Phonological and phonemic awareness lesson activities transcript

Rebecca McEwan:

The next resource we’re looking at is the phonological awareness activities slide pack. About this resource: the slides follow the order of skills in the staircase continuum that we looked at, and there's at least one activity per skill, so 26 slides in total.

Each slide includes instructional guidance in the notes section. If you just click on ‘view’ and ‘notes’, once you've opened it up, you'll be able to read those. Once you've seen how the slides work today, you might choose to use them as slides, or you might prefer to use the activity ideas on your whiteboard or with some further manipulatives. I usually like to use the slides because it keeps it really focused and sharp, but I do also supplement it sometimes with my whiteboard or some manipulatives alongside.

These slides are ideal for use with your whole class, and they could also be used with some small groups for intervention, for example. The slides are designed to be used as a 10–15 minute introduction to phonics lessons once your formal phonics instruction begins. Craig will put that link in the chat as well for this resource. Again, it's on the topic page and in your handout section for you to download when you're ready.

Today, I'm going to use some of the slides from the pack to model for you what explicit phonological and phonemic awareness can look like in your F–2 classroom. I'll follow an I do, We do, You do – that gradual release of responsibility framework – and explicit instruction principles. You can learn more about those principles in our next topic coming up on the 14th of March.

I'm going to show you one early phonological awareness skill and two phonemic awareness skill activities from the pack, remembering that strong phonemic awareness is key to reading and spelling success, and that the phonological awareness skills – those early phonological awareness skills – support students to work towards that.

One thing to be conscious of when working and using these slides is that if you're working with students with learning difficulties for example, or in some cases students for whom English is an additional language, more time might need to be spent on the modelling and the guided practice, so the I do and the We do. In particular, for students who have an alternative first language, that articulation of sounds and really clear enunciation is really key.

The first slide I’ll model for you targets the early skill – we're back in that early phonemic awareness zone – of rhyme production.

[The slide shows an activity titled Let’s Rhyme.]

In this activity, students will produce – think of – words that rhyme with a given word, without being given a set of words to choose from. This is what I could say to my students while I'm using this slide. First, I'll link to what my students know.


We know how to recognise or pick out words that rhyme. Words that rhyme have the same ending like cat, hat, sat and mat. They all rhyme because they end with the sounds /at/.

Then I'll explain and model the new skills. This is our I do section.


Today, we're going to think of words that rhyme by listening to the ends of words. The pictures that come up on the screen will give us some words to think about. I'll start.

[The slide shows a picture of a sun.]

Here's a sun. The sounds at the end of sun are /un/, /un/. If I put the sound /r/ with the sounds /un/, I have the word run. Run. Run rhymes with sun because they both end in /un/. Can you hear that? Say sun, run. Say it again. Great.

We could also use the word ton or fun, because they all end in /un/. We've thought of some words that rhyme with sun.

So next I'll guide my students through some practice of the new skill, stepping out each element of the skill really explicitly. This is our We do section, guided practice.


Let's do one together.

[The slide shows a picture of a hill.]

Hill. Say hill. Hill ends in the sounds /ill/. Say /ill/. If we put the sound /w/ with the sounds /ill/, say it with me /w/-/ill/, will. Our word is will. Now say hill, will. We've found a word that rhymes with hill. Let's think of another word that rhymes with hill and will. It needs to end in the sounds /ill/.

At this point, the students might suggest some sounds to begin with, or they might be ready to suggest some whole words. You'll know your students best and how to guide them. Guide them through this process a number of times to produce words, to think of words, and to check whether those words rhyme. Have the students explain why they rhyme, and address any of the misconceptions that come up along the way. On the slide pack, you have a few more pictures to work with, and you can always edit it and add some more or some different ones.

[The slide shows a picture of a flower and a bee.]

Once I'm confident that most students throughout this session have been able to produce rhyming words, then I can move on to the You do section for some more independent practice. I would say to my students:


Now it's your turn. Your word is hot. Think of another word that ends in /ot/ and tell your partner.

I'd have some partners pre-organised.


See how many words you and your partner can think of that rhyme with hot.

I'll let my students work with their partner. As the teacher, I could be taking some targeted observational notes, noticing who can, who can't, then I could also be targeting some support for those students who I've noticed through the guided practice section that do still need some more scaffolding. My aim is to ensure everyone has success today.

That was our first slide, the rhyming slide, rhyme production. We're going to move on to our next one now.

[The slide shows a 3x3 grid of boxes, with the letters s, a, t on the first row; m, n, i on the second row; and h, e, p on the third row.]

As you can see, we've got a Bingo board that's come up. This slide that we're going to look at now, you can also use as a printable resource. We're in phonemic awareness territory now, so we're working with single speech sounds.

This slide also shows you that for some of our phonemic awareness slides, we've included written letters to complement that spoken skill building, just like we spoke about earlier. All the slides are editable, so for this one, make sure you've only used letters that you've taught the sounds for on your progression.

This is an example of how I would use this with my students.


Today, we're going to be working on identifying the first sound in a word as well as matching that sound to letters we know. We've played Bingo before, so remember, we need to find three in a row. I’ll start. My first word is nip. I'll stretch the word slowly and listen carefully for the first sound. /n/-/i/-/p/. /n/ is the first sound I hear. I know that the letter n says /n/ so I can cross it off my board.

