We will be taking a field trip to the pumpkin patch in a couple of weeks. To prepare, our classroom is starting to fill up with “pumpkiny” activities. If you haven’t already downloaded my free October Seasonal Guide for the Classroom with pictures of our seasonal activities for the month, you can get all the details in the “Get Ready for October” post.
Today’s post takes a closer look at some of the activities we have on our Phonological and Phonemic Awareness shelf.
Phonological awareness is the ability to hear sounds that make up words in spoken language. Phonemic awareness is one aspect of phonological awareness and refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
Students at risk for reading difficulty often have lower levels of phonological awareness and phonemic awareness than do their classmates. The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be taught and developed through a number of activities.
Since we are a Montessori classroom, we have students of varying ages, skills and abilities in the same group. We keep a wide range of hands-on phonological awareness activities available on the shelves all year long so we can individualize instruction for children as they are ready to progress on to the next skill.
Here’s a look at the shelf with all of our pumpkin themed phonological awareness activities.
Top: Phonological Awareness Skills: Word awareness, syllables, rhyming
Middle: Phonemic Awareness: Beginning and ending sounds
Bottom: Middle sounds, phoneme segmenting and blending, phoneme substitution
Skill: Word Awareness
We use a simple poem/chant for the word awareness work. The poem is printed with a dot below each word. We usually practice the poem together as a group so that non-readers can repeat it easily. They can then take this work to a table and use a pointer (or their finger) to point to each word as they sing on their own or to a friend.
We also have a set of sequencing cards to go with the poem. They can look at the pictures and place the cards in sequence based on the poem. Children can color, cut and sequence the printable cards to make their own emergent reader booklet.
Skill: Syllable Sorting
This is a simple syllable sorting activity. We have a variety of October themed cards the children can sort onto the mats. When I’m presenting the lesson to a child, we clap out the syllables together. This is a good activity for two children to do together, where one child has mastered the skill and the other is still learning.
I absolutely love Rhyming Riddles as a beginning rhyming activity.
Line up the picture cards and name each image to ensure that the child knows what it is. Read a riddle card and have the child complete the rhyme. (I rhyme with weed. I am a ____). If the child can’t complete the rhyme, offer a clue by saying the first sound (the onset) and have her complete the word (the rest of the word is called the rime). If her ear is not ready for rhyming yet, you can provide the rhyming word. For example: “I rhyme with free. I am a tree. Free, tree. They rhyme.” Using this vocabulary is a simple way to introduce the concept of rhyming.
Skill: Isolating Initial Phonemes
To do this activity, we first lay out the mats. Say the name of the picture on each mat as you place it down, enunciating its initial sound as you do so. Pick up a picture card, find the mat with the matching beginning sound. We place a color coding dot on the mat and the back of the corresponding picture card to provide a control of error.
Variation: Use the picture cards in your I-Spy basket. Distribute the cards among a small group of children, naming each card and emphasizing the initial sound as you do so. Say “I spy something that starts with the sound….” and have child identify it.
Phoneme isolation is a more advanced skill than many people think. The child needs to be able to chunk the sounds in words quite well in order to hear an isolated phoneme (sound). An important note about this stage: we will be matching phonemes (sounds) only and not letters.
Skill: Isolating Ending Phonemes
This is a fun little ending-sounds bingo game. Four bingo mats have been provided but I prefer to play this game with just one or two children at a time. You will need some sort of tokens to cover the pictures. We have used pumpkin seeds but pompoms, buttons, stones, and bingo chips will work well.
Identify each picture and its ending sound with the players to ensure they know what they are. Draw a card and read the instructions. The players have to find the correct picture and cover it with a token. Show them the card so they can see if they covered the correct picture. Our Bingo ritual is to say “Did you get it right?” in a singsong voice as the caller shows the card. We always allow the players to correct their work if they didn’t get it right. Continue with all the cards until the board is covered. When the board is covered, the players may call out “Bingo!”
These boards are designed such that all players will complete the board at the same time. This allows you to play the game without having any winners. If you want to make it a little more competitive, you can call out Bingo when you complete a row or column.
Skill: Isolating Medial Phonemes
Isolating middle sounds is the most complex phoneme isolating skill. The child should be fairly competent at isolating beginning and ending sounds before doing this activity.
Line up the sorting mats and identify the sound of each vowel. Pick out a picture card and say its name, emphasizing the middle sound. Place on or below the correct mat.
You may want to stick one identifying picture card on each mat to help your students who do not recognize the letters.
Skill: Segmenting and Blending Phonemes
At this stage, children are ready to work with multiple phonemes in a word. This activity helps them slow down and isolate all the phonemes in a word (segmenting), and then put them together again to reconstruct the word again (blending).
To do this activity, we take out one card at a time. First, say the name of the picture. Then, touch the dots as you say each sound in isolation. Slide your finger across the arrow and say the complete word again. Use tokens such as beads or pompoms instead of pointing, if desired.
Important note: Again, we are working with SOUNDS ONLY, not letters. (Many of the words in our card set have 4+ letters but consist of only 2 -3 sounds.)
Skill: Phoneme Substitution
Phoneme manipulation is a fairly advanced phonological awareness skill and requires the ability to hear and change a phoneme or the position of a phoneme within a word.
The What’s the New Word activity is fun to do with a small group of students. Distribute the picture cards among a group of children, or line them up along the bottom of a rug or table. The label cards have instructions to substitute a phoneme in a word and find the picture for the new word. For example, the card may say “Coast. Change /c/ to /g/. What’s the new word?” The child says “Ghost” and places the label below the picture of the ghost.
12 cards are provided, four each for substituting the beginning, end, and middle sounds.
You can get all of the Pumpkin Patch Phonological Awareness Activities in my shop
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Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. She is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.