Try not to get confused by the fancy name “Phonemic Awareness;” it just means knowing sounds. Many research studies have shown that phonemic awareness is one of the strongest predictors of later reading success.
In 2nd grade children are at working on advanced phonemic awareness skills, such as changing the sounds they hear in words. “What word do we create when we add -ing to run? Running.” Or they are playing with rhyming words (“How do we turn ‘tree’ into ‘free’?”) Often classroom teachers call these activities “making words”.
2nd graders should recognize rhyming words and create rhyming word pairs (flutter/butter), and tell you the first, middle and last sound they hear in a word (r-ai-n). They’ll also be adding sounds at the end of words, like an -s, -ing, or -ed. They should be able to separate a word into syllables, or beats, they hear (“How many syllables does the word ‘together’ have? To-ge-ther = 3 syllables”). Have your child touch their chin as they say a word. Their chin will drop for each syllable. Try it!
While at the grocery store, have your child tell you the syllables in each food name. Have them hold up a finger for each word part. “Asparagus” = A-spar-a-gus = four syllables, four fingers. Then show them the printed word and repeat the word “asparagus”. Doing this a few times on each shopping trip builds in practice throughout their day. Research suggests that seeing print, saying the sounds and hearing the sounds while pointing at the words with a parent or teacher has the greatest impact on learning “phonemic awareness” or sounds.
Have your child give a rhyme for a word you tell them. It can be a made up word, too. “What rhymes with ‘Kississippi’?”
When you’re reading together with your child, pick a word from the book and put emphasis on the first sound, then choose a more challenging word that starts with a blend, such as tr-, sl, or ph. Pick another word and compare them. “Thanksgiving and phone. Can you hear what sound Thanksgiving starts with? Is it the same as phone?”
Word families are words that rhyme. Tell your child the “mom’s” name is “reach” and they have to tell you all the “kids’” names, like teach, preach, each, leach, beach, peach, and teach. This will help children hear patterns in words.
Phonemic awareness is all about playing with the sounds they hear and say in words. When a child writes or spells it will be a Phonics activity.