Developing Phonological Awareness
Phonological awareness includes the ability to separate sentences into words and words into syllables. Two activities, Counting Words and Clapping Syllables, help develop children's phonological awareness.
To count words, all children should have 10 counters in a paper cup. (Anything manipulable is fine. Some teachers use edibles such as raisins, grapes, or small crackers and let the children eat their counters at the end of the lesson. This makes cleanup quick and easy.) Begin by counting some familiar objects in the room (windows, doors, trash cans), having all children place one of their counters on their desks as each object is pointed to. Children should return counters to the cup before beginning to count the next object.
Tell the children that they can also count words by putting down a counter for each word you say. Explain that you will say a sentence in the normal way and then repeat the sentence, pausing after each word. The children should put down counters as you slowly say the words in the sentence and then count the counters and decide how many words you said. As usual, children's attention is better if you make sentences about them. ("Carol has a big smile." "Paul is back at school today." "I saw Jack at the grocery store.") Once the children catch on to the activity, let them say some sentences, first in the normal way, then one word at a time. Listen carefully as they say their sentences the first time because they will often need help saying them one word at a time. Children enjoy this activity, and not only are they learning to separate out words in speech but they are also practicing counting skills.
Once children can automatically separate the speech stream into words, they are ready to begin thinking about separating words into some components. The first division most children learn to make is that of syllables. Clapping seems the easiest way to get every child involved, and the children's names (what else?) are the naturally appealing words to clap. Say the first name of one child. Say the name again, and this time, clap the syllables. Continue saying first names and then clapping the syllables as you say them the second time, and invite the children to join in clapping with you. As children catch on, say some middle or last names. The term syllables is a little jargony and foreign to most young children, so you may want to refer to the syllables as beats. Children should realize by clapping that Paul is a one-beat word, Miguel is a two-beat word, and Madeira is a three-beat word.
When the children can clap syllables and decide how many beats a given word has, help them to see that one-beat words are usually shorter than three-beat words—that is, they take fewer letters to write. To do this, write on sentence strips some words children cannot read and cut the strips into words so that short words have short strips and long words have long strips. Have some of the words begin with the same letters but be different lengths so that children will need to think about word length to decide which word is which.
For the category "animals," you might write horse and hippopotamus; dog and donkey; kid and kangaroo; and rat, rabbit, and rhinoceros. Tell the children that you are going to say the names of animals and they should clap to show how many beats the word has. (Do not show them the words yet!) Say the first pair, one at a time (horse, hippopotamus) and have the children say them. Help the children decide that horse is a one-beat word and hippopotamus takes a lot more claps and is a five-beat word. Now, show them the two words and say, "One of these words is horse and the other is hippopotamus. Who thinks they can figure out which one is horse and which one is hippopotamus?" Help the children by explaining that because hippopotamus takes so many beats to say it, it probably takes more letters to write it. Continue with other pairs—and finally with a triplet—rat, rabbit, rhinoceros—to make it more multilevel.
© ______ 2009, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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