Today I am sharing an activity I just finished for the pre-reading shelf. In teacher jargon, this activity would be considered a "phonemic awareness" activity. Research has shown that children who enter school with good phonemic awareness have greater success in learning to read. It is important to distinguish phonemic awareness from phonics. Phonics refers to the correspondence between letters and the sounds they make, while phonemic awareness refers to the understanding that a spoken word is make up of individual sounds. Phonemic awareness relies on "hearing" sounds in spoken language in the absense of printed words. A child with good phonemic awareness would be able to orally segment the word "cat" into its component sounds. Prior to breaking words apart into sounds, children should be able to "hear" syllables in words. A good way to help children become aware of syllables within words is to have them "clap" the word. A fun place to start is with their own names or the names of their classmates. For example, "Anna" would be a 2-clap name, and "John" a 1-clap name. "Samantha" would be a 3-clap name and so on. It is not necessary to use the word "syllable" with young children. Instead, keep it fun and talk about the "beats" or "claps" in different words. Young children, with practice, will quickly learn that "elephant" has "more claps" than "dog". And their increasing auditory awareness of the sounds of their language will ultimately help them when they begin to read.
Here is the activity on the tray. The little clear box is holding the syllable picture cards. The yellow pail is holding the "clap" cards and on the front of the tray is a pair of children's mittens.
To introduce this activity, lay out the "clap" cards in order across the top of the rug. Then take out one of the picture cards and tell the child you are going to "clap" the word. Model saying the word while clapping the syllables. Say, "Hat is one clap. I'll put it here." Place the hat picture below the control card showing one pair of clapping hands. Repeat for a few pictures, then let the child try some. The mittens are provided to make the "clapping" more fun. However, the activity can be completed with or without mittens. The photo on the right shows how I have programmed the back of each picture card with a sticker that shows how many syllables in the word. Click to view the photo larger. I have made the clap cards and picture cards available for download below. There are 6 pictures each of one, two and three syllable words.
NOTE: A fun variation of this activity would be to take photos of all the children in your classroom and program the back of their photos with how many syllables in their names.
ALSO: I did not come up with this activity. I found the idea on another teacher's website and I cannot remember where. I apologize for not being able to give credit where credit is due. I did, however, make the files available for download above. You are welcome to use them with your child at home or with the children in your classroom.