According to the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement at the University of Michigan, phonological awareness and letter-name knowledge are the two most powerful predictors of reading success. The ability to notice and work with sounds in language is known as phonological awareness. Children can demonstrate their ability to hear and manipulate sounds through fun and engaging activities focused on sound recognition. Activities should include listening and speaking skills, but not print.
Read or sing nursery rhymes to familiarise the children with the rhyming patterns. Repeat new rhymes several times. It helps to raise your voice with a rhyming word. Read the rhyme again, but leave off the end word and ask them to fill in with their own rhyming word. For example, "Hop on ____." The child must fill in the missing word that rhymes with "hop." Introduce new rhymes every day.
This activity involves reading poetry that rhymes. Instruct the children to listen carefully as you read the poems several times. Repeat the same poem again leaving out a word. Let the children fill in the word that completes the poem. For example, "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great ****." Poetry reading promotes active listening skills needed to increase phonological awareness.
Children respond to a pattern of sounds made by instruments or just by clapping. Clap out a pattern of beats, and each child should imitate the exact sound pattern. Let the children take turns tapping out a pattern for the others to follow. A drum works well with this type of activity. Sound-pattern discrimination requires focused listening.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear word parts and is a subset of phonological awareness. Preschool children can recognise word parts, which is a prereading skill. Give each child a rhythm stick and have the children practice hitting them together before beginning the activity. As a nursery rhyme is read, the children hit the sticks to demonstrate the different word parts. For example, "Jack and Jill went up the hill." They hit the sticks seven times for the seven words.
Place several different items in a basket for the children to draw out and identify. If the child chooses a piece of paper, ask what the item is and what the beginning sound is. He should say that it is paper and then repeat the beginning sound -- not the letter. Letter and sound matching is a skill that will be taught later. Provide enough items in the basket for each child to have a turn.
Same or Different
This listening activity requires the children to practice sound discrimination in words. The teacher says two similar but different words. She then challenges the kids to decide if the words are the same or different. Use words like "book" and "hook," "pan" and "can" or "stop" and "top." Words that are the same should be included as well.