To help develop phonological awareness in the children you work with, it is important to be deliberate in your approach. A program plan that works will have elements which include listening, talking and thinking about the sounds of language. These activities need to take place in short blocks of time, say five to ten minutes, two times everyday.
FUN activities that focus on:
- listening to sounds and language;
- making syllables;
These are critical to a good language and literacy program.
Songs and rhymes need to be part of your program. Beyond circle time, you can include songs and rhymes during transition times and outdoors. Movement reinforces learning and so, action songs and fingerplays are very helpful for developing phonological awareness. Many rhyme collections available at bookstores, libraries and online.
Speak clearly and take some time each day to make sure the children can see you exaggerate the way your mouth moves to make the sounds and words. Encourage the children to imitate as you make the sounds. It is easier for children to remember if they make the sounds as they learn them.
To find ideas and model descriptions for teaching, two books that might be helpful are:
Phonemic Awareness in Young Children describes a program which is developmental and sequential. Activities are grouped under the chapter titles of Listening Games, Rhyming, Words and Sentences, Awareness of Syllables, Initial and Final Sounds, Phonemes and Introducing Letters and Spelling.
Fee, Fie, Phonemic Awareness outlines 130 pre-reading activities for preschoolers which are grouped under themes that reflect those described in Phonemic Awareness in Young Children.
Children who are slow to gain phonological awareness might have a reading difficulty. These children have difficulty identifying the syllables and/or separate sounds in words but, they also have strengths in thinking and reasoning.
We need to make sure that all children’s abilities are recognized and their weaknesses supported by good, direct teaching of reading. Children who have language and reading difficulties often suffer from lack of self-esteem and confidence which impacts their learning potential more greatly than the single reading problem itself. They don’t like reading because it’s hard for them. Because it’s hard and not fun, they don’t practice and fall further and further behind their peers. These children need help to gain confidence.