Phonemic awareness is the ability to segment, blend and manipulate sounds. A phonemically aware student, for example, can answer “What are the sounds in Sam?” by stretching out the sounds: “Ssss-aaaa-mmmm.” Likewise, he can also get rid of beginning sounds. If you say, “Get rid of mmmm in map,” he can answer “ap.”
Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of future reading success.
Read-aloud rhyming books don’t build phonemic awareness skills directly. Though there are some kids that can become phonemically aware just by listening to rhyming stories, many kids, however, cannot build phonemic awareness in this implicit manner. Thus, it is important to teach phonemic awareness directly.
You can weave sound games into story time.
In order to do this, you must explain why words rhyme. For example, blue rhymes with two because they share the /oo/ sound. If you can explain rhymes quickly, you can build phonemic awareness skills even while reading read-aloud rhyming stories.
I just discovered a very cute rhyming story called Over in the Jungle A Rainforest Rhyme by Marianne Berkes. It has vibrantly colored, detailed pictures that will stun you. The illustrator Jeanette Canyon did a spectacular job capturing the radiant colors in a jungle. And the author wrote a story that describes jungle creatures while sprinkling in some vocabulary words like scurry and scramble.
If you want to turn a read-aloud into a direct phonemic awareness activity, you have to be deliberate.
First, read the story. Let your students enjoy the artwork and rhythm without any interruptions. Then, go back in the story and play a rhyming game. Simply pick a word in each verse, like sun. Then ask, “What does sun rhyme with- jungle, one or marmoset?” After your students get the correct answer of one, then provide a short explanation. “Yes, sun and one rhyme. They both share the ending sound uuuunnnn. suuuunnn and wuuuunnn.”
You can do this kind of direct phonemic awareness activity with any read-aloud rhyming story. All the words for each question are provided at the end of each line in the verse. This way, you don’t need to invent rhyming questions on your own.