** A guest post by Lynn Givens **

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in spoken language. There are about 25 consonant phonemes and about 18 vowel phonemes, or sounds.  Seven phonemes such as /ch/ and /sh/ are represented by two letters.

Phonemic Awareness is:

  • identifying and manipulating sounds of spoken language. “Phonemic awareness instruction/practice can be done in the dark.”
  • essential for reading
  • an important component for all beginning/struggling readers.

Instruction in Phonemic Awareness:

  • helps students learn to read and spell.
  • must be explicit, logical, and systematic.
  • is most effective if taught in small groups.
  • is essential for teaching all students, including older, less able readers.
  • should be continued until decoding is automatic.
  • may include counters or markers to help students count/blend/segment sounds.

Seven essential PA skills – in order of difficulty:

  1. Rhyming

    Do these two words rhyme?
    What are some words that rhyme with “rock”?

  1. Phoneme Counting

     How many sounds do you hear in the word “big”?

  1. Phoneme Matching

    Which of these words has the same beginning sound?  “sun, cat,  sit”
    Which of these words has the same middle sound?  “ham, rag,  bun”
    Which of these words has the same ending sound? “best,  film, harm”

  1. Phoneme Blending*

    What word is this: /b//i/ /g/?

  1. Phoneme Segmentation*

    How many sounds are in “grab”? What are those sounds?

  1. Phoneme Deletion

    Say the word “smile” without the /s/.

  1. Phoneme Substitution

    In the word “bug”, change the /g/ to a /n/.  What word did you make?

Blending and segmenting are the two Phonemic Awareness skills that have the most impact on reading and spelling.


Try these Phonemic Awareness activities on your own.

Think of three words that rhyme.

    1. high
    2. lunch
    3. spoke
    4. boil
    5. fawn 

Count the phonemes.

    1. high
    2. through
    3. judge
    4. oil
    5. cream

Identify the third phoneme.

    1. choke
    2. night
    3. square
    4. notched
    5. scrunch

Place a marker down for each sound you hear.

    1. friend
    2. shelf
    3.  key
    4. youth
    5. scrunched


  1. sigh, cry, bye
  2. bunch, crunch, munch
  3. poke, oak, yolk
  4. toil, spoil, soil
  5. yawn, lawn, pawn
  6. (2)
  7. (3)
  8. (3)
  9. (2)
  10. (4)
  11. /k/
  12. /t/
  13. /a/
  14. /ch/
  15. /r/
  16. ooooo
  17. oooo
  18. oo
  19. ooo
  20. ooooooo

Mrs. Givens has been a teacher of struggling readers and a teacher educator for over 35 years. She served as Director of Intervention at the Florida Center for Reading Research where she was involved in providing intervention training and professional development for teachers throughout Florida. Until recently, Mrs. Givens has been teaching undergraduate reading courses at Florida State University’s School of Teacher Education and teaching and facilitating a practicum for teachers of struggling readers.  As a staff member at Beacon Educator for the past 10 years, she has acted as instructor/facilitator for online teacher endorsement courses in reading. Trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, she spent eight years at the Schenck School in Atlanta, which provided her with a firm foundation in teaching students with dyslexia and other struggling readers. Her goal has always been to provide high-quality, explicit instruction to close the gaps for students who are having reading difficulties and to instruct teachers on how to do this as well.

To assist in this effort, Mrs. Givens has published several unique instructional materials, the Connect to Comprehension reading program and Phonics Games for Fluency, which are used to assist struggling readers and their teachers throughout the US. In collaboration with the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy, she has also developed an in-depth course on the foundations of reading instruction with a particular emphasis on helping students learn and practice upper-level comprehension skills.