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5 Quick and Easy Phonemic Awareness Games

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

5 Quick and Easy Phonemic Awareness Activities You Can Do Today!

What Is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the most complex skill under the phonological awareness umbrella (for more about phonological awareness, <What is phonological awareness). Phonemic awareness involves being able to identify individual sounds, or phonemes in a word. After being able to identify individual sounds in any position, students who have strong phonemic awareness can then manipulate, delete, isolate, blend, change, segment or add onto the phonemes or sounds they hear. The tricky part to building phonemic awareness is that it is all done auditorily without letters or phonics symbols. Although it sounds complicated, there are so many word play games that help support students practice their phonemic awareness drills. Here are my top 5 favorite ways to integrate phonemic awareness practice into the classroom!

1. Let’s Go Camping!

This game is hands down a favorite in my classroom! We typically will play this game in our morning meeting or while we are waiting in line. I will begin by telling students I am going to go camping and I am taking… then I will pick 3-5 items to take camping with me that follow the “rule” or sound I want students to recognize. Once I have given students my items, then they need to come up with items that fit the rule and ask if they can go camping. If their idea matches the rule, then I say, yes we can bring that camping. If their idea doesn’t match the rule, then I would say, no we cannot bring that camping. After 5-8 students have brought something camping, I will ask a student to reveal what our rule was. This game can be modified for beginning, middle or end sound.

Here is an example for a beginning /b/ sound activity.

Me: I am going to go camping and I am going to bring my bed, a bear, a bug, my bunny and a baby.

Student: Can I come camping and bring my ball? → Yes! We can take your ball camping.

Student: Can I come camping and bring my cat? → No, unfortunately we cannot take your cat camping.

2. Mystery Bag

This activity is great for introducing new sounds. I will fill a small paper bag with pictures of objects that match our focus sound. For example, if our sound is /m/, I might fill our bag with a mouse, mountain, monkey, math, and magnet. As our group explores our new sound, I then call on students to come up and remove one picture from our mystery bag. As we talk about the picture, I will have students say the word with an emphasis on the beginning sound. Once we have pulled out all of the pictures, I will reveal the beginning sound, although oftentimes the students will have noticed the mystery sound before the big reveal!

3. What’s My Word?

This activity is designed to help students blend together beginning, middle and end sounds to create a word. This activity is similar to the work students will do when they start tapping out sounds for simple words. The difference is that students will not use letter symbols to represent the sounds, they are simply listening to the sounds auditorily. I love using this activity during transition times or when we are waiting in line. I will give a student the sounds in the word, pausing briefly between each sound, and then the student blends the sounds to make a word.

Here is an example of what the word pig would look like.

Me: /p/ /ĭ/ /g/

Student: pig

4. Change that Sound-Word Ladders

Word ladders remind me of my word works station when I first began teaching over a decade ago. I had this book of worksheets where students would be given a base word, then given clues to create the next word on the ladder by simply changing one letter in the current word. This activity is very similar but is done auditorily. Have students start with a base word. Then, giving the students the position of the sound (beginning, middle or end) and the new sound, prompt them to create the next word in the ladder. For example, start with cat, then say, “change the beginning sound to /m/, what is your new word?”. The new word would be mat.

5. How Many Sounds?

This activity is foundational to the work that readers do when they need to “tap out” and blend sounds together in print to read a word. For this activity, I will give the class a word. Together we will say the word and then stretch the word out sound by sound while counting the sounds on our fingers. As we are stretching the words out, I remind students that digraphs like th, sh, and wh are each 1 sound, whereas blends are made up of 2 sounds (this is important as students learn about each of these types of phoneme patterns). Once students know how many sounds are in each word, I will either call on a student to share with the group or use a whole group response strategy to have students share their answer.


Me: How many sounds are in the word, ship?

Students: /sh/ /ĭ/ /p/ → 3 sounds

These activities are wonderful for helping students build their phonemic awareness. While these activities can certainly be done on the fly, if you want to save time, you can check out pre planned versions of these activities in our Teacher’s Pay Teachers store.



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