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Phonological Awareness Tips

3 Ways To Help Your Early Reader

While phonological awareness skills are a common goal on an IEP for struggling readers, many parents aren’t very familiar with what it means. This can be especially surprising since phonological awareness skills don’t just benefit struggling readers but can also benefit early readers as well!

There are 3 key skills that make up phonological awareness that are essential building blocks to reading. Do you know what they are? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Luckily at Wolf, our Speech and Language Pathologists are experts when it comes to phonological awareness skills and work daily with struggling and early readers to strengthen these skills!

We spoke to Wolf’s own Allison Schoen, an SLP in both our middle and lower school, to learn more about the three phonological awareness skills that support the acquisition of reading and what you can do to support your early reader!

What is Phonological Awareness?

To understand phonological awareness skills, we first must understand what phonological awareness is and what it isn’t. To put it simply, phonological awareness isn’t phonics. Phonics focuses on the association between written letters and their sounds (i.e., understanding the “sh” sound that together “s” and “h” make in words like sheep, sheer, and shape).

Phonological awareness on the other hand focuses on the sounds of language – the ability to hear and manipulate different sounds within a word. You’re not writing the word or focusing on the letters that make up words, but instead the sounds that make up the word. Take the word “cat” – when working on phonological awareness skills, you’re not working with the letters and instead, you’re focusing on the three sounds that make up this word – |C||A||T|.

These are skills that begin forming before children start reading or working with letters since it’s based entirely on listening. So, what are these skills and how can you help support your child?

1. Rhyming

The skills of recognizing a rhyme and producing a rhyme are critical for reading skills. But it’s hearing these sound patterns that many Complex Learners may struggle with. To help with this skill, an SLP will work on both recognizing a rhyme and producing a rhyme.

While your child might be working in school or with an SLP privately to strengthen this skill, there’s plenty you can do at home to help reinforce the lessons! For example, you can ask your child to come up with words that rhyme with a chosen word like bat (i.e., cat, rat, pat, splat). For younger children, reading nursery rhymes out loud to them is a great way to get them familiar and comfortable with rhymes. As your child gets older, reading rhyming poems aloud to your child and then having them fill in their own rhyming word not only helps with strengthening rhyming skills but also helps work on comprehension (picking a word that not only rhymes but makes sense within the sentence). Or when you’re listening to a song on the radio on your ride into school, see if your child can pick out the rhyming words!

2. Blending

Blending refers to the blending of the sounds that create a word. For example, if you put the following sounds together what word are you left with? |SH|-|I|-|P| – Ship!

With blending, it’s easy to have fun while working on this skill with your child. As your child is helping you set the table or make dinner, look around you at the items you see. Play a game of I-Spy by only giving your clue as sounds. For example, “I spy something with my little eye that sounds like |P||A||N|.” That’s right, it’s a pan! Feel free to encourage your child to use finger tapping as they say the different sounds individually to help form a word.

As you’re driving in the car, present an array of sounds to your child (even if it only makes up a nonsense word!) and have them put it all together. For example, what word would you get from putting together |B|A|P| – bap! Then, challenge them to present different sounds to you so you can take part in the game! You can even turn it into a funny word game by challenging your child to come up with a definition for your made-up word and even use it in a sentence!

3. Segmenting

Segmenting builds off the skill of blending. In blending, you are asked to put sounds together to create a word. With segmenting, the word is provided, and you are asked to break apart the word into the different sounds that make it up. For example, what sounds make up the word “pat”? |P| |A| |T|. Within segmentation, there’s also different ways of manipulation that you can work on like deletion (what happens if you take away the |B| in “bask” – you are left with “ask”) and substitution (what happens if you changed the |B| to a |T| – it now becomes “task”).

Phonological awareness skills are foundational to reading and can even be a predictor of future grade-level reading. If you think your child needs additional help with phonological awareness skills,  contact a Speech and Language Pathologist to talk about your options! But whether your child is an early reader or a struggling reader, there’s plenty you can do at home to help strengthen their phonological awareness skills and help them get ready to read and succeed!

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