• Search
  • My Storyboards

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that includes many skills and concepts having to do with the individual sounds, or phonemes, in spoken words. It is the ability to recognize and manipulate these sounds, and is the foundation for learning how to read; without these skills, possible reading problems may arise at a young age. Phonological awareness skills start simple and get progressively more complex as the child masters each skill. It is important to remember that phonological awareness is not the same as phonics, which is how written letters relate to spoken sounds; it is auditory only, and does not involve written words.

Phonological Skills

Jump to Activities

What Are the Phonological Awareness Skills?


One of the first skills of phonological awareness is the ability to identify words that rhyme with one another, or have the same ending. For example, asking a student if two words rhyme, or asking them to find a word that rhymes with another certain word. There are many fun activities that can be used to practice rhyming skills.

  • Create a rhyming book where students cut out pictures of rhyming words and glue them in the book.
  • Have students circle pictures of objects that rhyme, find objects around the classroom or their house that rhyme, or sort objects into groups that rhyme with one another. Teachers may also want to use picture books to teach this strategy.


Alliteration is when words have the same initial sound. One activity to do with young students is to have them think of a word that has the same initial sound as their first name such as Awesome Annie, Summertime Sarah, or Funny Frankie.


Syllabification is the ability to identify the number of syllables in spoken words. Students are asked to “clap out” the number of syllables as they say the word out loud, and are also able to identify how many syllables are in a word. Syllabification also includes identifying first, middle, and last syllables, blending syllables, and adding, deleting, and substituting syllables. Learning the process of dividing words into syllables, or parts, helps students learn how to decode words faster, and will have an impact on students’ reading fluency and the ability to spell words correctly.


The “onset” is the first phonological unit of a word, and the “rime” is the string of letters that follows it. For example, in the word “dog”, the “d” is the onset and the “og” is the rime. In the word “flat”, the “fl” is the onset and the “at” is the rime. Learning about onset and rimes helps children understand word families, and helps build a strong reading foundation. One of the best activities for practicing onset and rimes is constructing and manipulating words using pre-made flashcards.

Phonemic Awareness

Many people confuse phonemic awareness with phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness specifically deals with a phoneme, which is the smallest unit of a sound. There are a few stages within the realm of gaining phonemic awareness.

  1. First, there is phoneme isolation, which is the ability to isolate or separate a single sound from the other sounds in a word.
  2. Once a student has the ability to isolate sounds in words, they are able to move on to phoneme blending, which is being given sounds and identifying the word that all the sounds make when blended together.
  3. The third stage of phonemic awareness is learning how to segment phonemes, which is basically the opposite of blending. This skill requires the ability to say a whole word, and then stretch the word out into its individual phonemes.
  4. Finally, once a student has become proficient in the other areas, they should be able to manipulate phonemes. This means that students are able to add, take away, or substitute sounds in a word to make new words.

Why Is It So Important To Teach Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness skills are important because they help build better readers. Even before children are able to identify letters of the alphabet, they are able to hear and speak. When they are able to hear the sounds in a word and identify where the sounds occur, they are building the skills that are needed to become a solid reader.

There are many different methods to teaching phonological awareness skills. Some of these include songs, nursery rhymes, poems, picture books, games, and other hands-on activities such as sorting and grouping. These activities are most effective when they are included as part of a predictable daily routine.

How Can Teachers and Students Use Storyboard That for Phonological Awareness?

Young students who haven’t learned to read, or are just beginning to read rely on visuals and pictures. Storyboard That is the perfect resource to practice and improve phonological awareness, as teachers have the ability to create all kinds of visual activities for their students, and are able to differentiate according to student needs. Students as young as preschool can sort pictures according to their sounds, while older learners can try more complex activities with syllables, alliteration, and rhyming. Here are some activities that teachers can use with their students. Remember, all activities are completely customizable to fit the needs of all levels, ages, and learning styles.

Activity Idea: Alliteration / Beginning Sound

  1. Find the pictures that begin with the same sound as the picture in the square.
  2. Drag the pictures with the same beginning sound into the star.

Activity Idea: Rhyming Words

  1. There are several different pictures in the first cell.
  2. Drag each picture into the cell with the picture it rhymes with.

Teachers may add more cells and pictures, or take away cells and pictures to meet the needs of the students. Another option for differentiation is to add the words or use only words.

Activity Idea: Syllables

Drag the pictures below into the correct column according to the number of syllables.

Activity Idea: Onset-Rime

Drag the onset (beginning sound) to the correct card.

Activity Idea: Manipulating Phonemes

  1. Cut out and tape the dice together. Teachers may want to do this step ahead of time
  2. Roll both dice. The die with the number 1 in the corners is the beginning sound, and the die with the number 2 in the corners is the end sound.
  3. Decide if the word that you rolled is a real word or a nonsense word, and write it in the correct column on the worksheet.

How to Incorporate Phonological Awareness in Literacy Instruction


Explicitly Teach Phonological Awareness Skills

Begin by explicitly teaching phonological awareness skills, such as rhyming, syllable segmentation, phoneme isolation, and blending. Use engaging activities and examples to introduce and practice each skill.


Connect Phonological Awareness to Reading and Writing

Help students make connections between phonological awareness skills and reading and writing. Show how recognizing and manipulating sounds in spoken language can support decoding, spelling, and overall reading fluency.


Use Phonological Awareness Warm-Up Activities

Incorporate short phonological awareness warm-up activities at the beginning of each literacy lesson. Include activities like clapping syllables, identifying rhyming words, or orally blending and segmenting sounds.


Integrate Phonological Awareness into Shared Reading and Writing

During shared reading activities, emphasize phonological awareness skills by focusing on rhyming, identifying initial sounds, or segmenting words. During shared writing activities, model and discuss how sounds correspond to letters and help students segment and blend sounds in words.


Provide Small Group Phonological Awareness Instruction

Create small group instruction opportunities to target specific phonological awareness skills based on student needs. Use hands-on manipulatives, interactive games, and targeted practice to reinforce and extend phonological awareness skills.


Incorporate Phonological Awareness in Literacy Centers

Set up literacy centers that include activities specifically designed to strengthen phonological awareness skills. Provide games, puzzles, sorting activities, or digital resources that allow students to practice and apply their phonological awareness skills independently.

Frequently Asked Questions about Phonological Awareness

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the individual sounds, or phonemes, in spoken words. It is the foundation for learning how to read and is crucial in preventing possible reading problems at a young age.

How can Storyboard That be used for phonological awareness?

Teachers and students can use Storyboard That to create a variety of visual activities to practice and improve phonological awareness skills. For example, they can create storyboards to identify rhyming words, practice syllabification, and work on onset-rime activities. The visual aspect of Storyboard That can help young learners better understand these concepts and build a strong foundation for reading.

Why is Phonological Awareness important?

Phonological awareness is important because it helps build better readers. When children are able to hear the sounds in a word and identify where the sounds occur, they are building the skills that are needed to become solid readers.

View All Teacher Resources
*(This Will Start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)
© 2024 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
StoryboardThat is a trademark of Clever Prototypes, LLC, and Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office