Phonemic Awareness Routines and Activities

In this post I’m sharing a variety of phonemic awareness daily routines and activities you can do with your kindergarten, first and second grade students throughout the day to ensure they receive the phonics practice and review they need for mastery.

In my quest to learn as much as I can about the Science of Reading I have read many books and studies, listened to tons of amazing podcasts, and most recently enrolled myself in  Dr. Deb Glasers, Reading Teacher’s Top Ten Tools course.  It has been a wonderful learning experience and opened my eyes to the many ways phonemic awareness contributes to one’s ability to read, write, spell and MORE.  

I’ve learned that phoneme awareness contributes to the development of word recognition through decoding which results in stronger comprehension. When young children learn to decode they are able to recognize more words by sight. The more words they know, the more meaning they can make!  When they encounter an unknown word, they can rely on their phoneme awareness to help them decode the word correctly. The ability to decode ultimately leads to better comprehension.  

Phoneme awareness contributes to the development of spelling ability. Spelling requires you to segment it into phonemes and map the correct grapheme to each phoneme. 

Finally, students who have strong phonological awareness, develop higher levels of vocabulary.  Phoneme awareness helps them learn to read, they read more, and ultimately gain richer vocabularies through their reading! 

For these reasons, it is important that we offer our students not only systematic, explicit phonics instruction, but also plenty of opportunities for practice and review each day.  

This practice does not have to be contained to your literacy block.  It can (and should be!) sprinkled here and there throughout the day and woven into different content areas! 

Today I am excited to share with you different phonemic awareness routines and activities you can do with your students throughout the day to help ensure they receive the review and practice we know they need for these skills to become automatic.  

Phonemic Awareness Daily Routines

Phoneme Segmentation with Read Aloud 

I love this activity because it can be used in any subject area and with any text that you read aloud to your students.  It not only gives students practice with segmenting but also provides background knowledge that will help to support their listening comprehension. 

Start by identifying vocabulary words from the text you will be reading to your students. Choose words that will provide the type of segmentation practice your students need (number of phonemes, middle sounds, blends, etc), as well as help introduce the content to your students.

Say the word aloud. Then have the students say the word together. Finally, tap the phonemes as you segment them. Talk about the meaning of the word in context of what students will be listening to.  Finish by saying the word together again in unison.  


This is a quick phoneme segmentation task that gets kids up and moving to the phonemes in 3-sound words.  It helps students feel and experience the beginning, middle and end sounds as separate units.  

For this activity, have your students stand up.  Start by first saying the 3-sound word aloud for your students and have them repeat it.  Then segment the sounds with your students.  Say the beginning sound and touch your head.  For the middle sound touch your waist.  When you say the last sound, touch your toes.  Finally, students say the whole word together.  

If your students need extra practice identifying beginning, middle or end sounds you can point to your head, waist or toes and ask, “What sound?”.  

Encourage your students to use head/waist/toes when they are writing and trying to figure out how to spell 3-sound words.  

Kid Sounds

Kid sounds is an auditory blending task that helps students isolate the sounds that they might not hear when they are spelling their words.  

For this activity start by bringing 3 students up to the front of the room.  Assign each student a sound to say aloud.  For example, if the word is “sad” the first student says /s/. The second student says /a/ and the last student says /d/.  Their classmates listen to the sounds and blend them together to discover the word they created! 

Continue to show students how manipulating phonemes through deletion, substitution, and addition can change the word!

Sound Snap Cubes

This activity helps students to become more independent in their spelling in any subject area.  Note that it is an activity that will require lots of modeling and support before students can do it independently!

All you need are a few snap cubes, enough to represent each sound in the word you are trying to spell.  Students will tap a cube for each sound they hear in the word.  It allows students to physically connect with the sounds they hear in a word.

The sound snap cubes are also helpful when students miss a sound or need help identifying the internal phonemes of a word.  

Phonemic Awareness Activities 

5 in Row

The 5 in a Row games offer students practice that is explicit, engaging, and multi-sensory.  Each game focuses on one specific phonics skill. The skills include beginning sounds, short vowels, blends, digraphs, long vowels, CVCe, R-controlled, and diphthongs. 

Students spin and cover the picture of the image with the target sound. These games require minimal prep from you and students love them!  

Once students have received your direct instruction and are ready for independent practice, create a center using the boards for the skill or skills you want them to practice and review.  This is a great way to give students the cumulative review we know they need for mastery.   

Word Mapping

Through research on the Science of Reading and David Kilpatrick’s book, Equipped for Reading Success I’ve learned that students use the oral language processing part of their brain to map, or connect, the sounds (phonemes) of the word to the letters or letter combinations (graphemes) in a word. This mental process is called orthographic mapping.  It is how we take an unfamiliar word and turn it into a sight word for immediate retrieval.  

Word mapping is a physical way to represent the relationship between the phonemes and graphemes.  It allows students to physically connect or match the letters with the sounds they represent. Ultimately, it helps build word recognition and decoding skills that improve fluency in both reading and writing. 

Students find word mapping activities ​​highly engaging because they have both visual and kinesthetic aspects. To increase student engagement, you can offer multisensory manipulatives like silicone poppers or playdough.  

My printable and digital Word Mapping Resource has EVERYTHING you need to get students mapping words in your classroom!  You can take a closer look at the Phoneme-Grapheme Word Mapping Bundle here and download FREE CVC Word Mapping Activities here!

I hope the phonemic awareness routines, activities, and resources I’ve shared with you will help you ensure your students receive the phonics practice and review we know they need for these skills to become automatic.  

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