[The slide shows the letter n has been crossed off.]

Once I cross off three in a row, I can call Bingo.

Let's do one together now. The word is hat. Say hat. Now stretch the word out slowly with me, and we're going to listen carefully for the first sound. Do it with me. /h/-/a/-/t/. One more time. /h/-/a/-/t/. The first sound was /h/. That letter is the letter h. That's right. We can cross it off.

[The slide shows the letter h has been crossed off.]

Depending on the response from your students at this stage and how early on this is in your initial sound instruction, you can decide how many more examples you do together with students. Monitor throughout to see who's keeping up and who isn't. To keep your practice inclusive, your aim is for at least 80% of your class or your group to be mastering this through whole-class or whole-group instruction. Keep supporting if you have lots of students struggling, and make a decision whether or not to move on to the You do section of the lesson at this stage.

If you do reach that You do section, you could have some pre-prepared Bingo sheets which you hand out now. Like I said, these can be printed. I usually do half-page slides. Remember to only include the letters that you've taught, and then you'll just continue to call out words and have students use their own board to cross off the letters.

As the teacher, you're active, you're roving throughout this section, and you're picking up any students who need some more We do practice, some more guided practice, and supporting them accordingly. Again, we're looking for success for all, even if it means through scaffolding for some.

Now if, for example, you have some students who are showing real confidence with that identification of initial sounds already, you could have a separate list of words prepared for those students. Through the We do and/or You do section of this lesson, have them listen to that separate list of words, and listen for final sounds, which is a slightly more complex skill. That way they're also building on their learning.

Up to our third example slide, Hop it!

[The slide shows the title Hop it!, with three ovals spaced horizontally across the middle of the slide.]

This one, again, is a phonemic awareness focused slide, and it's one of our active phonemic awareness sessions in this case. We're looking at the more complex phonemic awareness skill of blending in this case. We’re getting towards the end of that staircase, and we're supporting our students to orally blend sounds together to make a word.

Depending on your students’ current letter–sound correspondence knowledge, this activity is another one that could be run with letters, so you could have some printed cards with letters on them to support that effective integration of phonics and phonemic awareness. The setup notes for the activity are included in that note section. Just to give you an idea, you could use hoops, you could use bean bags, you could use any kind of marker, maybe those Velcro markers that you have for seating allocation, that kind of thing. The session would sound something like this.


Today, we're working on blending single sounds to make whole words. We're going to jump along these hoops to help us to blend. I'll go first. My sounds are /b/, /a/, /g/. I'll jump in each hoop and say one sound as I jump, /b/-/a/-/g/. Now I'll jump a little faster and start to blend the sounds together, /b/-/a/-/g/, /b/-/a/-/g/. The word is bag.

Let's try one together. I'll use the hoops. You jump forward from your spot for now. Once we've had some practice, some of you can have a turn with the hoops too.

Again, in this We do section, use your judgement and monitor your class to see how much guided practice they need in this section, before moving onto that You do stage. So again, you're aiming for 80% of your students to pick up this skill through your whole-class instruction. Do not feel the need to rush onto independent practice until you're really sure that your students are ready.

Once you've guided your students through some of those examples, students can now have their own hoops, or beanbags, or whatever. I've also just had them draw their own finger hoops on a piece of paper, and use their finger-feet to jump and blend the sounds. Just make sure they're jumping from left to right to, mimic that reading and spelling skill.

Again, you'll also rove. You're really active during that section. It's not, ‘Now, it's your turn’. It's, ‘I'm going to come and check and help you out as you need,’ ensuring that success for all through scaffolding as needed.

For students who are already really confident with blending three sounds in this example, you could provide them with some words with more phonemes, more sounds to blend together.

Hopefully, that demonstration has shown you how easy it can be to place explicit focus on phonological and in particular, phonemic awareness in your F–2 classrooms, especially when you have a ready-made resource. As a final point before we move onto questions, I will leave you with some guidance about targeting that point of need for your group, or your class, or your cohort.

If your school already has an assessment for phonological awareness, fantastic. Please make time to look at the data. You can use those phonological awareness steps to help you analyse the data. Just find which questions correspond to which step, and then find the earliest step at which 20% or more of your students need support. Start your instruction there.

If your school doesn't have an assessment for phonological awareness, we suggest the Quick Phonological Awareness Screening, QPAS for short. Craig's going to share the link for that in the chat. That one really follows the steps quite closely, so it makes your analysis straightforward and efficient.

If you want to get started straightaway before your assessments are completed, Foundation teachers at the beginning of the year, our advice is start at the beginning of the steps. Year 1, 2 teachers or intervention teachers for older students, the advice is to start on phonemic awareness, working alongside phonics, so with those letters represented, unless your students are demonstrating real gaps in that earlier phonological awareness skill. Then support those early phonological awareness skills alongside phonemic awareness skills as much as possible, because we need to accelerate our older students' learning as much as possible.

Don't forget to grab the resources if you like the look of them, so that you can go ahead and make a start. As we all know, there's no time to waste when it comes to teaching our students to read and spell.