Phonological awareness is an area of oral language, and it relates to the ability to think about the sounds in a word. When someone is phonologically aware, they understand how spoken words are structured, that words are made up of rhymes, syllables, and sounds.
Once students have a sense of word awareness, they begin to develop syllable awareness, even though they may not know what a syllable is. By the end of kindergarten, most students should be able to differentiate syllables in a three-syllable word with modeling and practice. Let’s take a look at some easy ways to improve syllable awareness in little learners!
1. Making Silly Words
I begin talking about syllables with compound words. I’ve found that it helps students to hear a whole word first, then move down to the syllables in multisyllabic words. With this game, I like to use pictures that represent both parts of the compound word. It helps students to visualize what we’re doing. You can use picture cards from any given reading series. Show the students the cards, and ask them to tell you which words would go together to make a new word. Make sure to use one syllable words for this activity!
Blue + bird = bluebird
Dog + house = doghouse
Next, switch the pictures around and ask them what new silly words they can create if they said the syllable parts backwards.
2. Syllable Cards
This activity is one that I use in small group. As students move into multisyllabic words, I use cards for them to manipulate. Once again, it helps them to visualize the number of syllables a word has, and it’s easier for them to see. When they are just starting to recognize syllables, it’s hard for them to clap the syllables, count the syllables and then state how many syllables a word has at the same time. It’s too much!
Each student receives the same number of cards, one card being a different color. That card goes first. It helps to reinforce left to right directionality. If they start on the wrong end, they can easily be redirected to start with the different colored card.
Once the word is given, they push a card up for each syllable that they hear. This also makes it easy for the teacher to quickly see what everyone’s answer is. When you have a small group going, it’s hard to determine who clapped what.
3. Bag the Syllables
For this game, I use a mix of real objects or picture cards, anything that I can find really. This can be random pieces from Lakeshore games that always seem to go missing or whatever you have. I put all of my items in a bag, and students take turns pulling one out of the bag, saying the word and then tapping the syllables in the word. This can even be turned into a whole group activity, with each student having a set of index cards. They love it!
4. Syllable Name Sort
This is definitely a whole group activity that will take up some space. I choose a few students whose name has one, two, three or four (depending what we’re working on) syllables in their name. They will represent the keywords. Then I create rows in my classroom with the chosen students as the headers of the rows. The students take turns saying their names and figuring out which key name has the same number of syllables as their name. Phonological awareness and movement for the win!
When we’re working on phonological awareness in the classroom, sometimes we get too focused on students mastering everything. We first need to bring their attention to it, to raise their awareness of it. These are just a few ways that I love to build syllable awareness in my students. As students develop an ear for syllables, they begin to use this knowledge to read and spell more effectively.
As I work on raising awareness in whole and small groups, I then place this skill into our center rotation. One center that they practice this in is the pocket chart center, which is easy for sorts. You can grab your free syllable sort and recording sheet here!
For the technology part, I love to use boom cards because it’s self-correcting and they receive immediate feedback! If you’re looking for more practice, you can check out the syllable boom decks by clicking on the pictures!
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