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Rhyming and Phonemic Awareness Skills in Preschool

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 9/11/2012

This article highlights the differences in rhyming and phonemic awareness skills. Preschool lesson plans should include both of these important pre-reading activities. Page one of this article introduces some rhyming activities to try. Page two is all about phonemic awareness.

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    The Importance of Rhyming Activities for Preschoolers

    Rhyming is an important pre-reading skill that provides steps to learning the sounds that make up words. Rhyming and understanding what makes a rhyme are high level thinking skills, and may take some time for preschoolers to master. Be patient and be sure to give children plenty of time to practice rhyming skills. While there is no one right way to teach rhyming and phonemic awareness skills, preschool lesson plans can include activities that highlight these key pre-reading skills.

    One important concept to remember when teaching rhyming to preschoolers is to keep it fun. Children participate in rhyming activities because they are fun, and are willing to continue playing with words and sounds because they are enjoying the activities. If the children are no longer enjoying the play, the learning factor will be significantly reduced.

    Rhyme teaches pre-readers that words and sentences both spoken and written have pattern, structure, and rhythm. Rhyming also helps strengthen decoding skills, an important pre-reading step. When children learn to read, they often make predictions about the next page or even the next word. The decoding and prediction skills they learn when practicing rhyming will serve them well when they begin to read.

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    A Rhyming Lesson Plan

    This lesson plan is rich with activities that will support your efforts to teach rhyming words to your preschool class. Included are ideas across the curriculum as well as online resources to help you plan a rhyming lesson plan.

    Circle Time: Read the Dr. Seuss book, Hop On Pop. Give children the opportunity to use their prediction skills to guess the rhyming words and phrases in the book. Reward any efforts. When you finish the book, ask children to give you examples of some of the rhyming words in the book. Write these down for children to see. Point out that all the rhyming words have the same ending sound, but a different beginning sound. Highlight this by repeating the words, putting emphasis on the beginning and ending sounds.

    Small Group/Teacher Directed Activity: Play rhyming bingo. Use picture bingo sheets from an online resource, printing out enough to play the game with the entire class. Give each child a bingo dot marker or colored dots to cover their pictures. You call out a word such as "HOW", and the children must find the picture on their bingo sheet that rhymes with "how". In this case, the picture would be of a cow.

    Music: Sing "Down by the Bay". Take children's suggestions and change the lyrics to match your thematic unit. Have children use decoding and prediction skills to guess the end of the rhyming sentences. Another song to try is "The Name Game". Be sure to include every child's name in your classroom and encourage the children to sing along once they have learned the lyrics.

    Individual Language Arts Game: Make rhyming puzzles by printing out two pictures of words that rhyme on the same piece of paper. Glue these pictures to cardboard or posterboard to make them sturdier. Cut the pictures in half to give the appearance of a two-piece puzzle. Store all the cut pictures in a file folder or plastic baggie for children to discover and explore on their own.

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    Phonemic Awareness in Preschoolers

    Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, understand and manipulate the smallest unit of sound, a phoneme. Phonemic awareness is a key pre-reading skill and rhyming activities only strengthen a child's ability to understand phonemes. Phonics is not the same as phonemic awareness. Phonics is the understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds. Phonemic awareness must come first when learning to read because children will need to learn to hear the specific sounds of the words and letters before being able to relate the sound to a letter.

    While rhyming is concerned with words ending with the same sound, phonemic awareness can be taught in a few different ways such as sound repetition, sound matching, isolation and blending. Going hand-in-hand are rhyming and phonemic awareness skills. Preschool lesson plans often reflect this.

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    Phonemic Awareness Lesson Plan

    Many preschool curriculums address phonemic awareness skills through every day activities. It is possible to incorporate phonemic awareness activities into any curriculum theme or unit. Here are some specific activities that will help build phonemic awareness skills in preschoolers.

    Circle Time: Choose two or three words that begin with the phoneme you are introducing, such as /b/. Invite the children to repeat the two words, such as brown bear, using a variety of different voices. Try sounding like a queen, a baby, a lion, a mouse, etc. Invite children to think of two more words that begin with the sound /b/. Be sure to address the sound of the phoneme, not the name of the letter.

    Small Group/Teacher Directed Activity: Use picture cards to find words that begin with the same sound. Again, be sure to address the sound of the phoneme, not the name of the letter. The objective is to have children begin thinking about the sounds that make up words. Be sure to observe children closely while they are participating in this activity. Jot down any observations concerning phonemic awareness skills. Adjust your teaching plan accordingly depending on the level of understanding.

    Music: Sing songs and tongue twisters that have lots of repeating sounds, such as Peter Piper. Songs for teaching has several songs you can learn and sing with your own class.

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    Conclusion

    Rhyming and phonemic awareness, while two very different concepts, go hand-in-hand when teaching young children pre-reading skills. Be sure to plan carefully when addressing rhyming and phonemic awareness skills. Preschool lesson plans should reflect the learning level of the children in your classroom and be challenging and fun to keep children engaged.

    Reference:

    More Than the ABCs: The Early Stages of Reading and Writing; Judith A. Schickedanz; 1994