end of a word.
  • Phoneme completion: Filling in the missing sound in a word.
  • Phoneme blending: Combining a sequence of sounds to form a word.
  • Phoneme deletion: Taking a word’s sound out.
  • Phoneme segmentation: Dividing a word into its sounds.
  • Phoneme reversal: Reversing the order of sounds in a word.
  • Phoneme manipulation: Changing one sound in a word to create a new word.
  • Spoonerism: Changing the sounds at the beginning of two words.

Activities

  • Segmenting and blending: Ask the child to segment a word into its phonemes or to blend a group of phonemes to form a word.
  • Using phoneme families: Teach the child about phoneme families, groups of words that share the same phoneme. For example, the phoneme family “at” includes the words cat, hat, and mat.
  • Removing and adding sounds: Ask the child to remove or add a sound to a word to make a new word. For example, the child might remove the /k/ sound from the word “cat” to make the word “at.”

With the right approach, children can develop strong phonemic awareness skills, setting them up for success in reading and writing.

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Benefits of Phonological Awareness Continuum

There are many benefits of the phonological awareness continuum. Here are a few:

  • It is a predictor of early reading success. Children with strong phonological awareness skills are likelier to learn to read easily and fluently.
  • It can help children develop other important language skills, such as spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension. Phonological awareness is a foundation for many other language skills, so early development can help children succeed in all areas of language learning.
  • It can help children learn to decode words, which is the process of sounding out words. When children can hear and identify the individual sounds in words, they can better sound out those words when reading.
  • It can help children learn to encode words, which is the writing process. When children can hear and identify the individual sounds in words, they can better remember how to write them.
  • It can help children with dyslexia and other reading disabilities. Children with dyslexia often have difficulty with the phonological awareness continuum. By providing early intervention, children with dyslexia can improve their phonological awareness skills and be more successful in reading.

Advanced Benefits of Phonological Awareness Continuum

  • It can help children with speech and language disorders. Children with speech and language disorders often have difficulty with phonological awareness. By providing early intervention, children with speech and language disorders can improve their phonological awareness skills and be more successful in speaking and understanding language.
  • It is advantageous for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Focusing and paying attention are common challenges for kids with ADHD. Phonological awareness activities can help children with ADHD develop their attention skills and be more successful in learning.
  • It is advantageous for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Communication and social skills are common challenges for kids with ASD. Phonological awareness activities can help children with ASD develop communication skills and interact more successfully with others.
  • It can help children with cognitive delays. Children with cognitive delays often have difficulty with thinking and learning. Phonological awareness activities can help children with cognitive delays develop their thinking skills and be more successful in learning.

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Tips for Teaching Phonological Awareness

5 Tips for Teaching Phonemic Awareness | Science of Reading Phonemic Awareness Ideas!

Here are some tips for teaching phonological awareness:

  1. Start early: Phonological awareness skills can be taught to children as young as 3 or 4.
  2. Make it fun: Children are more likely to learn if they are having fun. Use games, songs, and other activities to make phonological awareness instruction enjoyable.
  3. Be patient: It takes time for children to develop phonological awareness skills. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t seem to get it immediately.
  4. Be explicit: Explain what you are doing and why. Tell the child what they are supposed to be listening for or doing.
  5. Provide feedback: Let the child know when they are doing something correctly. Whenever they’re not, give them constructive criticism.
  6. Vary the activities: Don’t use the same activities over and over again. Children get bored easily.
  7. Involve the parents: Parents can help their children develop phonological awareness skills by reading to them, playing rhyming games, and pointing out sounds in the environment.

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Phonological Awareness Assessment

Quick Phonemic Awareness Assessment

Phonological awareness assessment is the process of measuring a kid’s ability to identify and manipulate the sounds of spoken language. Various phonological awareness assessments are available, both standardized and informal.

  • Standardized assessments are norm-referenced, meaning they have been administered to a large group of children to establish a baseline for performance.
  • Informal assessments are not norm-referenced but can help identify specific areas where a child may struggle.

The Most Common Phonological Awareness Assessment Types

  1. Rhyming: This assessment measures a child’s ability to identify rhyming words.
  2. Blending: This assessment measures a child’s ability to blend a group of phonemes to form a word.
  3. Segmenting: This assessment measures a child’s ability to segment a word into its phonemes.
  4. Initial and final sound identification: This assessment measures a child’s ability to identify a word’s initial or final sound.

How to use phonological awareness assessment results?

  • Identify children who may be vulnerable to reading difficulties.
  • Plan effective interventions for children who are struggling with phonological awareness.
  • Monitor a child’s progress over time.

PAAD

The Phonological Awareness Diagnostic Assessment (PAAD) is a short, on-demand assessment that tells teachers how students progress in phonological awareness. The PAAD consists of five subtests:

  1. Listening skills
  2. Rhymes and alliteration
  3. Sentence segmentation
  4. Syllabic awareness
  5. Onset and rime
  • The PAAD can be used for any student from Kindergarten onwards.
  • The PAAD is a flexible assessment that can be used to assess different aspects of phonological awareness.
  • The PAAD is a reliable and valid assessment used in research studies.

Additional Details about the PAAD

  • The PAAD is administered by a teacher or other trained professional.
  • The PAAD takes about 15-20 minutes to administer.
  • The PAAD results are in a detailed report that includes the student’s scores on each subtest and overall phonological awareness level.
  • The PAAD results can be used to plan instruction and interventions for students struggling with phonological awareness.

Citations and Resources

  1. Moats, L. C. (2020, January 1). Speech to Print. Brookes Publishing Company.
  2. A Principal’s Primer for Raising Reading Achievement. (2013, January 1).
  3. Toews, C. J. (2000, January 1). An Evaluation of a Phonologically Based Early Intervention Program for Use with Primary Grade Children.
  4. Goldsworthy, C. L., & Pieretti, R. A. (2012, May 22). Sourcebook of Phonological Awareness Activities. Cengage Learning.
  5. Adams, M. J., Foorman, B. R., & Lundberg, I. (1998, January 1). Phonemic Awareness in Young Children. Brookes Publishing Company.
  6. Standards, E. (2023, August 16). Phonological awareness diagnostic assessment. https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/literacy-and-numeracy/assessment-resources/phonological-awareness#:~:text=The%20Phonological%20Awareness%20Diagnostic%20Assessment,in%20foundational%20literacy%20skills%20development.

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