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How I Work on Phonological Awareness Goals in Speech Therapy

Updated: May 16

SLPs for elementary school-aged kids can provide a much-needed boost in phonological awareness during speech therapy sessions. I've found an easy and quick way to incorporate it, with time to spare to address other goals!

For the past several years, phonological awareness has been very much on my radar; it is a language-based web of skills that we know is an important foundational component in literacy development.

Ever since the amazing reporting by Emily Hanford on the "science of reading" (if you haven't already, check out the podcast series here), I've been determined to do the very best I can -- from my vantage point -- for my students who are struggling with literacy.

(For a "firm definition of what the science of reading is and is not," get this guide from The Reading League)

As you likely already know, literacy instruction is going through a messy transformation in this country; many of the programs schools were using to teach kids how to read and write were discovered to be falling very short of that goal. Consequently, many schools have been trying to overhaul their early literacy programs to align more with what we now know about how kids learn to read.

kids working on phonological awareness in speech therapy

These new reading programs include phonological awareness (at least they should!); it is such a critical component in skilled reading that it is one of the three key elements for written word recognition in Scarborough's famous reading rope. In an excellent webinar I attended by Marianne Nice about the development of sight words, she referred to phoneme awareness as a critical, linguistic underpinning to the development of phonics.

(If you need a refresher on the difference between all the phonology-related terms in our field, and there are MANY, take a peek at my handy-dandy infographic that clears them all up!)

While it's great that school reading programs are incorporating more phonological awareness instruction, most are still not doing nearly enough. And so many of the kids we see for speech and language therapy need much more than their classroom curriculums are providing. For example, according to Elizabeth Roepke in her 2024 article about the assessment of phonological processing in children with speech sound disorders (SSDs), "many children with SSD present with phonological processing difficulties, regardless of whether the speech errors are associated with cognitive–linguistic, perceptual-articulatory, or motor speech difficulties." This has even been shown to last into adolescence!

Okay, so are you convinced yet that we should be incorporating phonological awareness goals and tasks in our speech therapy sessions for elementary school-aged kids? I sure am.

Want some easy ways to assess phonological awareness skills and target phonological awareness goals in speech therapy?

I've got you. 🤓

First, if you want to quickly screen your students' phonological and phonemic awareness skills, download the free PAST here. The PAST screener was created by David Kilpatrick, a school psychologist and researcher who has dedicated his life to understanding how we learn to read. My advice is to take a minute to understand how to give this screener (instructions are right there on the website). (I often use this screener in my speech and language assessments to help screen for dyslexia; you can see how I do this in this blog post.)

Roepke's article listed other free and easy-to-access ways to assess phonological awareness:

  • the Rapid Online Assessment of Reading (ROAR) by Gijbels et al., 2023. According to Roepke, "this assessment is administered online and is free to use. The phonological awareness test includes five measures: first sound matching, last sound matching, rhyming, blending, and deletion. The ROAR also includes online tests for single-word recognition, sentence reading efficiency, and receptive vocabulary."

  • the Access to Literacy Assessment System. According to Roepke, "this assessment is administered online, and it is currently free to use. The phonological awareness subtest examines rhyming, blending, and segmenting. An alphabet knowledge subtest is also available, testing letter name knowledge and letter sound knowledge."

For more assessments, Roepke's article includes a great list.

Alright. Want to know the fast, easy, and effective way I currently work on phonological awareness goals with my students?

I use David Kilpatrick's book called Equipped for Reading Success. I found a used copy online and it has been worth every penny. It is a phonological and phonemic awareness training program that advances kids step-by-step through greater levels of difficulty. It requires zero prep and it can take less than 5 minutes each day. After using it for a while, I can really see how my students have improved in their ability to distinguish and manipulate phonemes in words -- even tricky consonant blends. I can see a tangible impact on their spelling skills too! The workbook also has a ton of easy-to-read information and ideas that are easy to implement.

If you're looking for more ideas, here's a phonological awareness program for kindergarteners from the University of Western Ontario -- it's designed for classroom teachers so we can share it, or co-teach depending on your needs and the expectations of your work setting. Oh, how I love finding free and researched-based ideas for my therapy!

Also, check out my post on a really cool activity called word chaining.

Have you found any great ways to target phonological awareness with your students? Leave a comment below!


Did you find this blog post helpful? Subscribe below to get the latest blog posts, which feature lots of speech therapy ideas for busy SLPs who want to provide fun, impactful, and meaningful speech-language therapy.

Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hrs when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.

Did you know book companions can be among the best speech therapy materials for elementary students? Explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks.


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