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November Math Centers for 1st grade and 2nd grade
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Building Phonological Awareness with Literacy Center Activities

Literacy, Phonological Awareness, Small Groups & Literacy Centers

Written by: Katie Palmer

Picture it: it is time to start reading centers in your classroom. You have a classroom full of learners with diverse phonological awareness needs. How can you meet each student where they are at? By using a few of Lucky Little Learner’s 1st grade literacy center resources, that’s how! Let us take over the lesson plans for building phonological awareness for you with our 1st grade Phonological & Phonemic Awareness Centers (part of the over 100 page 1st grade Literacy Centers bundle!) Ready to rock your reading centers? Read on!

building phonological awareness with center activities

Phonological Awareness Levels

You will need to assess student phonological awareness levels before you can assign the perfect center activity. A quick way to assess students’ phonological awareness levels is through the assessment provided in the Small Group Intervention Literacy Kit.The four levels in this assessment are:

  • Syllables( Level 1)-Syllables segmentation & deletion
  • Onset & Rime (Level 2)-Deletion & substitution of beginning sounds
  • Basic Phonemes (Level 3)-Phonemic blending, segmentation, addition and deletion
  • Advanced Phonemes (Level 4)-Advanced phoneme substitution & deletion

For more information on this assessment and interpreting its data, check out this post: How to Identify Student Gaps in Phonological Awareness.

phonemic awareness survey to identify student gaps in phonological awareness

Once you have administered the test, consider using the 1st grade phonological & phonemic awareness centers! Each center activity can target different reading needs and words for building phonological awareness! Below, you will find these centers sorted into phonological awareness levels.

Level 1-Syllables Segmentation & Deletion

Rhyme Recognition-Picture Sorting

Working on rhymes is a great activity for a level 1 student. Looking at a card with two pictures, students will say both words out loud, focusing on the end sound. They will ask themselves, do they rhyme or not?

picture sorting rhyme recognition center from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Using the sorting mats, they will place the cards in the correct pile. This could be a quick assessment for teachers to see who is ready to move on from working on rhymes to more advanced skills.

Syllables-Cookie Clip

Students will be counting syllables in this center. Using a clothespin, they will clip how many syllables they hear.

cookie clip syllables center activity from the 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

This could be taken farther with the teacher leading a small group and providing more difficult words OR for kids who are struggling, clapping out the words with them.

Level 2-Onset & Rime-Deletion & Substitution of Beginning Sounds

Beginning Sounds-Popcorn Sorting

This center activity is great for level 2 students because it has them isolate the beginning sound of a word. They will have to grab a picture card, say the word out loud, isolate the beginning sound, and place the picture on the correct popcorn “box”. Fun tip: put the picture cards in actual popcorn cups for students to draw out.

s blends popcorn sorting literacy center from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Teachers will know if students are struggling with or mastering beginning sounds as this center can be “corrected” with a glance.

Onset-Rime-Puzzle Cards

Using a beginning sound and a picture of the word they need to make, students will sound out the rest of the word. They will then search for the rime that matches the sounds they heard in the word.

onset-rime puzzle cards from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Students who struggle with identifying the right vowel could benefit from this center as they can see the word written out for them when they get the puzzles pieces put together.

Level 3-Basic Phoneme Blending, Segmentation, Addition & Deletion

Adding Phonemes-Make a New Word

This center uses eye-catching graphics. It is also sort of like a picture clue game! Students will have to put together a picture with an additional phoneme to create a new word. Example shown below:

make a new word phoneme addition center activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

This is a great activity for students who are ready for level 3 phonological awareness-phonemic blending, as it works with phoneme addition. Also, as a bonus, the name of the picture is provided on the card so there will be no more, “Teacher, what is this picture?” while you are teaching small group!

Blending-Mystery Words

This is a fun one! AND, there are a couple levels of difficulty! Teachers can put together this center in at least three ways:

  1. Give the word cards as is (not cut apart) and have the students blend the sounds together, say the word, and write it. This would be a good option for students just learning to segment and blend sounds.
  2. Have the students say the word, blend the sounds together, THEN cut apart the words and store them in a baggie. The next day, they could put the mystery word puzzles together, say the words again and write them.
  3. The teacher pre-cuts the mystery word puzzles apart. Students have to lay them in order, blend the sounds, say the word and write the word.
mystery words blending center activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Teachers love the easy ability to differentiate this one!

Ending Sounds-Puzzle Match

For this activity, students need to isolate the ending sounds. They will then match picture cards together by end sounds.

puzzle matching activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

For an added level of difficulty (if the students are ready for it) they could write out the words on whiteboards OR use sound boxes to segment them.

Medial Sounds-Clip the Vowel

This activity requires students to segment a short vowel word, and write the medial (short vowel) sound. Students will be sounding out words and picturing them as individual phonemes!

clip the vowel medial sounds center activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Added activity idea: use the play-dough squish method and have students squish down a dough ball for each sound in the word. This might help them isolate their sounds.

Watch this short video to see the dough sound smash activity in action. (It’s the 3rd small group literacy activity demonstrated in this video.)

Segmenting Phonemes-Painting Sounds

Similar to the dough squish intervention in the small group literacy kit, this center has students segmenting words into individual phonemes and tapping for each sound.

phoneme segmentation center activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

Students will have fun with this AND it would be super fun for them to try to “tap out” more complex words as they are ready! Start with words that are fun to them. Examples: their name, teacher’s name, name of town/school and state.

Level 4-Advanced Phoneme Substitution & Deletion

Phoneme Deletion-Make a New Word

Students will LOVE this one! Once again, it looks like a picture puzzle and kids love puzzles. On each card is a picture show with a minus sign and an individual phoneme. Students need to delete that letter from the word, and use a clothespin to clip the new word made.

make a new word phoneme deletion center activity from 1st grade literacy centers bundle by lucky little learners

For an added level of fun, have students try to make their own phoneme deletion puzzles for classmates (or you) to solve!

Phoneme Segmentation-New Word Puzzles

This is a level four skill because students need to be able to segment words into individual sounds (phonemes) AND delete and substitute a sound. This will make a new word. Students will then dig through the picture cards to find the new word.

new word puzzles phoneme segmentation activity from 1st grade literacy centers by lucky little learners

Building phonological awareness is fun and easy with literacy center activities to help students build a solid reading foundation!

Happy teaching!

Phonological Awareness & Literacy Centers


Phonological Awareness Centers

1st Grade Literacy Centers Bundle

More Resources to Help With Teaching Phonological Awareness


Phonological Awareness Toothy

Small Group Literacy Kit

building phonological awareness with literacy center activities


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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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