This toolkit helps teachers and families understand the difference between phonemic and phonological awareness and how to support a child's development of these important reading skills.

You will learn:

  • What phonological and phonemic awareness are and why they are important.
  • How teachers should teach phonological and phonemic awareness.
  • How families can support phonological and phonemic awareness development.

This toolkit includes:

  • Definitions
  • Online Tutorials
  • Supporting Materials
  • Instructional Video
  • Resources for Teachers & Families


This is a short overview of what phonemic awareness is, why it's important, and a few tips on how to teach it.

Phonemic Awareness

The ability to identify and play with individual sounds in spoken words.

Phonological Awareness

The ability to recognize that spoken words are made up of individual sound parts.

Online Tutorials

Build your knowledge and advance your skills. Gain the strategies you need to teach these topics with confidence.

What is Phonemic Awareness? Why is it important? How should it be taught? Learn the answer to these and other questions about Phonemic Awareness.

What is Phonological Awareness? Why is it important? How should it be taught? How can families support phonological awareness development? Learn the answer to these and other questions about Phonological Awareness.

Supporting Materials

Learn more about how to support a child's development of these important reading skills.

How We Learn to Read: The Critical Role of Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness involves being able to recognize and manipulate the sounds within words. This skill is a foundation for understanding the alphabetic principle and reading success. There are several ways to effectively teach phonological awareness to prepare early readers, including: 1) teaching students to recognize and manipulate the sounds of speech, 2) teaching students letter-sound relations, and 3) teaching students to manipulate letter-sounds in print using word-building activities.

Schools & Districts
Beginning Reading
Learning About Your Child’s Reading Development

Learning to read is difficult and does not happen naturally. It requires explicit and systematic instruction, which is especially important for struggling readers. Learning to read involves many different skills that must be taught to your child. Instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension will help your child learn to read.

Parents & Families
Beginning Reading

Phonological awareness is like an umbrella. Rhyming, alliteration, sentence segmentation, syllables, onset and rime, and phonemic awareness all exist under this umbrella with phonemic awareness being the most advanced skill of phonological awareness.

Parents & Families, Schools & Districts
Beginning Reading, Phonemic Awareness, Phonological Awareness
Books on Shelf

Expert: Louisa Moats, Ph.D.

Schools & Districts
Beginning Reading

Spotlight on Instruction

Watch this video about how to teach students how to recognize that words are made up of individual sound parts (phonological awareness).

Jeanne Wanzek, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University and Carol Dissen, Expert Literacy Coach at the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon, present on Recommendation 2: Develop awareness of the segments of sounds in speech and how they link to letters, from the Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade: Practice Guide (WWC).

Resources for Teachers

Explore these on-topic resources, tips, and tools for teaching phonemic awareness and phonological awareness. Find the materials that work best for your classroom.

Reading Rockets

Look at Reading Rockets' top 10 recommended resources for phonological and phonemic awareness.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

Doing What Works

Dr. Louisa Moats, reading expert and consultant, illustrates the difference between a phoneme and a letter and explains why it is important to teach phonological awareness skills in addition to letter knowledge.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

National Center on Intensive Interventions

This lesson on phonemic awareness may be used to supplement reading instruction to meet student needs.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

Doing What Works

Review a daily lesson plan format that emphasizes preschool activity planning based on instructional objectives, program standards, and desired learning outcomes. Examples of phonological awareness objectives are included.

Topic: Phonological Awareness

Achieve the Core

Watch this video on phonological awareness that includes teaching tips and connections to the Common Core State Standards.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

Resources for Parents and Families

Check out this collection of resources and activities that can help you support your child's development of phonemic awareness and phonological awareness at home.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This resource provides strategies for families to use at home to support their infant through preschooler in developing phonological awareness.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

Center for Early Literacy Learning

This guide describes practices to encourage your preschooler to play with words and to notice different sounds, syllables, and words.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness

Institute of Education Sciences

Check out these evidence-based classroom practices that you might be able to adapt for home-use. (But please note that research has not investigated the efficacy of these practices in home contexts).

Topic: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency with Text

Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy

Access a collection of 30-60 second videos in nine languages for parents, caregivers, and library staff that models early childhood songs, rhymes, and fingerplays. Each video clip includes tips to increase caregivers' understanding of child development and pre-literacy needs.

Topic: Language Development, Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary

Get Ready to Read!

These 36 activity cards from Get Ready to Read! are fun, engaging, child-friendly early literacy activities to try with 3- to 5-year-olds. The activities are organized by skill level and type of skill in the areas of print knowledge, emergent writing, and linguistic awareness. Each activity card states which specific skill the activity addresses.

Topic: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Writing

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