Phonological Awareness – Words and Syllables


Last week, I outlined the phonological awareness skills necessary for children to have a firm foundation for learning phonics (pairing sounds with letters) to begin reading and spelling.

Today, I’ll break it down a little further and give you suggestions on how to teach each skill.



Begin by saying a short sentence (“I like cookies”) and have your child repeat it an count the number of words in the sentence.  If they are able to do with with a sentence of 6 or so words, then begin working on counting syllables.  I usually start with compound words (doghouse, cupcake, toothbrush, pancake, etc.).  I have the kids count syllables by clapping, stomping finger snapping, tapping the table or bouncing on a ball.  The counting is not as important as their ability to mark syllables…to divide words into their natural parts.  From compound words, I move to words with 1-5 syllables.  A typical word set: pie, cookie, computer, elevator, pumpkin, popsicle,  boy, elevator, calendar, table, conservatory, December, ladder, strawberry, television.


The next step is the ability delete syllables, beginning with compound words and then moving to 2 and 3 syllable words.


Say ‘cupcake’ without ‘cake’

Say ‘birthday’ without ‘birth’

Say ‘candy’ without ‘can’

Say ‘turkey’ without ‘key’

Say ‘computer’ without ‘com’

Say ‘elevator’ without ‘va’

It is important for your child to be able to perform these tasks without visual cues.  Initially, you may need to write the words and cover a portion for them to understand the concept.  Eventually, they should be able to delete syllables without seeing the words written.

To further challenge the auditory and memory system and develop problem solving and sound awareness, practice manipulating words with 2 syllables.

For example:

Say ‘rainbow’ with the ‘bow’ first.

Say ‘kitten’ with ‘kit’ at the end.

Practicing these skills daily for just 10-15 minutes per day will build a strong basis of word awareness, a critical skill for fluent reading.

There are apps and computer games that target word awareness.  One I highly recommend is Earobics (  It is a researched based program that, when done daily, repatterns the brain to perform auditory tasks necessary for reading and spelling.  There is a level one and a level two and there are home and classroom versions.

4 thoughts on “Phonological Awareness – Words and Syllables

  1. These drills sound a lot like those in the book Equipped for Reading Success by David Kilpatrick, except that the idea is for students with Dyslexia to do them orally, not at all seeing the word in print (especially since many may not be decodable at their current level). I tried to look up Earobics on the website you mentioned, but I cannot find it.


    1. Sadly, Earobics seems to have disappeared from the market since this post. That is unfortunate, because it was a good resource. HearBuilder by Super Duper Inc has similar activities and is based on the same concept.


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