Effective Practice Guides

Phonological Awareness: Know

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-LIT 1. Child demonstrates awareness that spoken language is composed of smaller segments of sound.

Teaching Practices

To lead phonological awareness experiences, you need to know the sounds and sound combinations of a language very well. Only lead phonological awareness experiences in languages in which you are fluent. [1]


Play games and sing songs throughout the day that build phonological awareness.
Several of the children at today’s group socialization session have finished cleaning up and are putting on their coats for an outdoor activity. Ms. Green, Jeremy’s mother, leads them in a game of I Spy. She says, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with /b/. Hmmm, what could it be?” “I know, I know,” says Inez. “It’s blocks!” “Bloques (blocks in Spanish),” adds Miguel. “Bé (baby in Vietnamese),” laughs Binh. “No, mommy, it’s ball; right?” asks Jeremy. Home visitor Ms. Anderson says to Jeremy's mom, “Ms. Green, the children love that game. It keeps them busy while waiting and it teaches them about letter sounds.”

Read aloud books and poetry that play with sounds and words.
Every week, Ms. Perez chooses a book to read with the children that has lots of rhyming and word play. She reads it every day, along with other books, while focusing on the sounds. By Wednesday, the children start joining in. When she reads, “A told B, and B told C,” the children add, “I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree." And by the end of the week, “Chicka, Chicka” might turn into “Tricka, Tricka,” or “Quicka, Quicka.”


Set up a listening center with recordings of songs and books that include language play.
Ms. Kelley greets a parent who arrived early. “Good morning, Mr. Lopez. Thank you for coming. We set up a recording studio for you in the office. Here are the books we’d like you to read. Have as much fun with them as you like. Uno, Dos, Tres: One, Two, Three is a current favorite. When you are done, we’ll add them to our listening center.” 

Provide puppets and props that go with rhyming and word play books to encourage children to revisit the books on their own. 
After repeated readings of the rhyming book Trashy Town, Ms. Fey placed it in the block center with some dump trucks and plain hats with brims. Soon, she heard the children repeating the refrain as they played, “Dump it in, smash it down, drive around the Trashy Town!”


Use children’s names often and highlight the sounds found in them.
It’s group meeting time and Ms. Jansen and the preschoolers are singing a morning song, “Clap a friend’s name with me ...” The first name they clap is Dionte. The children clap three times singing, “Di-on-te.” Next comes Amanda, also three claps, and then four claps for Isabella, “I-sa- bel-la.” Later in the day, Ms. Jansen often hears the children clapping out words on their own, like “Veg-gie-roll-ups for snack today.”

Incorporate word play naturally when holding individual conversations with children.
“Thomas,” says Ms. Mott, “that is a terrific, tall tower you built today.” Thomas laughs and says, “Yep, Thomas’s terrific, tall tower. T, T, T.” Later, while helping Rosie find a lost hat, she says, “Let’s think of a word that rhymes with hat. Will that help us find it?” “I don’t know,” says Rosie. “Let’s try,” says Ms. Mott. “Hat, bat, sat, mat ... .”

[1] National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL), "Planned Language Approach: Phonological Awareness" (Washington, DC: Author, 2019), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/dtl-pla-phonological-awareness.pdf.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: December 3, 2019