October 29, 2020

Carrie Chapie

5 Phonemic Awareness Activities to Support Struggling Readers

Topics: Learning at Home, Learning Through Play, visualization, spelling

Word Witt


When my first child was diagnosed with dyslexia, I dedicated myself to finding fun ways to support and improve literacy instruction for emerging and struggling readers. I became so passionate about helping other parents in the same situation that it led me to invent the game, Word Witt. Word Witt is an adaptable and simple game that helps empower children and it will lead them toward skill mastery through modeling and repetition.

Word Witt

Learning to read is crucial to every child’s academic success and I found that supporting and improving reading success really comes down to strong foundational skills. Success in reading requires more than guided reading. That’s why FUN and games are important (hat tip to ThinkFun’s amazing products!). Games increase learning potential with laughter... because that is when real learning happens.

In 2000, the National Reading Panel had identified 5 key concepts in reading instruction. These concepts, referred to as the 5 Pillars of early literacy and reading instruction are: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Comprehension, and Vocabulary.

Of these 5 Pillars of early literacy and reading instruction, the National Institute of Health (NIH) stated the vast majority of students that struggle with reading have a poor foundation in Phonemic Awareness. Additionally, the NIH went on further to state that for all students, Phonemic Awareness is the most powerful determinant of successfully learning to read.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, think about, and manipulate sounds in spoken language. A successful reader builds this knowledge of sound/letter connection to a level it becomes automatic, like breathing.

5 Phonemic Awareness Activities to Support Struggling Readers

In my research I found a few simple activities that support a strong Phonemic Awareness foundation in all children. Word Witt provides simple ‘How To’ instructions for anyone to dive further into phonemic awareness modeling, even with zero training.

Some additional fun and simple activities include:

1. Cut out, or create a small list of letters. Make the sound of a letter and have the child point to the corresponding letter. Make sure to not use the letter name. Also, use the basic letter sound and make sure to drop any additional sounds (example; ‘MMM’, not ‘Ma’).

2. Take turns playing the game ‘I Spy’ with letter sounds. Ask your child to find the object that starts with the letter sound. Make sure to use just the letter sound as described in activity #1.

3. Create a list of simple 1-syllable words and choose, or have the child choose, one of the words on the list. Now, without looking at the word, model clapping out the sounds in the particular word. (Example: ‘C – A – T’). Have the child mimic and practice clapping out sounds. This simple exercise encourages the child to use a multisensory technique to deepen their sound/letter awareness and confidence. Continue with this model of play until they become independent with clapping out the distinct letter sound of the word.

4. Using the same list of words in activity #3, choose a word and pick a sound in the word and ask the child to indicate if the sound is at the beginning, middle, or end of the word. Again, continue with this model of play to build a strong level of sound/letter awareness and confidence.

5. For a higher level of phonemic awareness play, ask the child to substitute a sound in the beginning, middle, or end of the word with another sound to create a new word. See the below examples:

P-i-g --> D-i-g

p-I-g --> p-E-g

p-i-G --> p-i-T

Another simple way to encourage children to experiment with and manipulate sounds within word families is by using a Phonics method known as “chunking.” Chunking, or building knowledge of word families (‘ig’ words: pig; dig; rig; etc.) will lead to fun repetition and eventually mastery of these words. You can help them expand known word families by introducing and modeling more complex words. A list of common digraphs, trigraphs, and blends can be found in the Word Witt instruction booklet.

Spoken language and meaning is best learned with direct and meaningful interaction with others. After completion of a round of play of Word Witt, we encourage children to share their words and strategies. This will provide a safe environment to experiment and manipulate sounds and letters, while encourages sharing of collaboration and competition.

The key is making the activities short and fun (a fact so many game schoolers will attest to!).

Thank you for being an active participant in supporting reading success. Now, step back and watch while these young minds thrive as spellers as well as readers.

I was compensated with a game for this blog post but the opinions are my own.

Author’s Bio

Carrie ChapieCarrie Chapie is a native of Michigan. A mom to 3 beautiful humans, community advocate for learning differences and creator of Word Witt. Word Witt is a fast fun game for the entire family that creates unique and meaningful opportunities to think, react, master, compete, and laugh, while building self-esteem, self-confidence, social skills and connections. It is also a great aid for tutoring & homeschooling, classroom centers & zoom-based activities.

A note from ThinkFun

At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the webFacebookTwitterPinterestYouTube or Instagram.

Are you a former or current educator who is interested in guest blogging for ThinkFun? Please contact us for more information! You could be featured in our next blog post and TeachFun e-newsletter!

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