Phonological awareness is the understanding and manipulating the structural features in spoken words, namely rhymes, syllables and phonemes.

Phonological awareness is a crucial skill for reading in an alphabetic writing system. Research has shown that children who receive phonological awareness training are better at reading and spelling words. Beginning readers benefit most from the phonological awareness training. Most children start to learn phonological awareness skills at the age of four. When children have developed good phonological awareness, they can make better sense of the sound and letter relationship when they read words in print.

Children can develop phonological awareness through playing with sounds. Here are some multisensory activities which parents can try with their children:

  1. Syllable clapping/ drumming game. The child and parent can take turns to clap or drum out the syllables in their names (e.g. An-dy: 2 claps), animal names or other words.
  2. Listening for rhyming words. Say “dog” as the child puts out one hand, then say “log” as the child puts out the other hand. As the child look at his or her extended hands, the child understands that “dog” and “log” have the same rime. To practise identifying rhyming words, say two words and ask the child if the two words rhyme or not. If they rhyme, put the thumb up; if not, put the thumb down.
  1. Blending sounds for a robot. The child is asked to listen to a string of sounds and put them together to make a word. Try to use some words that the child may not know. Pretend to be a robot and say the sounds (e.g. /b/,/a/, /t/ but not “B” “A” “T”) of a word in a slow way, “The robot is saying /b/../a/../t/, what word do you think he is trying to say?” For the younger ones, show explicitly how blending works using Lego blocks. Tell the child that one block represents one sound. The action of putting the blocks together means joining the sounds together.
  2. Segmenting sounds by hopping the hoops. Lay three hula hoops in a row on the floor. Say a word with three sounds (e.g. “cap”) and ask the child to find all the sounds (e.g. /c/ /a/ /p/) in the word. One hoop represents one sound. The child hops into a hoop and say each sound in the word.