Fun with Oral Language Play

Phonological awareness is a key predictor of later reading success. It begins about the age of three with listening to rhyme and alliteration. However, some of the more difficult aspects of phonological awareness are not fully developed until the age of nine. Phonological awareness is the auditory processing of sounds starting with larger chunks of sounds, including rhyme, alliteration, blending and segmenting compound words and syllables and does not involve print.


The term phonological awareness is often used interchangeably with phonemic awareness; however, phonemic awareness actually refers to the ability to hear and manipulate individual units of sound starting with onsets and rimes (/b/   /at/ = bat), then leading to the more difficult aspects of blending and segmenting individual phonemes, such as /c/  /a/  /t/= cat.


While it may seem very technical, in reality, teaching phonological awareness is actually lots of fun! In the classroom, it translates into oral language play through reading books, nursery rhymes, poetry, singing songs and finger plays as well as games that emphasize rhyme, alliteration and language play.


The four main components of phonological awareness are: blending, segmenting, deleting and substituting, so try incorporating these different elements in your word play. The key is to keep it fun, engaging and interactive for children. Make transition time from one activity to another a learning opportunity for phonological awareness. Aim for at least 20 minutes of phonological awareness play spread throughout the school day. Here are some activities you can try:

  • During morning meeting, you can sing Ickety, Pickety Bumblebee as you segment children’s names.

“Ickety-pickety bumblebee!

Won’t you say your name for me?  David.

Everybody clap it… Da-vid.

Everybody snap it… Da-vid.

Everybody whisper it… Da-vid.”


*Syllable segmentation is an important foundational skill children will need in order to apply the syllabication spelling TEKS they will learn beginning in first grade.

  • Read books that emphasize rhyme and alliteration. For a fun rhyming story with awesome illustrations, try Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley, or Cock-A-Doodle-Moo by Bernard Most, for a play on beginning sounds.  

  • Play “I Spy” with onsets and rimes as children are cleaning up after stations or centers.  “I spy a /ch/   /air/.  I spy a  /t/  /able/.”

  • As children line up to go to recess, say each phoneme and have children blend phonemes (2-5 phonemes, depending on your Guidelines or TEKS, of one syllable words) to make the given word. Puppets are great for this type of word game. It may sound something like this… "My puppet friend likes to say words in a silly way.  Let’s try to figure what word my puppet is trying to say, /sh/  /oe/.”

Phonological awareness is an important skill necessary for reading and writing. The more children get to play with words and sounds, the better prepared they will be.



Epstein, Ann. (2012). Language Literacy and Communication. Ypsilanti, MI: HighScope Press.

Yopp, H., & Yopp, R. (2009). Phonological Awareness is Child’s Play. Young Children, Jan. 2009, pp1-9.














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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009


April 8, 2019

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