Strong Phonological Skills

The Common Core Anchor Reading Standards for K-5 begin with phonics and phonological awareness skills that build systematically grade by grade.  By grade 5, the expectation is that students are able to use phonics and morphology knowledge to decode unfamiliar words both in and out of context.  Students will master these skills at varying rates.  A teacher needs to meet each student at his/her individual competency level and provide appropriate instruction.

Click here for the Common Core Anchor Standards Foundational Skills.

Many classroom teachers do not feel prepared to identify phonemic awareness and phonics skill levels in their students.  This task of evaluating may be daunting with some student populations.

Listed below are a few ways to check your students’ phonological skills:

Phonological skills typically develop in a predictable progression. This is significant, as it offers the basis for the instructional sequence for teaching concepts from simplistic to complex. Table 1 outlines and defines phonological awareness concepts ranging from basic to advance.

Table 1. Phonological skills, from most basic to advanced


Phonological Skill Description
Word awareness Tracking the words in sentences.

Note: This semantic language skill is much less directly predictive of reading than the skills that follow and less important to teach directly (Gillon, 2004). It is not so much a phonological skill as a semantic (meaning-based) language skill.

Responsiveness to rhyme and alliteration during word play Enjoying and reciting learned rhyming words or alliterative phrases in familiar storybooks or nursery rhymes.
Syllable awareness Counting, tapping, blending, or segmenting a word into syllables.
Onset and rime manipulation The ability to produce a rhyming word depends on understanding that rhyming words have the same rime. Recognizing a rhyme is much easier than producing a rhyme.
Phoneme awareness Identify and match the initial sounds in words, then the final and middle sounds (e.g., “Which picture begins with /m/?”; “Find another picture that ends in /r/”).

Segment and produce the initial sound, then the final and middle sounds (e.g., “What sound does zoo start with?”; “Say the last sound in milk“; “Say the vowel sound in rope“).

Blend sounds into words (e.g., “Listen: /f/ /ē/ /t/. Say it fast”).

Segment the phonemes in two- or three-sound words, moving to four- and five- sound words as the student becomes proficient (e.g., “The word is eyes. Stretch and say the sounds: /ī/ /z/”).

Manipulate phonemes by removing, adding, or substituting sounds (e.g., “Say smoke without the /m/”).

Table Retrieved from: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/development-phonological-skills