[widget id="bcn_widget-2"]

Hands-on Phonemic Awareness Activity to Develop Reading Skills

letter tiles

Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. According to research, emerging readers, struggling learners, and English Language Learners (ELLs) benefit greatly from direct instruction in phonemic awareness.

Additionally, research indicates that incorporating hands-on activities enhances active engagement and reinforces the teaching of phonemic awareness.

To support the development of foundational reading skills through direct instruction in phonemic awareness, consider the following hands-on activity:

YouTube player

Activity to Build Phonemic Awareness: Building Word Families with Tokens or Tiles

Materials Needed:

  • Tokens or tiles with lowercase letters: c, a, t, b, s, d, m, h (or use a whiteboard or tablet to draw/erase the letters as an alternative to the tokens or tiles)

Instructions for Hands-on Phonemic Awareness Activity

Step 1: Communicate to your students that they will be creating words using tokens or tiles with letters (or on a mini whiteboard or tablet).

Distribute the necessary materials to each student (eg., letter tiles, tokens, dry erase marker with mini-whiteboard, tablet, etc.).

Step 2: Demonstrate the first word on a whiteboard, tablet, or with tiles/tokens (on an overhead projector if needed). For example, spell out “cat” using tokens, placing emphasis on each letter’s sound.

You may wish to pair an image with your word as reserach shows this helps aid in retention of the word and it’s meaning.

For instance, when you write or create the word cat, show or draw an image of a cat.

Step 3: Present word families such as “cat,” “bat,” “sat,” or “sad,” “mad,” “glad,” and support the presentation of each word with corresponding images.

As you change the word, by manipulating a letter, have your students do the same, either individually or in groups.

For instance, students can change cat to sat by switching out the c for an s.

Step 4: Offer support as needed, ensuring correct letter arrangement for words within the designated families.

Tip: You may wish to introduce more letters as students become comfortable, allowing them to create additional words and expand their understanding of word families.


  1. Ashby, J., McBride, M., Naftel, S., O’Brien, E., Paulson, L. H., Kilpatrick, D. A, & Moats, L. C. (2023). Teaching Phoneme Awareness in 2023: A Guide for Educators. Retrieved from Link to Guide
  2. Hazamy, A. A. (2009). Influence of Pictures on Word Recognition. Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD), Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies, Georgia Southern University. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/etd/430

Releated Topics

Translate »