1. When to Start Teaching Phonemic Awareness

Teachers generally start this curriculum with four-year-olds, but if your child is interested, there’s no reason not to introduce some of these concepts at home as early as age three.

If your child is younger, be prepared to spend a lot of time on the first two or three modules: Listening, Rhyming, and Sentences & Words. Your child is still learning the basics of how to sit still and pay attention; there’s no need to move on to more advanced topics until he has gotten the hang of the basics.

NOTE: Don’t force the issue if your child is not interested, especially if he is at the young end of the age range. Children’s brains develop at different rates, and “normal” covers a wide range. It is much better to wait a few months than to unintentionally teach your child that education is a punishment to be suffered through.

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2. Pacing Guide

Our Phonemic Awareness Curriculum is specially designed and organized to lead your child from toddlerhood to full readiness for reading. Just go through the games and activities in order, making sure your child has a good handle on an activity before you move on to the next one.

Print out this Phonemic Awareness Pacing Guide for suggestions on where to focus your lessons for kids at different age levels.

pacing guide
Use our Pacing Guide as a reference.

We start with Listening games to teach children to pay attention to the sounds around them. Rhyming games introduce the idea that many words have similar sounds even when they mean different things. Activities on Sentences & Words, Compound Words, and Syllables gradually teach children about the structure of language and how it can be broken down into individual words and word parts. In later sections children will play games to learn how to hear and work with the individual sounds (phonemes) within words. By the end of the Beginning Reading module, your child will know all the letter sounds and will be well on his way to learning to read!

Phonological Awareness: Sounds in Language

Phonemic Awareness: Sounds in Words

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3. Assessment

Assessment is an important part of teaching — you need to know if the children are actually learning what you are teaching them! We recommend doing three quick assessments, at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year.

Do an initial assessment at the beginning of the year to see where the children are starting out. This will give you an idea of what they already know and what they have yet to learn.

Do a second assessment in the middle of the school year. If a child is struggling with or not retaining the Phonemic Awareness lessons, you need to know about it while there’s still time in the year to address and fix the problem. This mid-year assessment will let you know if you need to adjust your pacing or if certain children need extra one-on-one instruction time.

Do a final assessment at the end of the year to see what the children have achieved with a full year of Phonemic Awareness instruction. This also gives you a great document to hand off to whoever will teach these children next year!

Below are some high-quality, free assessment materials we have discovered:

  • Get Ready to Read is highly respected in the early reading professional world. This screening tool has just twenty questions and is normed to four-year-olds. it also has activities for parents to use to strengthen weak areas.
  • Hello Two Peas in a Pod Phonological Awareness Assessment: This free download includes clear instructions on how to conduct a quick, informal assessment of your children. The form is already formatted for our recommended beginning/middle/end-of-year assessment sessions.
  • Phonological Awareness Skills Assessment: This is another informal screening tool designed for for Kindergarten students.
  • University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning: DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. This assessment is more difficult to administer (it requires a stopwatch), but it is designed for use with Kindergarten and First Grade students.

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4. Fast Track

Because children have different levels of mastery of the skills of this curriculum, use our Fast Track page to decide if/when they can move through the lessons at a faster pace. The Fast Track provides you a guide to determine which lessons may be okay for a child to skip or leave for a later time in teaching the curriculum.

Some parents or preschool teachers who have just discovered the importance of Phonemic Awareness may need a speedier way to get their children ready for the beginning of Kindergarten and phonics instruction. Or they may need to determine which topics a child already understands and doesn’t need to spend time on.

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5. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: It’s mid-November of my child’s Pre-K year at school. What activity should she be playing right now?
A: There are several factors that go into answering this question. Has she received any prior instruction in Phonemic Awareness, either at home or at school? Is she currently getting any Phonemic Awareness instruction at school? Is she able to sit still and pay attention during short lessons and games? If you don’t know where your child’s skill level is, it’s best to start at the beginning of our curriculum. Your child may move very quickly through a few modules with concepts she already understands. But it is better to go slowly and reinforce those basic concepts than to assume she is more advanced than she actually is and lead her to get frustrated and discouraged.

Q: I am a Kindergarten teacher. Most of my students are five years old but have never been taught Phonemic Awareness. Where should I begin?
A: If your students have had no Phonemic Awareness training, then it is vitally important that you give them this crucial foundation for their education! This will mean spending lots of time on activities that our Pacing Guide says are normally appropriate for younger students. Skim through Rhyming (hopefully they at least got a lot of rhyming activities last year), then dive into Sentences & Words and the subsequent modules. Do not skip ahead to the later modules. A child who can’t divide words into syllables will find it nearly impossible to divide words into individual sounds.

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