Digital phonemic awareness

Digital Phonemic Awareness (Free Download)

If you’ve ever had (or possibly you currently do have) a student who struggled with phonics even after receiving daily, systematic instruction, it’s most likely because they have not yet developed their phonemic awareness abilities.

Phonemic awareness instruction typically occurs in kindergarten and first grade. However, by the middle to the end of kindergarten, the instructional time dedicated to developing phonemic awareness lessens as more phonics practice—like word building and decoding short texts—move in. While this transition comes naturally to some students, others begin to struggle and shut down. Why? Because they need more time to develop their phonemic awareness!

Identifying different odd final sounds

If you see students struggle to decode and blend words, even after repeated modeling and ample practice, then it may be time to tuck the letters away for a bit. Instead, you can incorporate more phonemic awareness activities into your instruction again.

You may now be thinking, “Okay, that sounds like a great plan, but what kinds of activities? And how do I do that while I’m teaching hybrid or virtually?” Don’t fret because I’ve got your back! I’m holding your hand and answering all of those questions and more in this post.

In this post, we will be covering the following:

  • What is phonemic awareness?
  • Why teach it and why is it important?
  • How can I strengthen my students’ phonemic awareness?
  • What phonemic activities can I incorporate into my virtual teaching instruction?

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What Is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, differentiate, and manipulate the smallest units of speech sound, phonemes. It is essential for children to have this skill as it primes them for the world of reading. Additionally, having good phonemic awareness skills helps children sound out letters, read new words, and prepare for more complex phonological skills.

Examples of Phonemic Awareness

Why Teach It and Why Is It Important?

Time and time again, research has shown that phonemic awareness is a great indicator of literacy success in primary grades. That’s because children with strong phonemic awareness are more able to spell out words and have better reading comprehension.

In a study conducted by the National Reading Panel, researchers found that phonemic awareness instruction has a huge impact not only on children’s development of phonemic awareness skills and reading skills but also on their reading comprehension. Additionally, their data revealed that incorporating and teaching phonemic awareness inside the classroom shows significant literacy success in all types of readers: normally developing, at-risk, and disabled.

How Can I Help Strengthen My Students’ Phonemic Awareness?

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize what you already are doing for your students and give yourself a pat on the back! Reading nursery rhymes, singing, chanting silly songs and sentences, and reading stories with alliteration all build phonological awareness (which is the big umbrella under which phonemic awareness falls and is the precursor to phonemic awareness).

Phonological awareness umbrella

Here are some other beneficial activities to help students build phonological awareness. You can also suggest that parents or guardians do these with their children at home, as well. These activities can be completed in-person or virtually.

  • Made Up Mystery Box: “In my mystery box, I have a pony. Pony begins with the /p/ sound. Who can guess some other items in my box?” Have students take turns listing other things that begin with /p/. Then, switch to a new sound.
  • Silly Sentences: Create silly alliteration sentences together with your students. Example: Fred the Frog froze from frostbite. 
  • Name Game: Similar to the alliteration silly sentences, have students come up with a silly sentence about their own name. Example: Funny Faith fishes for fries on Friday.
  • Hum the Syllables: Show a picture or say a word. Have students hum the syllables in the word and then hold up their fingers or whiteboards to show how many they counted. Humming works every time!

Ready to move onto phonemic awareness? Below are some activities that will help strengthen students’ phonemic awareness!

  • Magic Hat: Pretend to put a word (example: map) you say aloud into a magic hat. Tell students that the magic hat will change the /m/ in ‘map’ to /l/. What new word will I pull out?
  • Start with the Concrete: Use beads, poms-poms, coins, or other small objects. Say a word. Have students move the object as they say each sound they hear. Example: cat – /c/ /a/ /t/ – students will then push the object as they say each sound. Note: You will want to model this over and over again!
  • Clap the Sounds: Say a word aloud. Students will clap the sounds that they hear in a word. You can mix this up by doing other motions, as well! Movement and developing phonemic awareness are BFFs!
  • Mr./Miss Robot: Tell students that Mr./Miss Robot only speaks words that are segmented. Say a segmented word and then have them tell you the whole word.

