Phonemic Awareness Activities

Phonemic awareness activities are an ideal learning tool that enable your students strengthen their reading and spelling skills.

The following definitions are worth reading, because it can be easy to confuse the separate terms.

What are the similarities and differences between phonemic awareness, phonological awareness and phonics?

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness enables children to be aware of and mentally sort through the sound structure of oral language.

This is a great skill to have. The term 'awareness' is a huge factor in this skill. The dictionary defines awareness as 'having knowledge of, being cognizant and conscious of...'

This is certainly true of phonological awareness. When a child becomes conscious of speech sounds they can better devote mental energy to analyzing the sound structure of difficult words or concepts.

Children who are naturally blessed with this skill have an advantage over those children that struggle with sound awareness.

If you watch pre-school children with typically developing language skills play with language, you may notice that their minds busily sort through and experiment with new sounds and words. They become increasingly aware of the different sounds individual phonemes make and become more conscious of the rhythms and complexities of speech.

Unfortunately, many children have quite a lot of difficulty with sound awareness, particularly children with language impairment. They tend to not develop adequate phonological awareness skills and often need to be explicitly taught these skills.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is a sub-set of skills that resides under the phonological awareness umbrella. Phonemic awareness requires a deeper understanding of the sound structure of language.

A child with good phonemic awareness skills is able to manipulate and isolate individual sounds, or phonemes (phoneme is a formal word for an individual speech sound). This skill becomes vital when a child later moves from analyzing sounds to analyzing print.


Phonics is related to children being able to match speech sounds to printed symbols - i.e. the alphabet. Phonics is considerably different from phonological awareness.

Phonological awareness tasks focus exclusively on spoken language, whereas phonics tasks focus on linking speech sounds to letter symbols on the page.

But, for children to successfully decode printed letters and words, they require good phonological awareness skills. Which is perhaps why phonological awareness is considered by many researchers and reading experts as the leading predictor of reading success or failure.

I hope the above definitions help to clarify this complicated area.

Please click on the link to go to the phonological awareness therapy webpage. The webpage features an example of a phonological awareness intervention session with a young school-age child. The webpage also features several, free, downloadable activity worksheets.


Kaderavek, J. N. (2010) Language Disorders in Children: Fundamental Concepts of Assessment and Intervention. Allyn & Bacon

Paul, R. (2006) Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

Schuele, C.M. & Boudrea, D. Phonological Awareness Intervention: Beyond the Basics. (2008) Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools Vol. 3 - 20

Content Last Modified 8/11

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