Phonemic awareness is important because there is a high correlation between a student’s level of phonemic awareness and success in beginning reading. (Ehri & Nunes, 2002)

This is our third blog in the series of blogs about phonological awareness.  The first 2 topics covered rhyme/rhythm and syllabification. Continuing to walk up the rungs of our ‘ladder of success’ this post details segmenting words in onset-rime and single sounds
Read our first article about phonological awareness: rhyme time  HERE
Read our second article about phonological awareness: sounds of syllables  HERE


Climbing the phonological ladder of success

In this article we discuss the importance of learning how to work with phonemes.  This includes isolating, blending, segmenting and manipulating sounds in words.  Competent readers are able to perform this skill.  It is important to teach early readers how to hear, blend, isolate and manipulate these sounds for successful reading competence

Working with Phonemes

Students who learn to work with phonemes are then able to do this to decode words for reading and spelling.  When students first learn to read and write they are required to segment and blend the sounds to form the words.

Early readers need to break sentences into words and words into sounds. 

They also need to re-create these words and sentences when writing.

Often writing is a later skill in beginning literacy, as it is easier to isolate the sounds when reading rather than to blend them back together when writing


Now that the early reading student has learnt skills to hear ending sounds that are the same in rhyming words, and hear words broken into chunks in syllabification, it is now time to encourage the process of decoding sounds in words.  Onset-rime is an extension of syllabification as the words are broken into groups of sounds.  The onset is the first sound (group of letters) while the rime is the sound which follows.  An example of this is the word broom /br/ being the onset and /oom/ being the rime.

Rime it Out  is a motivating game that uses graphics to assist the early learner to hear the sounds:

onset- the first group of letters, and the rime- the following group of letters which makes the sound.

This game focuses on blends sounds for the onset and is a great introduction to onset-rime sounds as well as blending letters

Rime it out

  Language skills are strengthened and reinforced as the onset remains the same while the rime is changed to create new words.  The ending sound is being manipulated to create new words.

Word Family Chart

 To extend upon this skill using single sounds we like to reinforce rhyming sounds and consonant manipulation using the EDSpecially4U Word Family Charts.  Changing the initial consonant in words creates new words while the ending sound remains the same.    This resource is a fun way to introduce word attack skills where students change the initial consonant.  These word families are consistently used throughout the EDSpecially4U  literacy program using our bespoke colour and graphic system.


the repitition of the initial sound of a word is another effective strategy to assist your students to practice manipulating sounds in words.  This can be achieved by telling silly tongue twisters like ‘Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers………..’

When your early reader gets the hang of using words with the same sound, they can experiment with their own silly alliteration sentences,        for example: ‘seven spotty sausages sang silly songs on Saturday’

To assist with this skill we like to use the graphics from the   Letter Stars resource.  This resource has initial sound graphics for the 26 letters of the alphabet. Download your copy of Letter Stars HERE

Please note: Letter Stars are a phonic resource, so the letter name should not be the focus for this activity.  The resource is best used for only the graphics which correspond with each initial letter sound as the letter name/written letter should not be introduced as part of a beginning phonemic awareness activity.  Phonemic Awareness is best  taught when students hear the sound and are not taught the grapheme for the sound at the same time. 


Don’t forget to allow the student an opportunity to change the beginning sounds of words during the experimentation stage.

All verbal opportunities to manipulate the sounds in the words are very important for the early reader.  It builds confidence in language and assists them in future literacy activities using letters and sounds in reading and writing activities.

Segmenting Words into Single Sounds

The last topic in our phonological awareness series is about segmenting words into individual sounds.  For this skill we continue to reinforce the bespoke EDSpecially4U system for introducing initial, medial and final sounds in words.  We use the same colours and graphic symbols which we use when teaching the  CVC  program.  This unique range of colour, shape and graphic symbols assists the students with sound learning as it provides visual cues to assist with learning.

To introduce the students to this concept of segmenting the individual sounds within words we use the resource:  Isolating Sounds Game

Isolating Soundsresources 008 (2014_02_28 03_56_53 UTC)

In this game we use the shapes: star, triangle and pentagon to represent the sounds in 3 sound words (CVC – Consonant, vowel, consonant words)  The star is the initial sound, the triangle is the medial sound and the pentagon represents the final sound.  Students use these shapes to jump upon as they say the sound within the words, reinforcing the EDSpecially4U philosophy of teaching multi-sensory learning strategies  Download the Isolating Sounds Game HERE


Shape sounds GameShape sound 2

To reinforce this skill, the Shapes Sounds Game gives the students the opportunity to reinforce their sounding skills, breaking words into their individual sounds.  This game can be played in small groups or as an individual student which makes it fantastic for literacy centres and home learning. Download the Shapes Sounds Game here.


When the early learner has had experience working with the 3 shapes and sounding out CVC words, they should progress to using the ‘Build It Blending Words Game’.  In this game the player needs to create the full picture and it’s word by using the shapes – star, triangle and pentagon to reinforce their sounding skills.  The shapes are matched with the phonemes (the written letters) for each sound which reinforces the early readers’ beginning phonic skills. Download a copy of the Build It Blending Words Game HERE

Count the SoundCount the Sound 2

When the early reader has developed confidence hearing sounds using the visual cues of the star, triangle and pentagon shapes; you can introduce them to the EDSpecially4U Count the Sound resource.

In this game the student isolates the individual sounds in words as for the Shapes Sounds Game, however this time they complete the cards without the shape cues.  This game is more advanced and can be played in small groups or individually. Download Count the Sound HERE

Phonological awareness is the basis of literacy skills.  Students use this knowledge throughout their entire reading and writing career. Hearing, isolating, segmenting and manipulating sounds is imperative in English language literacy.

We hope you have fun with our phonological awareness game and resource suggestions, and would love to hear how you are using them in your classroom/homeschool environment as your students/child climbs the phonological awareness ladder of success


Learn with Confidence