I’m pretty sure we all have “that area” that makes us all nerdy-excited to target in therapy, right? Well, I have two. One of my mine is social skills, but the other area that gets me all nerdy-excited is phonological awareness skills! We know kids with speech and language impairments are at an elevated risk for literacy difficulties. Something else that we KNOW (thanks to Carson et al, 2013) is that phonological awareness intervention can have a big impact on literacy outcomes of children with and without a language disorder. The program used in the study focused on rhyming, identifying beginning and ending sounds, phoneme segmentation, phoneme blending, and phoneme manipulation.
There are boatloads of adorable phonological awareness materials available on Teachers Pay Teachers and other educational websites, but here are a few of my favorite no cost and no prep ways to work on PA skills during therapy. Before I start targeting any of these skills, I like to get some solid baseline data on exactly where my students phonological awareness skills are using this No Print Phonological Awareness Interactive PDF. You could always just do it the old fashioned way too, but if you’re looking to save yourself some time, check it out!
- Phoneme blending- I like to start here because often students experience quick success. I start with common, functional words such as their name. If they are working on articulation, once they get the hang of it, I will start using their articulation words. If they are working on language goals, I will try to select relevant vocabulary words and often embed this into another task.
- Rhyming-Write “yes” on one sticky note and “no” on the other. Place them on opposite ends of your room. Say a word pair, and have students move (hop, skip, jump, tip toe, or walk) to indicate if they believe the words rhyme or not.
- Rhyming-Have students grab a piece of paper and something to write with (we LOVE scented crayons). Say a word out loud, then have your students draw a word that rhymes with it. I’m always amazed by how much my students love a simple drawing/coloring activity!
- Rhyming-For my older articulation students, I will have them stand at the white board (or give them a piece of paper/pencil) and challenge them to write as many words as they can that rhyme with a target word. I will give them their target word at the same time and have them race to see who can come up with the most words in thirty or sixty seconds.
- Beginning/Ending Sounds- Grab a book. If your students are working on articulation, assign each child their articulation “sound”. If they aren’t working on articulation, pick any sound. Have the students listen for words that contain their sound and raise their hand or write them down when they hear them (depending on age). Another approach to this would be to pick out keywords on each page and have students identify what the beginning/ending sounds are.
- Beginning/Ending Sounds- Grab some fun manipulatives. You could use your sensory box, a puzzle, or even those Beanie Babies your mom saved for you from your childhood (maybe that’s just me?!). Let students pick a manipulative, and then tell you the beginning and ending sounds. Super simple, yet surprisingly engaging!
- Beginning/Ending Sounds-Play an “I Spy” game either in your speech room, outside on the playground, or wandering the hallways of your building! “I spy something that starts with the sound “_”!” Once your students get the hang of it, take turns being the one who spots something and the one who guesses!
- Phoneme Segmentation – I like to use the white board for this. If you don’t have one you could also use a simple paper/pencil (or scented crayon) option. In selecting my words for this I try to start with CVC words, then move to “silent e” words, next I target digraphs and dipthongs, and then finally introduce the vocalic R. This is my own personal strategy, but I’ve found trying to skip straight to specific articulation targets without going through all these steps can cause confusion! Then for my articulation students, I will move towards words that contain their sounds. For my students that do not have articulation goals, I try to select relevant vocabulary words. As long as my students can identify letters and have some letter sound correspondence I try to start with written words. Then I will help them (if needed) draw a dot under each sound they hear. When we move to sounds that contain more than one letter, I will draw a little carrot connecting the two letters and then draw the dot under the carrot. If students are not readers, I have also used colored blocks to break apart words or even colored paper squares if blocks aren’t available. Use a different colored block for each sound in the word.
- Phoneme Manipulation- I use a similar strategy to my phoneme segmentation strategy with the white board and word choice. Instead of segmenting each word by phoneme with “dots” and “carrots”, I take the written word, cross off the sound we are “manipulating” and write the new sound under/over it. If your students aren’t readers, you can also use colored blocks to complete this task. Eventually, we work towards completing this task with no visuals.
I hope you found something useful in this list! Let me know your favorite ways to target PA skills in the comments below!