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How Long Should We Spend on Phonemic Awareness Instruction?

Spending 10-20 minutes daily is all it takes to help students develop phonemic awareness. You can make it an engaging, interactive experience for them using the ideas listed above. Also, don’t be afraid to have fun! Sing songs, chant, dance, and move around. Students won’t even know they are learning! The important part here is that this time is systematic, explicit, and that students are present and attentive!

Activities for Supporting Students While Teaching Virtually

As we settle into the second half of the school year, you may be feeling like you need to develop your students’ phonemic awareness a bit more. All of the activities listed above can be done in the classroom or virtually. If you’re teaching virtually, encourage students to stand up at their desks and clap, dance, sing, and chant as you practice phonemic awareness skills!

To better support your students’ literacy success, I’ve created nine different digital phonological awareness activities. These digital activities are research-based and interactive. You can have students complete these independently on Seesaw or Google Slides.

If you are teaching hybrid or in the classroom, you can add these to a learning station or your classroom tablets. Audio clips of a teacher saying each picture aloud and a self-checking component are also included in each activity.

Here’s a breakdown of each digital activity!

Activity 1: Count Syllables

Counting syllables

Students need ample phonological practice before moving onto phonemic awareness. This activity asks students to look at the picture and say the word aloud. An audio clip is also available so students can hear a teacher saying the picture aloud.

Students will then count the syllables they hear and move the magnifying glass to cover the correct number. A self-checking component is included in each slide.

Counting syllables

Note: While this is a phonological awareness activity, you will notice that the words are written on these slides. I did this because your class is not a one-size-fits-all box. This is for students who may have more advanced literacy skills and are ready to pair pictures with written words. These students already have solid phonemic awareness and understand that letters are linked to sounds to form letter-sound correspondences.

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Activity 2: Identify Rhymes

Identifying rhymes

Another activity included in this rhyming activity. Students will look at each picture and say the picture aloud. You’ll find an audio clip of a teacher saying each picture aloud, in case students need additional support deciphering the images. Then, students will drag the checkmark up to the two pictures that rhyme.

Activity 3: Segment Sounds

For this activity, students will look at the picture and say it aloud. Then, they will stretch the word and count the sounds they hear. Finally, they will drag the magnifying glass over to the correct number.

Students can use the audio clip of the teacher saying the word if they need additional support. They can also self-check their work by moving the question mark to see if they are correct.

Activity 4: Different Initial Sound

Identifying the initial odd sound

For this activity, students will look at the three pictures given. They will then say each picture aloud and listen to the initial sound they hear in each word. Finally, they will drag the X to the picture that does not have the same initial sound as the other two images.

Students can use the audio clip of the teacher saying the word if they need additional support. They can also self-check their work by moving the question mark to see if they are correct.

Activity 5: Different Medial Sound

Identifying the odd different medial sound

This activity is set up the same way as activity four except the focus is on the medial sound.

For this activity, students will look at the three pictures given. They will then say each picture aloud and listen to the media sound they hear in each word. Finally, they will drag the X to the picture that does not have the same medial sound as the other two images.

Students can use the audio clip of the teacher saying the word if they need additional support. They can also self-check their work by moving the question mark to see if they are correct.

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Activity 6: Different Final Sound

Identifying different odd final sounds

This activity is set up the same way as activities four and five except the focus is on the final sound.

For this activity, students will look at the three pictures given. They will then say each picture aloud and listen to the final sound they hear in each word. Finally, they will drag the X to the picture that does not have the same final sound as the other two images.

Identifying the odd final sound

Students can use the audio clip of the teacher saying the word if they need additional support. They can also self-check their work by moving the question mark to see if they are correct.

