The 12 Steps to Phonological Awareness

Enrichment Therapies

March 29, 2021

Written By Kelsey Coaldrake, M.A CCC-SLP

What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is a metacognitive skill that involves thinking about the sounds in words, the syllables in words, and the words that make up sentences. Phonological awareness involves breaking apart words into sounds or syllables, putting sounds or syllables together to create words, and manipulating the sounds and syllables in words. It is important when working on phonological awareness to think about the sounds in the words and not the letters. For example, we spell gate with four letters G-A-T-E but we say gate with 3 sounds G-AY-T.

Why is Phonological Awareness Important?

Phonological awareness is an important skill for reading. This is the foundation of being able to decode words and ultimately read fluently. A diagnosis of dyslexia results from the breakdown or lack of phonological awareness skills.

The Hierarchy Explained

The hierarchy for learning and using phonological awareness skills allows us to build up our skills beginning with simple tasks and working up to more challenging and complex tasks. The following tasks are listed from most challenging to least challenging as pictured above in the hierarchy.

Manipulation of Phonemes: changing or moving around the sounds in words to create a new word (“Replace the t sound in tuck with the d sound.”)
Addition of Phonemes: adding a sound to create a new word (“Say nail with the s sound at the beginning.”)
Deletion of Phonemes: removing a sound from a word to create a new word (“Say slip with the l sound.”)
Segmentation of Phonemes: breaking apart a word into individual sounds (“What sounds make up the following word: pizza?”
Blending of Phonemes: putting sounds together to generate a word (“What word do these sounds make: p…i….g?”)
Identification of Phonemes: identifying the beginning, middle, or ending sound in a word (“What sound is at the beginning of the word soup?”)
Deletion of Syllables: removing a syllable from a word to create a new word (“Say doghouse without dog.”)
Segmentation of Syllables: breaking apart a word into syllables (“How many syllables are in the word potato?”)
Blending Syllables: combining single syllables to generate a word (“What word do these sounds make: cow….boy?”
Segmentation of Words in Sentences: breaking apart a sentence into words (“How many words are in the following sentence: I like to eat spaghetti?”
Production of Rhyming Words: generating a rhyming word when provided a word (“What rhymes with cat?”)
Discrimination of Rhyming Words: determining which words rhyme with each other (“Does cat rhyme with hat or dog?)

Interested in how Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center can help your student with phonological awareness or other reading, math, speech, or language problems?


Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

1210 Jordan Street, Suite 2A
North Liberty, IA 52317

5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131


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