Sound Juggling: Phonemic Awareness

by Heidi Nord July 31, 2016

Sound Juggling:  Phonemic Awareness

Sound Juggling:  Phonemic Awareness

What do you think is the #1 predictor of reading success?

Student IQ level? The education level of the parents? Learning English as the primary language? Income level? None of those. The National Institute of Health studied reading in replicated scientific studies. They found that the number one predictor of reading success is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to change and manipulate sounds within words.

Some examples of phonemic awareness are:

“Say ‘bake’, say ‘bake’ without the ‘k’.  What word do you have? ‘bay’.”
“Say ‘foam’, say ‘foam’ without the ‘m’. What word do you have? ‘foe’.”
“Say ‘bright’, say ‘bright’ without the ‘r’. What word do you have? ‘Bite’.
“Say ‘sleep’.  Say ‘sleep’ without the ‘l’.  What word do you have? ‘seep’.”  
Say ‘brisk’, say ‘brisk’ without the ‘s’. What word do you have? ‘brick’.”
“Say ‘fright’, say ‘fright’ without the ‘r’ and substitute ‘l’.  What word do you have?  ‘flight’.  
“Say ‘bleep’. say ‘bleep’ without the ‘b’, and substitute ‘s’. What word do you have? ‘sleep’.”
“Say ‘burnt’, say ‘burnt’ without the ‘n’, and substitute ‘s’.  What word do you have? ‘burst’.”

As the The Brilliant Dyslexic, we call our phonemic awareness program Sound Juggling, as a fun way to promote this concept of changing sounds in words.  


Sound Juggling is phonemic awareness, changing sounds in words.


The visual component in our program is very important, because multi-sensory instruction helps the most for students with reading issues.  Multi-sensory means using many senses.

In this program we use the senses of seeing, hearing, talking and touching.

Many people are often surprised when I say we need to screen for dyslexia in kindergarten.
We do not need to wait until a child is having difficulty reading in order to assess phonemic awareness.  

A lack of phonemic awareness is a hallmark of dyslexia.

Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing.  It’s important to actually assess that skill when the kid is four or five making kindergarten or pre-kindergarten the perfect time to screen for it.  Especially because the phonemic awareness assessments are all done orally. It is foolish to wait until a student is having challenges reading.

In kindergarten, the first skill usually taught to students is phonics.  Phonics is basically learning the sound a letter makes. This is great for about 80% of students.  But it is not appropriate for about 20% of students. Those 20% are likely dyslexic, and will learn how to read far faster if they start with a fantastic phonemic awareness program.  

One of the biggest challenges for teachers is to differentiate instruction.  

A one size fits all reading program simply won’t work.

The reading groups need to have leveled, targeted reading instruction.

In addition, students who are having difficulty with phonemic awareness, have a high probability of being dyslexic and having challenges with reading and writing.  Luckily, there are fun, easy, wonderful games to play and programs to use with kids in order to make this skill better.  

Early intervention is extremely important, as is multi-sensory, targeted instruction.

Heidi Nord
Heidi Nord


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