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Beyond the ABCs: How to Promote Reading Success Through Phonological Awareness

Parents are often eager to teach and practice the good old ABCs with their children. However, there are other ways that parents can support pre-literacy development, such as fostering blog-phonological-awareness-main-landscapephonological awareness skills, too! Phonological awareness is the understanding that sentences/words are made up of smaller units, as well as the ability to identify and manipulate these units. Research has found that strong phonological awareness skills are predictors of early reading success. One way to understand phonological awareness is to divide it into different levels: word, syllable, and sound. Check out NSPT’s blog ­Phonemic Awareness Skills to learn more about when these skills are acquired.

Each level of phonological awareness is described below, with activities you can do at home!

Word: The concept of a “word” is an important first step in understanding language. Children are constantly building their vocabulary and using these new words in a variety of ways. There are many ways to begin bringing attention to how words work.

  • Clap out the words of a favorite song (e.g. Old – McDonald – had – a – farm) to help children learn that sentences contain separate words. You can also use musical instruments, tapping on the floor or jumping. This is especially important for “function” words that are more abstract, such as “the,” “and,” “do,” etc.
  • Read books that rhyme as a fun and silly way to teach children to recognize that words have patterns. Check out NSPT’s blog Rhyme Time: 10 Books To Teach Your Child Phonological Awareness for children’s books that contain great stories with rhymes.
  • Enjoy tongue twisters to begin thinking about alliteration (e.g. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. What sound do all of these words start with?). Alliteration, or when every word of a sentence starts with the same sound, is another way to bring attention to patterns in words.

Syllable: Words can be broken down into smaller units, one of which is syllables. Children learn to separate these chunks in a similar manner as they do for words in sentences. Knowing how to do this will help when a child is reading and comes across a multi-syllabic word they are unfamiliar with.

  • Make a bean bag toss in which you provide a multi-syllabic word, and the child has to throw a bean bag into a bucket while saying one syllable at a time.
  • Write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on a piece of paper and place them in separate areas of a room. Then give the child a multi-syllabic word and have them run to the number that represents the number of syllables in that word.
  • Sort objects found around the house into groups by how many syllables they have.

Sound: Words can also be broken down to their individual sounds. There are several ways we can manipulate sounds, including identifying (e.g. what is the first sound in “bat?”), segmenting (e.g. what 3 sounds do you hear in “bat”?), blending (e.g. what do the sounds /b/ /a/ /t/ make?) deleting (e.g. what’s “bat” without the /b/?), and substituting (e.g. if you change the /b/ in “bat” to /m/, what word is it?). Here are a few ways to begin prating these in an interactive, multi-sensory way.

  • Play “Simon Says.” Give the last word of the direction by segmenting it into sounds. For example, Simon Says touch your /l/ /e/ /g/, or Simon says stand /u/ /p/.
  • Play “I spy” to bring attention to particular positions of sounds (beginning/middle/end of word). For example, you could say “I spy something that begins with a sssss sound.”
  • Modify “head shoulders knees and toes” by providing a multi-syllabic word. The child can touch their head, shoulder, knees and toes (one per sound) as they figure out what sounds are in the word. For example, /b/ (touch head), /a/ (touch shoulders), /t/ (touch knees).

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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speech and language activities for travel

Speech and Language Games for Traveling

Vacations are wonderful times to make memories and experience new places. Likewise, these experiences offer unique opportunities to expose your child to new vocabulary and practice language skills in a new environment. Although the hours spent in a car or on a plane seem anticlimactic and dull, this time offers the perfect opportunity to mix fun and language practice to maintain skills while away from therapy. Check out this list of speech and language games for traveling that will keep children entertained while also practicing various speech and language skills.

Speech and Language Games for Traveling:

  1. I Spy: This traditional game is a great exercise to use adjectives and to target expanding a child’sSpeech and Language Games for Travel utterance length. A player can provide clues that include descriptive words or colors (e.g., “I spy something that is shiny” or “I spy something that is blue”). This is a great opportunity for repeated practice of the meaning of an “adjective” as well as for improving a child’s vocabulary.
  1. Category Game: The Category Game is an easy adaptation of the game Concentration that is more appropriate for the car. The Category Game involves thinking of one category/group of items (e.g., Disney movies) and then taking turns until someone can’t think of anything. This is a great vocabulary activity that targets enhancing a child’s lexicon and improving his or her word retrieval skills. As children become more advanced, the category can also be more difficult.
  1. The Picnic Game: The Picnic Game is a great way to exercise memory and pre-literacy skills. The Picnic Game starts with the phrase, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…”. The first player picks an item that starts with the letter “A” (e.g., apple). The next person then recites what has been previously said, adding their own item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet (e.g., “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring an apple and a banjo”). This game will test a player’s short term memory, as well as give him or her added exposure to the alphabet.
  1. Speech Sound Game: This game is similar to the Category Game, but rather than focusing on vocabulary, this game will target a child’s phonological awareness skills. To start, a player will pick a speech sound (e.g., “s”). Players will then have to think of words that start with that sound (e.g., “sit….sand….sun”). The first one who can’t think of a word is out. This game can be made more difficult by starting with just a random word (e.g., “pot”). Rather than thinking of words that all start with “p”, the next player will have to think of a word that starts with “t” (i.e., the last sound of the word that was said before). This is a great way to practice segmenting the sounds within a word, as well as give extra practice for producing certain speech sounds. Phonological awareness skills provide a foundation for later developing literacy skills.
  1. 20 Questions: This game is a great way to target receptive and expressive language skills. To begin a player will think of a person, place or thing and announce what category that is in. The other players will then ask yes/no questions in order to try to guess what the player is thinking of within 20 questions. This game requires answering with a reliable yes or no, as well as using a variety of vocabulary words to ask creative questions. 20 Questions can also be adapted to a variety of levels, making it as easy or hard for each player’s skills.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

what is phonemic awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Literacy, or the ability to read and write, is paramount to a child’s success in school. Many children struggle with these skills, and this struggle may be due to difficulty with the building blocks of reading and writing, also known as phonological awareness. Phonological awareness can be thought of as one’s ability to identify sounds and letters as they relate to our spoken (and written) language. We all remember playing rhyming games in elementary school, but many people are unaware of their importance!

Children who have an understanding of phonological awareness understand that sentences are made up of words, words are made up parts (syllables), and each syllable has distinctive sounds. One great way to practice phonological awareness is through rhyming games and alliteration. Children will enjoy saying tongue twisters like, “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.” and identifying how many /s/ and /sh/ words they can count!

Phonemic awareness, a subset of phonological awareness, allows children to manipulate parts of language. Similar to phonological awareness, phonemic awareness is also comprised of parts including the following:
•    Segmenting: what sounds do we hear in the word “hat?” /h/, /a/, /t/
•    Blending: if you hear the sounds /t/, /o/, /p/, what do we get when we put them together?
•    Deleting: what’s “bat” without the “t?”
•    Substituting: if we change the /h/ in “house” to an /m/, what do we get?
•    Identifying: what’s the first sound in “cat?”

Phonemic awareness is separate from letter identification as it targets individual sounds; however, parents can incorporate letter names when practicing.

Phonological awareness typically begins in preschool and continues through early elementary school to prepare children for reading. These skills serve as the foundation for a child’s ability to read and write. If you suspect your child may be struggling with phonological awareness skills, a licensed speech-language pathologist can help!

Click here to read about 7 Ways to Increase Phonological Awareness.