Teaching about the Sounds of Spoken Language

Successful readers master phonological awareness early in their development of literacy skills. Teachers can promote phonological awareness by using strategies including playing rhyming games and singing songs. These activities help children hear small parts of a larger word and recognize the sounds of words that begin alike.

The following is an excerpt from Teaching Our Youngest.

The name for the ability to notice and work with the sounds in language is phonological awareness. Young children who have phonological awareness notice, for example, that words can begin or end with the same sound — that bag, ball, and bug all begin with the sound of "b;" that words can rhyme; and that sentences are made up of separate words. Research shows that how quickly children will learn to read often depends on how much phonological awareness they have when they begin kindergarten.

It is important for young children to be able to:

  • Repeat rhyming songs and poems, identify rhymes, and generate rhyming words when playing a rhyming game.
  • Recognize the common sounds at the beginning of a series of words (alliteration).
  • Isolate the beginning sounds in familiar words.

Here are some things that you can do to help your children learn about the sounds of spoken language:

  • Choose books to read aloud that focus on sounds, rhyming, and alliteration.
  • Have the children sing or say a familiar nursery rhyme or song. Repeat it several times, raising your voice on words that rhyme. Then have the children join in, saying the rhyming words with you.
  • Invite the children to make up new verses of familiar songs or rhymes by changing the beginning sounds of words.

Teacher Talk

  • Let's say "Humpty Dumpty" again, but this time I want you to make it "Lumpty Gumpty."
  • Play word games with the children. When possible, use children's names in the games.

Teacher Talk

  • How many words can you say that rhyme with clock?
  • Which of these words rhyme: snow, lamb, and go?
  • Pat, can you say a word that rhymes with your name?
  • Would everyone whose name begins with the same sound as happy please stand up.

"Teaching about the Sounds of Spoken Language." Teaching our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. 2002. English.

Last Reviewed: September 2009

Last Updated: October 2, 2014