Activity 7: Same Initial Sound

For this activity, students will listen and say the letter sound. Then, they will look at the three pictures given and identify which picture has the same initial sound as the letter sound. Finally, they will drag the checkmark to cover the picture that matches. Students can check their work by uncovering the question mark.

Activity 8: Same Medial Sound

Identifying the same medial sounds

This activity is similar to activity seven except students are focusing on medial sounds.

For this activity, students will listen and say the letter sound. Then, they will look at the three pictures given and identify which picture has the same medial sound as the letter sound. Finally, they will drag the checkmark to cover the picture that matches. Students can check their work by uncovering the question mark.

Activity 9: Same Final Sound

Identifying the same final sounds

This activity is similar to activities seven and eight except students are focusing on final sounds.

For this activity, students will listen and say the letter sound. Then, they will look at the three pictures given and identify which picture has the same final sound as the letter sound. Finally, they will drag the checkmark to cover the picture that matches. Students can check their work by uncovering the question mark.

Identifying the same final sound

Where can I find all of the resources to implement these ideas in my virtual or in-person classroom?

Great question! To help you save time and have more ease in your classroom, I’ve done all of the work for you.

I’ve created a full Digital Phonemic Awareness resource, which includes everything different virtual phonemic awareness activities that you can use in your virtual classroom (or at a learning station in the classroom). These can be used as a whole group instruction tool or as independent practice.

Grab the bundle now for $20.

Audio clips are included on every slide. Audio instructions AND audio recordings of each picture/word are available for all components! Also, this resource can be used in Google Slides and Seesaw. Just click the link to add them to Google Slides. They are already PRE-LOADED in Seesaw so you will just need to add them to your library (1-CLICK!). Yahoo!

There are nine components included in this bundle. The following units are included so far and the rest are coming soon!

  • Count the syllables of a word. – included
  • Segment sounds. – included
  • Recognize pictures with the different initial sounds. – included
  • Recognize pictures with different medial sounds. – included
  • Recognize pictures with different final sounds. – included
  • Recognize pictures with the same initial sound as the letter given. – coming 3.15
  • Recognize pictures with the same medial sound as the letter given. – coming 3.15
  • Recognize pictures with the same medial sound as the letter given. – coming 3.15

Want to try the digital phonemic awareness activities for free?

If you’re eager to try the digital phonemic awareness activities in your virtual classroom (or to use in-person at a learning station) but you want to see some of the activities up close, I’ve got the perfect freebie!

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Love this resource and wish you had access to more like it? Want instant access to a library of resources (for ALL content areas) catered specifically to you and your students’ needs? If you’re nodding yes, then be sure to join the LK Teacher Club!

When you join the LK Teacher Club, you gain instant access to the resource I share all about in this blog post, plus every other resource I’ve ever created ($6000+ value).

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Get ready to tackle teaching with confidence and ease! Click here to find out more about the LK Teacher Club.

If you want to read more about phonics and teaching phonics in your classroom, check out these blog posts below:

Spread the word
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Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Athena March 3, 2021, 11:57 pm

    Wow! I can’t believe how thorough this is! I am on my way to buy this bundle! Thank you so much for explaining this so well. I am new to teaching 1st grade and am so grateful for your resources.

    • lkuster March 4, 2021, 5:36 am

      Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed reading the blog!

  • Tabitha R Ockleston March 4, 2021, 11:46 pm

    This is great! I am curious about your beginning phonological awareness slides. I’ve read and heard a few times over that once you write the sounds, it is no longer phonological awareness as the brain will start to cue to the written symbols. Do you have it available so that those words are not added?

    • lkuster March 5, 2021, 7:36 am

      Hi, Tabitha! Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, while this is a phonological awareness activity, you will notice that the words are written on these slides. This is for students who may have more advanced literacy skills and are ready to pair pictures with written words, but would still benefit from syllable practice. We can work on providing another option for those who wish to omit the written word! In the meantime, one solution is to cover up the word with a shape or box. I hope this is helpful. Thank you so much!